It’s pretty clear at this point this Nuggets team is a team that plays at it’s best when they go out there and have fun. Their excruciating 4 game losing streak had a distinct lack of fun. It was a team that just seemed to forget the joy of basketball. They were sluggish and uninterested. The team seemed like a group more excited for their day off than they were for the game and it affected their play in a huge way.
The Nuggets offense only works when the players are constantly on the move. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray need to be running off screens and cutting through every opening in the defense. It’s hard to do all of those things on a consistent basis if you’re not having any fun.
Some of this may come down to the style of play. It seems like coach Michael Malone opened the year calling a lot of plays on offense, limiting his players by having them follow a script. That’s not what this Nuggets team wants to do; they want to improvise. They want to go out and have fun. They want to try to show each other up and challenge each other to be better. The Nuggets offense has always worked best when the players are having fun and have the freedom to make the plays they want to make.
The moral of all of this to me is that once again Malone needs to loosen his grip on the offense. Sometimes a coach’s most important job is to learn when not to coach. He has one of the most talented offensive teams in the league and he needs to trust them to make good plays. He can coach them all he wants on the defensive end and they certainly need it at times, but on offense, he should be more a guide than a coach.
The Nuggets are a young team and they wanna have fun on offense. Nothing ruins the fun more when an adult comes out and tries to organize it. Jokic, Harris, Murray, Millsap, and Hernangomez is now your starting unit and every single one of them is a talented and smart offensive player. Let them play coach, they’ll make you proud and everyone will have more fun along the way.
Paul Millsap is Back
After an injured season last year and a sluggish start to this year, I was beginning to question whether Paul Millsap could still be a major force on offense. After years of league average shooting or worse, I was convinced he wasn’t a three-point threat. He’s proven me wrong on both fronts and is turning out an excellent offensive season.
The second-year Nugget is generating free throws at a higher rate than at any point in his career and is a 40% three-point shooter 15 games into the season. He’s had some bad turnovers and had early season shooting troubles, but Millsap has really turned things around and become a serious threat that opposing defenses have to pay attention to.
Juancho Starting Makes Too Much Sense
Why Malone went to Craig in the starting lineup is a bit of a mystery to me, as Juancho Hernangomez provides the spacing the starting unit really needs to thrive. He also does a lot of the little things that help a team win. I think too many people think about Juancho just as a shooting specialist. Don’t get me wrong he’s an excellent shooter, in fact, he might just have the prettiest stroke on this team, but he does so much more.
Juancho is an excellent rebounder on both ends, always battling underneath and at least making the opposing team work for their boards. He’s an excellent off-ball mover and often finds himself in the right place at the right time. When a Nugget hits the floor for a loose ball, Hernangomez is the least surprising name to see on that jersey. And on top of all this, he’s a high IQ player whose decision making is getting better and better. Once Barton returns from injury Juancho will drop back to a bench role this season. But with Millsap’s pending team option, Juancho is an attractive option at the power forward spot going forward.
The Talent on This Team Runs Deep
The Nuggets have been playing all but two games with 11 healthy (non-two-way players) and have still looked like one of the deepest teams in the league. It should scare the 29 other teams that this team still has Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas expected back by the new year. At which point Malone will have the unenviable task of finding a second 5 from the following players:
-Monte Morris, currently leading the league in assist to turnover ratio
-Isaiah Thomas, a former MVP candidate
-Malik Beasley, the most athletic player on the team
-Juancho Hernangomez, your team’s best shooter
-Trey Lyles, the instant mismatch
-Mason Plumlee, the reverse dunk dropping, three-point shooting, fan favorite backup center.
Good luck Mr. Malone, you’ll certainly be earning that paycheck.