Injuries Now Could Be Better for the Nuggets Later
The Basketball Network
Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Will Barton, Isaiah Thomas. A ready list of potential stars for the Denver Nuggets this year? Unfortunately no: the injured list -- and just the biggest names --
which seems to be growing weekly.
After a road trip that started out with quality wins against the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Toronto Raptors, the injuries mounted and the Nuggets stumbled to a 3-2 record with narrow losses to a solid Charlotte Hornets team and a reeling Atlanta Hawks squad. The Mile-High-Hopeful had to be pleased when the Nuggets subdued a strong Memphis Grizzlies squad, 105-99, when they returned to Denver Monday night.
After trotting out their seventh different starting line-up of the season, why is this not as big of a deal as it might seem? Simple: the Nuggets are only 27 games into the season.
Even if Gary Harris’ hip injury takes him to the longer edge of his 3-4 week projection to rehab, he could still return in time for a Western Conference showdown with the Houston Rockets on January 7th, and have 45 full games to re-acclimate and tune-up for an anticipated playoff run -- with an All-Star break to boot.
Will Barton is close to his long-awaited return to the floor, and circulating rumors whisper that Isaiah Thomas may be close to making his Nugget Debut. Factor in the ‘hardship exception’ signing of Nick Young -- formerly of the World Champion Warriors -- and the Nuggets should be able to keep the panic button dusty and forgotten.
Moreover, these injuries have freed up time for a number of promising young players to see more of the floor. The Nuggets are 9-5 since moving Juan Hernangomez into the starting lineup; Trey Lyles has shown power-forward-of-the-future potential; Malik Beasley and Monte Morris have shown themselves to have real NBA talent; there has been a real, tangible benefit.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that Nikola Jokic is having a really, really good season, averaging nearly a triple-double -- 16.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 7.7 apg -- and looks in line for an All-Star selection, if not more.
Dealing with adversity is a part of the game that’s hard to measure statistically, but this is valuable experience for March and April when those games weigh a little more in the midst of a playoff hunt. To have that many more pieces of his young squad experience significant floor time is a real boon for Mike Malone and his coaching staff.
Injuries happen to every team; hopefully the Nuggets are getting that out of the way early for a postseason run in the Mile High City.