2019 Playoff Preview: Denver Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets have retooled rather nicely under head coach Michael Malone. Good draft picks, consistent progression with those picks, and a head coach with a formula to taking down possibly the greatest team ever assembled. That team being the Golden State Warriors, which every team in the NBA is after, but the Nuggets - if consistently getting production from Nikola Jokic - could be the team that takes down the defending champions.
Of course Jokic has to be consistent for this team to make some serious noise in the NBA Playoffs, but what makes Denver look even better is their shooting. Denver will face a serious opponent in the San Antonio Spurs. In their four matchups this season, Denver split the series with the Spurs at 2-2. Denver shot around 40 percent from three and 45 percent from the field. My point? In those four matchups this season, San Antonio shot a little bit better from the field, but was out shot by Denver from deep. The Spurs shot 27.9 percent from three, and averaged 99.8 PPG in those matchups. Denver shoots better than its opponents from three? The Nuggets make a deep run.
Is it possible that a teams biggest strength could also be their biggest weakness? For Denver, Nikola Jokic is that double edged sword. Having his best season yet, Jokic is without a doubt one of the best big men in the NBA. High basketball IQ, and willing to get dirty when things get messy on the defensive end. I love Jokic’s game because it fits the Nuggets roster perfectly. Getting shooters open, and then creating his own shot, Jokic his the only answer to how far Denver goes, but he has to know when to takeover. He has to stay in the game, and not get frustrated, because that will have Denver going fishing after a short playoff run.
Is this team ready for the spotlight? The left and right hooks that is a Golden State third quarter. A team that is ready to bounce back, and stay together through a lot of adversity. Denver’s X-factor will be their maturity. This playoff run will show how mature this Nuggets group truly is.
Players to watch:
Torrey Craig is a guy I would keep an eye on. Craig is currently coming off the bench for Denver, but plays some great minutes late into games. Shooting 44.2% this season, Craig will be a guy to watch and see if his solid regular season translates to the playoffs.
Estimated Playoff Run:
If Denver plans on making a deep run into a tough Western Conference, a combination of things must happen. Denver has to play mature, but also stay loose. The Nuggets have to shoot like they’ve been shooting all season. Ball movement from Jokic to get guards open from beyond the arch is huge. Jokic also being aggressive on the offensive end will push this team past any opponent. Can they beat Golden State? Yes. Can they beat the Warriors in a seven game series? That is what we will find out.