NBA fans are well aware of the Denver Nuggets’ starting five. Led by two-time and possibly three-peat MVP Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets big man is flanked by Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Jamal Murray.
As a starting unit, the Nuggets are able to compete with any team in the NBA with offensive options in the paint, mid-range, transition, and perimeter. Should one of those options be sidelined with injury or load management rest, sometimes things can become a bit shaky when inserting a bench player for a significant amount of time.
Currently sitting on the best record in the Western Conference, the Nuggets starting five has played just 35 games together this season.
Averaging 116.9 points per game as a team, Denver’s starting five (whomever they may be at the time) accounts for roughly 84.1 of those points. When the second unit hits the floor, the Nuggets average only 32 points, ranking twenty-first in the league.
The Nuggets have been among the top five teams’ experts have pegged to contend for the NBA Championship this year. However, in order to make this a reality, the team needs their bench to play a bigger role when they are on the floor as a majority unit.
With a mix of veterans and youth, the Nuggets will need their depth in order to advance not only in the Western Conference playoff bracket but more importantly, the NBA Finals series.
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YEAH ____! pic.twitter.com/snmBGHtRm8
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 19, 2023
He may only average fourteen minutes a game, but for a rookie on a veteran-heavy team, Braun’s energy off the bench is key for the Nuggets. For the twenty-one-year-old guard out of Kansas, Braun knows his role is not specific to one thing, but rather to make a play that provides a jolt to the team.
Whether it is an extra possession, diving on the floor for a loose ball, taking a charge, or attacking the basket, Braun’s time on the floor is a reflection of his work ethic.
After Murray missed all of last season due to injury, the Nuggets needed to add an experienced backup point guard not only as a replacement for when Murray is on the bench but also as a “just in case” scenario.
By adding Jackson as a free agent, the Nuggets added an eleven-year vet who shoots a career 42% from the field, and 34% from downtown, while handing out four assists and averaging a dozen points. While Jackson’s scoring numbers are his lowest since his first two years in Oklahoma City, keep in mind so is his floor time.
On the dot 🎯 pic.twitter.com/Xfu2OjPSGC
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 12, 2023
Bruce Brown Jr.
After making a name for himself in Brooklyn, Brown signed a two-year contract with the Nuggets last summer and has fit right into Coach Malone’s system.
As the Nuggets’ sixth man and best player off the bench, Brown has shown he is capable of playing four spots on the floor, proving to be the same “swiss army knife” type player that Steve Nash loved coaching for the Nets.
As a fourteen-year veteran, Green’s numbers are the lowest of his career, however, he has still shown that even though he is thirty-six years old that he can still keep up with the league’s young legs.
With versatility on both ends of the floor, Green allows the Nuggets to play small ball if need be. Offensively, Green can attack on the run, score off the pass, play the pick and roll, or step outside, while defensively, he gives the Nuggets a more athletic option to guard the perimeter.
Vlatko Cancar / Zeke Nnaji
While they both stand about 6’8”, 240 pounds, and shoot right-handed, the difference between what Cancar and Nnaji provide the Nuggets is primarily found in their shooting ability.
Both players average five points and a pair of rebounds, but Cancar is a 40% three-point shooter, while Nnaji does most of his work from inside the paint.
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) March 18, 2023
Thomas Bryant / DeAndre Jordan
Should the Nuggets decide not to go small ball with either Gordon or Green, they have two big man options. They can either go with an aging, but experienced Jordan, or a younger Bryant who has the ability to spread the floor.
No longer the “Lob City” player who just a few years ago was still pulling down double digit rebounds or alter opposing rim attacks, Jordan is the only other All-Star on the Nuggets roster and the player with the most playoff experience, which certainly holds value in the locker room.
Read up on the DeAndre Jordan signing 📰
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) July 12, 2022
Are the Nuggets ready for playoffs?
After starting half the season for the Lakers, posting 12ppg and just under 7 rebounds, Bryant is averaging just a quarter of those points and half of those rebounds off the Nuggets bench. Considering he demanded a trade out of LA after being frustrated with his role, the Nuggets were likely hoping for more from Bryant when they brought him over at the trade deadline.
As the old coaching phrase goes when it comes to playoff time; “Use eight, rotate seven, play six and trust five!” In the case of Coach Malone and the Denver Nuggets bench, the three off the bench that will likely play the biggest role come playoff time are Braun, Brown and Green.
Credits on Featured Image: WTF Colorado