The Denver Nuggets are full of potential and talent, but the team is so young and raw that they resemble a lump of clay more than a basketball team. Nikola Jokic is one of the most exciting young big men in the league, Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray have the makings of a killer guard rotation, and Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler are young enough to remain effective if they stick around while the newbies grow. But what if they’re ready right now?
For the Nuggets to win the NBA title, Jokic has to become one of the very best centers in the NBA — something which he has the ability to do. His per-36 numbers as a 20-year-old rookie were stirring: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, over 2.5 combined steals and blocks. Consider that Jokic came alive as the calendar turned to 2016 and his case for a leap forward statistically solidifies. Jokic is now solidly entrenched as the Nuggets’ starter, and he’s already among the most versatile big men in the league.
Let’s say Jokic gets a little stronger — a simple logical leap for such a young guy. That shores up his defense, as he’s already pretty quick, and if he becomes truly good on that end, his rare combination of outside shooting, passing and post moves indeed rockets him, and the Nuggets, into larger relevance. Surround him with shooters and you have a potentially lethal offense.
That brings us to Emmanuel Mudiay, who was one of the worst shooters in the NBA last season. He shot only 35 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, according to NBA.com, which absolutely has to improve. It probably will to some degree, but if it doesn’t, the Nuggets just drafted a guard who can absolutely fill it up from deep in Murray.
Murray enters the league insisting he’s a point guard while many scouts contend he’s better suited to be a shooting guard — it’s a tale as old as time. But the title of combo guard isn’t an insult anymore, and if he’s the first guard off the bench, his skillset of a shooter and sometimes primary ballhandler could mesh perfectly with Jokic, or even backup big Jusuf Nurkic, himself an adept passer.