Despite a seemingly endless series of unfortunate events for the Nuggets, there are still bright spots for this team
All right guys — I’ll call it as it is. As much of a fan as I am, and as much of an optimist as I like to be regarding the Nuggets; this season has been a particularly rough season for the team and their fans. Whether it be two of the team’s three max players being out for extended periods of time, PJ Dozier tearing his ACL, the seemingly never ending sea ticky-tack injuries, or honestly a million other things, there’s just been no shortage of despair for everyone surrounding the team and the fans who watch them night in and night out.
Despite that though, I’ve still found solace in a few things that have happened with the Nuggets this year. As a holiday season pick me up, let’s review a few of them and what you guys could have to look forward to for the present, and the bright, bright future of this team.
A Guy Named Nikola Jokic
In case you’ve been living under a rock, or are just Nick Wright — let me remind you of the franchise player of the Nuggets. Reining MVP Nikola Jokic. The Serbian savant has already pieced together a fantastic season, just following up on one of (if not the best) offensive seasons of all time.
He’s averaging 25.7 points per game, 13.8 rebounds per game, and 6.4 assists per game. He also has a 33.6% assist percentage — putting him in the 100th percentile in the league for that stat. For those who don’t know, assist percentage is just what percentage of shots a player’s teammates they’ve assisted on. So basically, Nikola Jokic has been credited with an assist on nearly a third of his teammates’ shots when he’s not on the floor.
Not only is he still an offensive juggernaut, he’s also vastly improved on the defensive end. Right now, when Nikola Jokic is on the floor the Nuggets post a defensive rating of 100.4 which would be best for second in the league. For reference, when three time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert is on the floor, the Jazz have a 103.2 defensive rating. The Nuggets are have a better defensive rating by 16.9 when Nikola Jokic is on the floor.
He is going to continue to be in MVP conversations throughout the entire season, and has cemented himself as a top 5 player so far this season. No season is a lost one when you have Nikola Jokic on the floor for your team.
Zeke Nnaji’s Emergence
I’ve wrote a couple of times about why Zeke Nnaji is good and deserves more playing time. He’s a great shooter, a good defender, and a young guy with some upside. I mean I just don’t know what more you could ask for in a rotation big; especially with all the injuries piling up for the Nuggets. And he has just continued to prove me right for investing into the guy.
Zeke Nnaji has played in 10 games and averages a total of 14.2 minutes per game in the games he’s played. In that time he averages 8.2 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game. He’s also posted a couple of career games this season. One yesterday in fact — in Madison Square Garden, Nnaji put on a show of what he could do for the Nuggets. He poured in 21 points on stellar 54/56/100 splits; adding in 8 rebounds and 2 steals on top of it.
He’s making the most of his opportunity, and showing everyone why I’ve continued to go to bat for him. He’s knocked down a seething 63% of his threes on 2.7 attempts per game. He’s also showed that he’s a plus defender already in his NBA career. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — Zeke Nnaji should be in the rotation permanently and make the playoff rotation as well. I think he’s the best bench big the Nuggets have right now.
Air Gordon Has Taken Flight
Aaron Gordon has been nothing short of stellar this year. He’s filled in when the Nuggets have needed him to. Whether it be on the margins, getting dirty and doing the little things, or just going out and scoring, he’s done it. The stats won’t show how important he’s been to the Nuggets this season, but he’s been an elite role player.
His defense has been fantastic night in and night out. He’s guarded the opposing team’s best player and has smiled the entire time. Vibes are important to any locker room, and he’s a gleaming example of what a good locker room guy looks like. So when he’s on the runway for a dunk next time, just smile with him and keep your chin up Nuggets fans. It’s a long season and we might as well enjoy the ride.