Denver Nuggets' athletic bench could be among NBA’s elite

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –  After years of seeing some high-flying NBA teams like 90s Golden State Warriors’ Run TMC, the 2000s Los Angeles Clippers’ Lob City, the Pepsi Center is about to have its own version this season.

Introducing the 2019-20 Denver Nuggets bench.

Malik Beasley, Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant and potentially Michael Porter Jr. headline a talented and athletic group who should be authoring a few posters this season. Monte Morris, the second-unit’s point guard and one of the NBA’s most efficient playmakers, is excited about the group’s potential on the fast break.

“It’s big time, we all know how Malik can jump. Then you got Mason and those guys [Grant and Porter Jr.], their verticals are pretty high too so it’s going to make the game a lot easier for me,” Morris said. “I’m just excited to get out there and get stops [on defense] so we can get on the break and display all of that.”

The Nuggets’ improvement on defense and their ability to score in the paint (fourth in the NBA at 52.1) were significant reasons why the team finished second in the West with 54 wins. If there was one area where the team needed to make positive strides, it was creating easier chances to score – especially in transition.

While Denver was an extremely efficient offensive team, evidenced by its 111.4 rating in that area, it was 15th in pace of play (97.69), 15th in fast break scoring (12.6), and 20th in overall scoring at 110.7 points per game. Porter Jr. already has two viral dunks after just three days of training camp and several Nuggets have commented on how impressed they are with Grant’s ability to leap from a standstill position. The pair should add a new wrinkle to the Nuggets’ offense this season.

“I think we’re going to be great,” Morris explained. “I think last year, we were really good, but this year, adding those two pieces gives us more length and versatility.

“Mike can handle the ball and post up and Jerami can handle the ball and push it and get into the offense. You add that with me, Malik and Mason, I think how everyone is growing their games, we can take it to another level.”

Beasley agreed with Morris’ assessment.

“We got way better from a versatility [standpoint],” Beasley. “Also, the remainders from last year, we’ve got the same chemistry [and] we know better [due to experience].”

Last season, the Nuggets’ bench was fifth in assists (9.3), eighth in field goal percentage (45.8), ninth in steals (3.0), 10th in plus/minus (0.9) and 13th in scoring (37.7). Nuggets head coach Michael Malone is looking forward to seeing the growth of his reserve unit this season.

“I thought we had one of the better second units [in the NBA] last year…Now we have some new faces, Jerami Grant, namely Michael Porter [Jr.] – those guys are talented and they fit into what we’re trying to do,” Malone said. 

He added, “I know full well Monte Morris is going to have a better season and playoffs because he’s gone through it. Malik Beasley was great for us last year. But now he needs to do it at a higher level. So I think we had a great unit last year off the bench. I think this year, I’m even more excited about that bench unit and what they are going to bring every night.”