Nuggets mailbag: Is Denver an NBA contender?

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets reached the midway point of their season, wrapping an overtime thriller in San Francisco against the Warriors. It was the third-straight win for coach Michael Malone’s team and there have been some exciting developments during the stretch, especially from fan-favorite Michael Porter Jr.

Porter Jr., dunks and sneakers were among the topics Nuggets fans asked about in the latest mailbag. Here are the responses to some of the questions:

 

Stanton Rapp: I love our team the way it is.... however, do we consider ourselves title contenders? And if so what changes do we need to make in order to move forward with this? (Trades, starters, recalls from g league etc.)

That’s a great question, Stanton. At the start of the season, the Nuggets embraced their status as contenders and wondered aloud, “why not us?” 

"A championship should be our goal,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said at the team’s media day in October. “Our goal should not be to get back to the Western Conference semifinals. Our goal should not be to just get to the Finals because you'd be selling yourself short. Yes, it's a lofty goal. But I want our guys to have a championship mentality.”

The Nuggets are second in the Western Conference with a 70.7 winning percentage.  If they sustain that, the team would be set for 58 wins, placing them in pretty good company. The past five NBA champions have a regular season win rate of 69 percent or higher. Continuity has been a big factor in Denver’s success, so to answer your second question, it might be a case of sticking to the formula that’s worked so far. 

 

Salut Sēji! Michael Porter Jr. has grown in confidence as the season has progressed and a lot of that has to deal with the game slowing down for him. Before this season, he hadn’t played in an official basketball setting for almost two years. Since November Porter Jr.’s field-goal percentage and points per game have gone up each successive month. He’s gone from averaging 2.4 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting in November to putting up 10 points per game on 66.7 percent shooting in January. 

 

Tyler Dean: Who's got the nicest dunks on the team? Who's got the best sneaker game on the team?

 

Is it wrong if I use the same player to answer both your questions? In my opinion, Jerami Grant is the best dunker on the Nuggets with a good mix of craftiness and explosiveness around the rim. My second choice would either be Malik Beasley or Michael Porter Jr. 

Here are some of Grant’s top slams since joining the Nuggets:

 

 

Grant also has a prolific catalog of Jordans, it almost seems like he’s rocking a new pair at each game.

Josh Reynolds: What are the chances Denver runs more Jokic/Plumlee units?? 

According to NBA.com, Nikola Jokić and Mason Plumlee have played together for 67 minutes and the pairing provides a boost on defense with a 98.5 defensive rating. One of the great advantages of the Nuggets’ roster is its depth, especially in the frontcourt. The team can go big as it did against Memphis, adding Plumlee to the starting five to defend the Grizzlies bigs in a 119-110 victory on Dec. 28 or Malone could switch things up and trot out a smaller unit depending on matchups. So, to answer the original question, it comes down to the opponent the Nuggets are facing. 

 

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