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Denver has its eye on a playoff spot
Notable Players Acquired: F Trey Lyles (trade), Paul Millsap (trade), F Tyler Lydon (draft)
Notable Players Lost: F Danilo Gallinari (trade)
The Nuggets finished last season with 40-42 record, ninth in the West and just a game out of the eighth seed.
They further confirmed they have a star in the making with center Nikola Jokic, who averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He reminds you a lot of Marc Gasol. A big man who can do a little bit of everything.
Shooting guard Gary Harris emerged as a solid option, averaging 14.9 points per game while shooting a scorching 42 percent from the 3-point line.
Second-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay didn’t develop quite how the Nuggets would have liked and the team instead went to 34-year-old Jameer Nelson down the stretch.
Rookie shooting guard Jamal Murray looked like the real deal, averaging 9.9 points while shooting 33.4 percent from the 3-point line. Not great numbers, but he was only 19.
It’s disheartening they didn’t make the playoffs, but with Jokic (22), Harris (22), Murray and newly-signed Millsap, things are looking up in the Mile-High City.
The Big Question
Who will emerge at point guard for the Nuggets?
The Nuggets are hopeful Mudiay can make the jump. He shot just 37.7 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from the 3-point line, but if he can get his shot to fall (even up two to three percentage points in each area), that’d be huge for him and the Nuggets. While Nelson is solid, he’s also entering his 14th season and his better days are behind him. Asking him to start 39 games and play 27 minutes per game might be a bit much.
Without solid play at point guard, the Nuggets should be able to make the playoffs. But above-average point guard play should push them even further than that.
Lyles spent his freshman year at Kentucky playing alongside Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns on the frontcourt. Lyles averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. Towns averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21 minutes per game. The Wildcats finished the season 38-1.
Out of Western Conference teams, the Nuggets made a big-time splash by acquiring Millsap from the Hawks. Last season, the Nuggets emerged as one of the better teams in second half, winning 15 of 26 games. While it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs, it was enough for management to know the team was close. Enter Millsap. It won’t be easy, but Denver should be able to grab a playoff spot in the West.