No IT? No problem.
Perhaps the biggest signing the Nuggets made over the summer turns out to be a veteran minimum point guard coming off significant injury and allegations of discord with teammates. Isaiah Thomas has been worth the shot and he hasn’t even been cleared to practice after a procedure on the hip that’s troubled him for nearly two years.
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What we know is that he is a vocal teammate that has no fear when addressing areas of need to his coworkers. With the recent Jimmy Butler drama and with IT’s history, particularly in Cleveland, that could seem like a negative situation for a young Nuggets locker room.
The neat thing and something we also know is that the team loves it and him. Denver’s media day was filled with ravings from players and coaches about two subjects: Isaiah Thomas’ presence with the team and the improvement in Trey Lyles‘ game. Both wonderful news for Denver fans thirsting for validation to what they know to be true about the special nature of this team.
There’s bad news too. There’s been no timetable announced for Thomas’ return, so his equally important on-court contribution is on-hold. Even IT’s injury has a silver lining for this charmed Nuggets squad in the play of Monte Morris. Morris’ well-documented rise from undrafted rookie to d-league to the backup point guard spot continues to impress as he’s shown during the preseason. Morris is putting up 13 points and slashing 45/37/80 in just 24 minutes. Even better, Morris’ play ensures that Thomas can take the time he needs to get healthy while maintaining his presence.
Mason Plumlee went 5-for-5 from the line in the first game against the Lakers. In the second, he was 11-for-11 from the floor. I will never understand the criticism of Plumlee, a consistent performer and underrated playmaker.
Malik Beasley has developed an incredible shooting touch that has his slash numbers at 51/67/70. Yes, 67% from three, his shot looks fluid and effortless. Torrey Craig had two spectacular blocks against the Clippers. While Craig may be the least of the Nuggets second-team, his defensive awareness keep that unit sound on both sides of the ball.
So the question is, even if the big players in the West can outplay our starters, is there a bench out there that can maintain that pressure like ours can? Taking a serious look at the ‘next five’ from Golden State, the Lakers and Houston it seems, on paper anyway, that the Nuggets have a distinct advantage.
The cornerstone of that advantage may be Thomas, once healthy but at the moment it is Lyles, who is playing insanely good basketball on both ends of the floor. So much so that the talk of camp/preseason is how to find the Kentucky big enough minutes. These are good problems to have if .you’re a Nuggets fan. We know the bench has potential and that Lyles is in-line for more playing time, which begs the question: