Denver Nuggets: 3 Unsung Heroes of the 8-1 Start

Denver Nuggets (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Did you doubt Juancho Hernangomez?

Lots did, I did.  Last season was robbed from Juancho by mononucleosis.  Even after he returned to the active roster, he was slower, weaker, still recovering from the effects of the disease.

It was a long enough absence that we forgot how good he was in his rookie campaign.  Forgot the six threes, 27 points and 10 rebounds versus Golden State in a February ’17 win.

Juancho wasn’t mentioned much in the preseason frenzy over how talented and deep this team is.  Relegated to somewhere behind Will Barton and Torrey Craig or Paul Millsap and Trey Lyles, it was unclear where Juancho would carve out minutes on a talented team.

Just nine games into the season, it’s getting hard to keep him off the court.  In fact, with Barton down until mid-December, there’s even been suggestion that Hernangomez be elevated to the starting lineup.  If his defense was in question, we’ll reference back to the game-saving block against Golden State that sealed the game and gave the Warriors their only loss of the season.

Juancho has a sweet stroke from outside and is active on the boards on both ends of the floor.  He’s deceptively long at 6’10” and jumps well.  He’s like a lighter and slightly more athletic Mason Plumlee (minus Plumlee’s 100% 3-PT%)

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Beyond all of that, Hernangomez is another of the Nuggets that “gets it”.  After playing zero minutes against Chicago on Halloween, Juancho commented that his individual needs were the team’s needs and he didn’t feel any kind of way about not playing, everyone on the team shares that hive mentality.  Where that pays off is the 23-point explosion that carried the Nuggets to victory the next night in Cleveland.

When we say the Nuggets can go seven deep with closers, we include Hernangomez.  Pretty lofty stuff for a guy that had no expectations and missed all of last season.