Denver Nuggets: 3 Reasons to Skip the Panic Button

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 Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The defensive improvement moves up the Nuggets timeline.

Denver pulled the wool over our collective eyes a little bit in the offseason.  They told us they would improve defensively but never claimed they’d be a top-10 unit, much less second.

Consider the effort that went into such a defensive turnaround.  The hours of practice that honed the switching defense that Denver has employed so effectively.  The reason we mentioned that we were 15% into the NBA season was to illustrate that the Nuggets defensive standing is no anomaly and it’s looking less-and-less like a fluke.

Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets /

Denver Nuggets

We should single out Paul Millsap for his early-season defensive prowess.  He’s taken on some powerhouse players and more often than not come out on top (damn you, LeBron James).  He’s anchored the starting defensive unit but has been assisted by an incredibly improved Jokic, a stalwart Harris and fill-in Torrey Craig, whose defensive presence has kept him in the lineup despite a limited offensive capacity.

For the bench, the ever-present Mason Plumlee has shone, as expected but the real surprise has been Juan Hernangomez‘ play, both up-and-down, defensively.  Juancho collapses beautifully to catch players from behind for blocks, like the one that sealed the win against Golden State.

That’s good.

What’s not so good is often the reason that’s available to him is because he’s getting blown-by on the wing, fairly consistently.

Given the choice between the defensively consistent Craig and the much-better offensive player in Hernangomez, coach Malone has so far gone with Craig.  While that may not have been the soundest decision, it’s kept the Nuggets focus on the defensive end.  There is a method to this madness, perhaps.  As mentioned, the effort required to improve the Nuggets defense this much had to have a cost.

That cost was maybe shot repetition, so important to shooters like the Nuggets rely on.  It should be about this time that the Nuggets find their legs offensively and coupled with their already established defensive prowess, they may yet live up to those expectations.

The last thing is one to look forward to: