Denver Nuggets Core has Growing Pains, Searching for Success

Denver Nuggets (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /
1 of 4
Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

After an incredible 9-1 start, the Denver Nuggets have stumbled to a 10-7 record.  The Nuggets young core is struggling to find consistency.

There is supposed to be a top tier for the Denver Nuggets, consisting of Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Paul Millsap. One of the issues even during the 9-1 start has been the production of those five.  Barton is excused by injury but the other four have to be dissatisfied with their play this season.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone appears to have settled on Juan Hernangomez as Barton’s fill-in after a peek at Torrey Craig in the same position. Juancho makes shots and defends well.  The only complaint for the big Spaniard is how easily he gets “blown by” when he gets switched and/or isolated on a guard.  You don’t expect a 6’10” player to hang with smaller, faster guards but Juancho surrenders so completely on drives that Denver’s rotating defense can’t compensate. He will have to work on footwork but the resurgence has been welcome considering last year’s lost season.

So, while Juancho and Craig have filled in admirably, there’s something missing with Barton sidelined.  Barton has an alpha personality that’s missing, Isaiah Thomas has that same personality.  Both men are targeting December returns to the active roster and it can’t come soon enough for an incredibly talented but still young Nuggets core.

It is that core that we’ve banked on, put all of our long-suffering hopes into and it is that core that will make or break this Nuggets iteration.  Let’s take an individual look at Denver’s three cornerstone players and what this season has shown us from them: