Millsap has a broken toe.
The official timeline for Paul Millsap‘s return, issued on December 10th was 4-6 weeks. That puts him somewhere between January 7th (Nuggets play Houston) and Jaunary 21st (no scheduled game).
Like Harris, it might benefit the Nuggets to target the January 23rd contest with the Utah Jazz for a possible Millsap return. Many of the same reasons apply. Coach Malone has to scramble at the Power Forward with Millsap out and Trey Lyles playing inconsistent and (honestly) timid basketball. The two games preceding Utah are against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.
Gimme games like those don’t necessarily mean the Nuggets will win (Charlotte and Atlanta from the recent road-trip are good examples) but they are much more favorable to playing without certain starters than others. The Jazz boast a frontcourt of Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles. Even though Utah has struggled, that’s a formidable unit and one that Millsap’s toughness is sorely needed to combat.
Denver has learned to play without Millsap, losing him for 40+ games in the 2017-18 campaign but this year’s version of Millsap has solidified the Nuggets as a top-five defensive team and his turnaround, fadeaway jumper has been a thing of beauty. He blocks shots, he gets tough rebounds, he’s a strong, willing presence for Denver and is every bit as important to the fortunes of the starters as any of the Core.
Mason Plumlee has also logged some starting minutes, pushing Jokic to the 4 for the last couple of games. It’s an experiment that had terrible results when tried with Jusuf Nurkic at center but Nikola has matured along with his game. He’s been effective from the power forward spot.
The issue isn’t the Joker, it’s losing Plumlee’s presence with the second unit. Mason has been the defensive anchor of that unit and possibly the entire team. Millsap may have something to say about that but the pair have been as good as it gets for Denver defensively.
A broken toe is tough because it limits Millsap’s ability to maintain his conditioning and game shape. That may ultimately push his timetable closer to six weeks and that Jazz game.
Another key performer for the Nuggets might be back before the end of the year: