Denver Nuggets: 3 Complaints Heading to the All-Star Break

Denver Nuggets (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Denver ran out of gas in the second half last season.

If not for the heroic run over the last ten games of last season, Denver was well out of playoff contention after a post-break swoon.  At the time, we questioned unused players stagnating on the end of Malone’s bench but were placated by offseason moves that unloaded ‘undesirables’ in Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and Richard Jefferson.  Starter Wilson Chandler was also jettisoned and the roster was finally all Tim Connelly and Michael Malone.

Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets /

Denver Nuggets

So, why are we still on 8-9 man rotations? Why are Tyler Lydon, Thomas Welsh and Jarred Vanderbilt ghosted at the end of the bench?  All three could serve to eat minutes with injuries to Millsap.  All could also minimize heavy minutes given to Mason Plumlee and Nikola Jokic.

Tired players struggle with focus.  Tired players tend to get injured more.  Tired players do not perform.  This isn’t a judgement on Denver’s conditioning, it’s the grind of 82 games for men that are not far removed from playing 30 games in a season, at most.  These Nuggets on this road trip look worn out.  They look like they are cutting corners on defense, their normally stellar three-point shooting taking a severe dip on the recent road trip.  In the Brooklyn loss, eight Nuggets got minutes while 10 Nets players got minutes.  Not just wrap-up minutes either, the lowest Nets player was Allen Crabbe at 13 minutes.  He scored 5 points and was a plus-1.

It’s hard to believe Lydon, Welsh or Vanderbilt or a combination of the three couldn’t provide that relief to the Nuggets.

It’s not statistically significant but over the course of a season, those 13 minutes a game are meaningful.  It reduces the load on players that are going to need to be in top form come playoff time.  Let’s not forget that the goal for the Nuggets this year was to make the playoffs, have a solid showing and grow from there.

They are ahead of that schedule but currently look to be in danger of falling back to last year’s team, living and dying by the three point shot and trying to outscore everyone.  It’s a strategy that works, sometimes, if all cylinders are firing.  If not, it looks like bad losses to bad teams or at least teams the Nuggets should beat.

It’s also worth pointing out that strategy fails miserably when Denver plays no defense.  They scored 130 in Brooklyn and gave up 135. They allowed 117 to the Sixers with Embiid on an off night.  If he had scored his average, the Sixers would have approached the 130 mark as well.

It won’t be easy to coax more defensive effort from an exhausted (mentally, physically) team.

There’s one more, in-game complaint I have: