There are some stars on the Denver bench.
NBA benches are like full-sized truck advertising. They’re all the best at something, every team in the playoffs points to their bench as a strength.
There are four guys on the Denver Nuggets bench we’d put up against anyone, though. Mason Plumlee has grown by leaps-and-bounds this season. He’s gained some confidence in his post game, has shown some touch in his hook shot, is a deft passer and can put up some superior performances on both the defensive end and on the glass.
Torrey Craig, in the first season of a newly-minted two-year contract is a defensive wizard. He’s been matched with some of the biggest stars in the NBA and has held his own. That’s not really surprising to Nuggets fans who knew last year that they had something in TC. Where he’s surprised is on the offensive end. Craig is solid around the rim, he has a nose for offensive rebounds and he’s shot lights out on spot-up three-point shots.
Malik Beasley would start on all but a few NBA teams. He’s gone from the best cheerleader on the bench to, many nights, the best player on the floor. The unflappable Beasley has grown, before our eyes into a deadly shooter, a fierce dunker and a smart offensive player. He should be on anyone’s list for Most Improved Player, possibly the 6th Man of the Year (They should just rename it the Jamal Crawford). If not for Gary Harris, he’d be the Nuggets starting shooting guard.
Those three guys are incredible and integral to the Nuggets rise to the heights of the Western Conference but the breakout player of the year and the gem of Denver’s reserves is Monte Morris. We talked a little about Morris here, another guy that shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as he’s been. There’s a lot of volatility to these young Nuggets, there are times when they get off-the-rails and they are difficult to reel back in, even for Malone. This is where Morris’ brand of basketball is incredibly valuable. Monte does not turn the ball over, he shoots at a high percentage, he’s a fearless slasher and he’s a solid defender (a concern entering the draft). He’s calm and steady and reliable.
The value that these players bring to the Nuggets may not surpass other bench foursomes but they are intertwined into the fabric that makes this team special. Like the Beatles, it can’t be just any four guys, it needs to be these four guys.
Ultimately, that’s one of the biggest reasons to believe this team is ready to take the ultimate leap. They are, above all, a team. They don’t need one player to stand out, they can go 8-deep (sorry Mason) with game-winning options, any of those eight can be steely-eyed missile men, as-needed. The Brooklyn Nets in the East are in a similar place and are smoking the Philadelphia 76’ers in their first-round opener.
Coach Malone is the perfect leader for this team, who, if they play to their talents and at the level that got them to the second seed can play with anyone.
It truly is all about team but there are two guys that have a lot to say about how the Nuggets fortunes go: