In an offensive heavy match, the Denver Nuggets squeak by the Kings. Missing a couple starters, Nuggets fans witnessed the first start of Michael Porter Jr.
The Denver Nuggets close the 10 game homestand with a successful nine wins and a loss. The offense was able to find a rhythm, largely due to the resurgence of Nikola Jokic. With the new successes however, come new struggles.
1: The Bench
The bench struggled to excel tonight on both ends of the floor. Most of the bench unit entered in the late second quarter in a tight game. They surrendered the lead, but kept the score within a few points until the starters reentered.
Offensively, the Nuggets bench was a combined 11-30 (36.6%) from the field, and 1-12 (08.3%) from three. Despite the poor offense, the defense was adequate enough. The worst bench player by plus-minus was Torrey Craig with a -5 in his eight minutes.
Moving forward, the bench likely regains Michael Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant, which should provide them more shooting than tonight, but likely sacrificing some defense. Though, it is worth noting the success that Torrey Craig has on Russell Westbrook. I’d anticipate bench minutes from him against Houston.
If a consolidation trade is on the horizon, a scoring wing with adequate defense off of the bench is likely the profile of someone the Nuggets could target. Even with Michael Porter Jr. fitting that profile, he isn’t ready for that role in a playoff setting.
However, he did show out tonight.
2: Michael Porter Jr.
The first career start for Michael Porter was a successful one. He led the team in points (tied with Will Barton), and grabbed six rebounds, including three on offense. He opened the scoring tonight by getting fouled early on a cut. He kept attacking from there, only missing two of his ten shots.
His scoring was always touted as his generational skill, and admittedly, the talent is there. Something has gone underdiscussed about his game that perfectly fits into recent Nuggets struggles: His rebounding.
Per Cleaning the Glass, Michael Porter Jr. is in the 100th percentile and 99th percentile for offensive and defensive rebounding percentage respectively. Granted, it’s a relatively small sample size, but the eye test confirms that his size, position, and strength projects him as a top end rebounder for wings.
There’s plenty of room for improvement for Porter, especially on the defensive end. Once he catches up to game speed, he will be a lethal force to deploy.
3: Paul & Gary
Missing Paul Millsap and Gary Harris was an impact that was felt tonight. The Denver Nuggets have posted a 105.36 defensive rating so far this season, good for second best. Tonight’s defensive rating against a struggling Sacramento team was 121.1 (Per CtG).
It’s expected that missing the two best defensive members of the team would limit defensive capabilities. It is also worth noting that the offensive rating tonight was 16 points higher than their season number.
Keeping this in mind is important, as Coach Malone has emphasized that defense must be the identity of the team moving forward. Gary and Paul are central pieces of this mindset.
Lineups without Paul Millsap playing post a 109.9 defensive rating, but with Paul on the court, the Nuggets post a 99.6 defensive rating. Similarly, all lineups with neither Gary Harris or Paul Millsap have a defensive rating of 107.4.
Though it was a close win, it was important, as the Nuggets successfully rested Paul Millsap and Gary Harris in addition to seeing important run time for Michael Porter Jr. Ultimately, they won with most of the dominos falling in their favor.