The Depth of the Denver Nuggets is Tested With Injuries

The Denver Nuggets have been hit hard with the injury bug. With key role players out, the Nuggets turn to their depth for help.

Right before a difficult stretch of games for the Denver Nuggets, Mason Plumlee, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris all go down with some sort of injury. Paul and Jamal don’t have a certain timetable, and Mason is out for 2-4 weeks (per Nick Kosmider of the Athletic).

The Nuggets missing their starting backcourt is a huge blow, but the depth in this area has been handled well. Between Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, and Torrey Craig, Coach Malone has been able to shore up those minutes. He’s also benefited tremendously from the emergence of P.J. Dozier.

With Millsap out, stretching Michael Porter Jr to the power forward position, while giving the bulk of the time there to Jerami Grant, this area has been taken care of as well. This has allowed Juancho Hernangomez to see court minutes as well in recent games.

With Plumlee going down for extended time, the Nuggets are in severe need of another big. Bol Bol is waiting in the wings in the G-League, but he’s not ready yet to compete at the NBA level. Playing for both the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, as well as the Windy City Bulls, the next man up is Jarred Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt was acquired by the Denver Nuggets on a draft night trade in 2018. Vanderbilt is another project that the Nuggets took a chance on. Very clear first round talent, even considered by some to be lottery worthy, Vando missed a slew of games in his sole campaign at Kentucky due to injury. Vanderbilt has been patient so far and has rehabbed excellently and adequately. He’s played 13 games in the G-League this year, seeing the floor for about 25.8 minutes per game.

His talent is something that Denver could undoubtedly use. One Bleacher Report article compared his game to a “poor man’s Ben Simmons“.  His handle and passing upside is a basis for this comparison.

The Nuggets, and especially Coach Malone hope to not fall off in one of the skills that Mason Plumlee provided: Rebounding. Fortunately, Vanderbilt provides this in spades.

Obviously, it’s not a direct translation, but Vanderbilt’s OREB% in the G-League of 11.7% is a high number which would rank first on the Nuggets right now. His still-high DREB% of 22.8% would rank second behind Michael Porter Jr. (per Cleaning the Glass)

Jarred Vanderbilt is also an exceedingly capable defender, posting a very solid 1.96 Defensive PIPM in the G-League this year (per BBall-Index Data & Tools). His defensive value and rebounding largely stem from his length and athleticism. This length and athleticism have manifested itself in other ways as well. His best offensive flashes have been in transition. If he can be effective there, Vanderbilt could fill in legitimate minutes for the Denver Nuggets while they await the return of Millsap and Plumlee.