Denver Nuggets: Russell Westbrook shows the importance of trusting your roster

This past offseason, the Denver Nuggets needed to address their lead guard position. With Jamal Murray’s injury likely sidelining him for the entire season, the Nuggets decided to go with what they had instead of signing players from elsewhere.

Russell Westbrook’s base salary for 2021-22 is $44.2 million while Murray’s is $29.4 million and Monte Morris is only $8.85 million even though he’s virtually been the Nuggets’ starting point guard all season.

President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly has done a masterful job budgeting and keeping the Nuggets in contention despite the bad hand he was dealt with injuries to Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray.

The Los Angeles Lakers have bitten down on the mouthpiece and chosen to grit it out with their 33-year-old starting point guard Russell Westbrook after not being able to find a trade at the deadline.

The Nuggets decided not to replace Jamal in the offseason and simply elevate everyone else on the roster. A combination of Morris, Bones Hyland, and Facu Campazzo at the lead guard spot has held up admirably and Denver is not sitting in the playoff race.

Westbrook was a hot name as the trade deadline approached, and many wondered if the Lakers would make a move in the hopes of improving on their current ninth seeding in the West.

Denver, on the other hand, holds firm as the sixth seed and hopes the progression of Rising Star Hyland and the veteran presence of Morris will be enough to keep the engines firing while Murray gets up to speed.

Hyland has demonstrated the ability to share the rock nicely, with at least three assists in four of the past five games, and Morris has shown a flair for the dramatic with his game-winners and clear chemistry with starters like Nikola Jokic and Will Barton.

Morris has been cooking on the offensive floor of late, netting 18 points in back-to-back games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors and following that up with a 20-point performance against the Sacramento Kings and 19 against the Warriors again on the second game of a back-to-back.

Russell Westbrook has been in the news lately for his response to the nickname ‘Westbrick’ and how it can be viewed as an attack on his family name.

Westbrook is struggling this year as he tries to find his shot with yet another new team in the Lakers. Westbrook is averaging 18.1 points per game this season, his lowest since 2009-10. Controversy surrounds the aging guard, as the situation becomes cloudy regarding how much criticism is necessary when assessing Westbrook’s game. Russell’s rebound and assist numbers have even dropped off from last year in Washington despite seeing only two fewer minutes of game time in 2022 with the Lakers.

Westbrook’s regression is undeniable despite his best efforts to keep his family name out of the mud. As a notorious volume scorer, Westbrook is susceptible to numbers like these when his shot is not falling and he is not the focal point of the offense.

The Nuggets, however, are seeing progression from their young guard Hyland and hope that Murray can bring back the productive spark he found in the bubble in 2020 and the first half of last season before his ACL injury.

The Nuggets look set at the point guard position despite the outlook seeming rocky heading into the 2022 NBA trade deadline. Sometimes the best thing to do is wait things out and that’s exactly what both the Nuggets and Lakers have done with their point guards. We will see if those decisions were the best ones for both respective teams, and Los Angeles will need Westbrook to turn it up a notch in the late months as the Lakers cling to the final seed in the West.

Denver will look to Hyland to keep showing progression and consistency, and if Murray and Michael Porter Jr. come back healthy, hang on to your pick-axe.