Do the Denver Nuggets have enough depth across the board?
Calvin Booth and the Denver Nuggets made a conscious decision to sacrifice depth for the benefit of the starting (and potentially closing) lineup. By trading two rotation pieces, Will Barton and Monte Morris, to the Washington Wizards, the Nuggets were able to get a natural 3-and-D wing, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, alongside the big three.
These moves don’t seem major in the grand scheme of things, in fact, moving on from Barton could give plenty of opportunities to other bench players. However, Barton and JaMychal played a total of 3,362 minutes in the 2021-22 regular season and those minutes are going to have to go somewhere.
Bones Hyland seems primed for an exciting sophomore season and after establishing himself in the second half of his rookie season, he will likely be the first guard coming off the bench for Michael Malone. I’m confident he’ll fill the scoring guard role both in the regular season and the playoffs.
Behind Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets seemed to find something that worked after signing DeMarcus Cousins mid-way through the season. Additionally, Malone could switch things up and play JaMychal Green as a small-ball five in a pinch.
Both those options aren’t on the table anymore.
Signing DeAndre Jordan was a mistake, he hasn’t been an efficient big man for a couple of seasons now. Assuming the move was for the veteran leadership he brings, that means the front office sees Zeke Nnaji as the first big man off the bench.
While I’m tantalized by Nnaji’s potential as a volume shooting five, he hasn’t proven he can hold up in serious NBA minutes. After two seasons riding the pine and checking in during garbage time, we still don’t know if he can defend the rim at a high-enough level.
Time will tell, but if it doesn’t work, Booth will have to find a solution on the fly.
Signing Bruce Brown is amazing here. He’ll be able to play minutes on the wing with both the starting and bench lineups and I’m looking forward to seeing him play that ‘Biggie Smalls’ big-man role next to a shooter like Jokic or Nnaji.
At the end of the day, Michael Malone cuts his rotation down to around eight or nine players in the playoffs. With the starting five plus Bones and Brown, we’re almost there. Does it really matter if the Nuggets are weaker in the regular season? And how will that affect their regular season seeding?