The Denver Nuggets and the rest of the NBA are now back in business, as the regular season started on Tuesday. Denver is one of the most competitive teams in the league and was considered title favorites before the season started.
Their first game was at home against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, their championship ceremony, where Denver’s players were handed their rings and the team hoisted the championship banner in the rafters.
The Nuggets started the season right where they left off, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 119-107, as Nikola Jokic added another triple double to his collection, and the first one of the new season.
All of the starters were in double digits, and Michael Porter Jr. had the least amount of points in the starting five with 12 points total. Jamal Murray had 21 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 20 total. Their starting five had a cumulative total of 97 points, which is a normal amount of scoring for a whole game for a regular team.
That’s fine, but looking at their bench, it is a bit shaky. Reggie Jackson had eight points on 3-8 shooting in 24 minutes, and both Peyton Watson and Zeke Nnaji were 1-3 from the field. Christian Braun was the last bench player, and even though he shot 2-5, he put in two assists and a block.
The bench unit was obviously not going to be the same as it was last year when Bruce Brown(who played really well in his first game for his new team) left for Indiana in free agency, and that was expected. The Denver Nuggets did not add enough to fill in Brown’s shoes, and that’s not mentioning Jeff Green and his veteran presence that left for Houston.
Looking at the Los Angeles Lakers, who even though they lost, have bench players like Rui Hachimura, Gabe Vincent, and Christian Wood. All of those players are quality bench pieces and can have a lot of points on any given night.
For the Denver Nuggets, they really don’t have that anymore. Reggie Jackson is no longer in his prime, where he averaged 18.8 points for the Detroit Pistons back in the 2015-16 season. He’s getting older and might not be in the NBA for much longer. DeAndre Jordan is old, too, and shouldn’t get a lot of minutes unless it is absolutely necessary.
Other than those two veteran players, the bench is very youthful. A lot of players on rookie-scale contracts, like Christian Braun, Zeke Nnaji, Peyton Watson, and Julian Strawther just to name a few. Braun played well in a limited role in the playoffs, but he isn’t ready for the sixth man role just yet.
Yes, I know it is only one game of the regular season, and Denver’s bench will be better throughout the rest of the season. But looking out at other contenders, the Phoenix Suns have solid bench pieces like Eric Gordon and Drew Eubanks, the Milwaukee Bucks have a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Bobby Portis, and the Boston Celtics have Al Horford.
The Denver Nuggets do have a bit of assets they could trade midseason if they wanted more veterans on their bench, as they still have a few first round picks they could hand out if they wanted to trade for a better player.
Whether the Denver Nuggets keep the bench the way it is, they still should be title contenders nonetheless. They’re still favorites in the Western Conference, which makes sense considering they do have the best player in the NBA.
One thing is for sure, though. Nikola Jokic is really great at making his teammates better, so throughout the season, we could see some bench players getting better and better.