1 bold move that Mike Malone may have to make for the Nuggets to repeat as champions

Oct 14, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA;  Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone reacts
Oct 14, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone reacts / John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets have started ramping up after the all-star break as they cruise toward the playoffs and attempt to defend their title and become back-to-back NBA champions. The team has looked more focused and locked in, and it has resulted in a seven-game winning streak after Tuesday night’s win over the Suns.

But while these games may have more of a playoff feel to them, nothing can compare to actual playoff games and series. There will be many changes that take place once the playoffs start, including moves by head coach Mike Malone. I went in-depth about some of the more obvious changes on Tuesday.

But those are moves that we expect Malone to make and moves that he has shown he will make when the chips are down. Benching DeAndre Jordan is a no-brainer, and that’s just something fans should expect at this point once the playoff games begin (I mean, hell this has already basically been the case for a while).

But there are other, smaller, more subtle moves that Malone will have to make that may not be quite so obvious to fans. But these small moves are extremely important, and oftentimes championships are won and lost on the margins. 

The Nuggets will be facing the best of the best and they need to make sure they are taking advantage of everything at their disposal to put themselves in the best position to win. Some of those moves may be difficult and uncomfortable, and could even ruffle some feathers, but sometimes that’s what it takes to win an NBA championship.

Don’t be afraid to bench Michael Porter Jr.

This could be the biggest coaching move that Malone is required to make, managing MPJ on a game-to-game basis. We’ve already seen it at times during the regular season; if he doesn’t have it, Malone won’t hesitate to bench him for the hot hand. 

Jokic, Murray, Gordon, and even KCP are all pretty well ingrained in the closing lineup, but MPJ is the wild card. There are some nights - like against the Lakers on Saturday - when he’s hitting all his shots, crashing the boards, and playing with confidence.

When his offense is going, he seems to up his defensive focus and intensity as well, fighting harder through screens and staying with his man. But we’ve seen other games where the shots aren’t falling, and Porter starts pressing, trying to do too much on offense, and becoming disconnected on defense.

That won’t kill you over the course of a regular season, but that can’t be tolerated in a playoff game. Malone needs to be able to read the game, and on a night where MPJ is a detriment, pull the plug. Peyton Watson, Christian Braun, and Justin Holiday have all shown flashes on both ends, and there could be a night where one of those guys has it going and could be more helpful to the closing unit than MPJ.

Malone can’t be worried about hurting feelings or losing the locker room. He needs to do what’s best for the Nuggets. Conversely, Porter needs to be mature and understand what’s at stake and that this run is much bigger than him or his ego.

There will likely be a game when this move needs to happen, and Malone shouldn’t hesitate to do so. I’m confident that he will, and that the team will respond well. But it’s one thing to do it in a random regular season game or to do it in a playoff game for proven veterans like Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. It’s another thing to bench the third highest-paid player on the team in crunch time of a playoff game for an unproven commodity.