The 1 Nuggets bench player who absolutely must be in the playoff rotation

Feb 29, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Justin Holiday (9) reacts after a play
Feb 29, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Justin Holiday (9) reacts after a play / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets defeated their Western Conference adversaries, the Lakers 124-114 on Saturday night, completing a sweep of the season series. Denver has triumphed over the Lakers eight straight times overall now, including a four-game sweep in last year’s Western Conference Finals.

Historic performances on both sides highlighted this game, as LeBron James became the first player in NBA history to reach 40,000 career points. On the Nuggets side, Michael Porter Jr. became the first player in NBA history to attempt 10+ field goals and 5+ threes without missing a shot.

Beyond that, it was the stars who took over late. Nikola Jokic looked every bit the part of an MVP, scoring 35 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 7 assists, and Jamal Murray added 24 points and 11 assists. Overall it was another impressive win for the Nuggets as they keep up the fight to defend their NBA title.

Spark off the bench

But the play of those stars has become almost expected at this point. The biggest takeaway of the game for me was the stellar two-way play of Justin Holiday off the bench. Holiday was thrust into a larger role with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missing the game for personal reasons

Holiday responded in a big way, playing 31 minutes off the Nuggets bench and chipping in 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists on 5/7 shooting and 3/5 from three-point land. He was also active on the defensive end and looked like a guy the Nuggets can rely on in big moments, as he helped close out the game.

Depth has been arguably the biggest issue and question mark for the Nuggets this season in their quest to repeat as champions after losing key role players, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green in free agency.

The team was counting on young players like Christian Braun and Peyton Watson to fill the void, and while those players have had some nice moments, they’ve been inconsistent and unreliable at times.

The veteran, Holiday has been in and out of the rotation, seeing his minutes yanked around, and at times hasn’t seen the court at all. He’s averaging just over 14 minutes a game on the season, and much of that has come in garbage time, or with other players missing games. 

In fact, this was just the fourth time this calendar year that Holiday has even reached 20 minutes. Before Saturday night, he hadn’t even cleared 15 minutes played since February 14th. But that needs to change.

Holiday is certainly nothing more than a role player, but he is a reliable veteran presence off the bench who can contribute on both offense and defense. That is something this team has been lacking all season, and something they will desperately need come playoff time. The Nuggets have been searching for answers all season, and it appears the answer may have been right in front of them all along.