One-sentence progress reports of the top 12 Nuggets on the roster

Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets
Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages

Overall it’s hard to say this season has been anything but a success for the Denver Nuggets. But that’s life when you are the defending NBA champions for the first time in team history. Everything’s gravy and life is good - at least until the playoffs start up again.

Expecting any team to repeat as champions is pretty unreasonable, but that’s the reality of the situation for the Nuggets this season. Nothing can ever take away from the 2023 title, and that banner will hang in the rafters until the end of time. But still, the Nuggets have the best player in the world, who’s squarely in his prime, and as long as that’s the case, it’s championship or bust.

Aspirations like that certainly change the grading scale, especially during the regular season. The team has gotten over the hump and has nothing left to prove until May and June. At this point, the regular season can really only serve as a disappointment.

For the most part, the idea is to be playing well, to be healthy, to get a good seed, and to head into the postseason with some momentum and rhythm. Anything beyond that could almost be considered an unneccesary waste of energy. Nobody is saying the team should mail it in - nor are they - but they don’t need to beat themselves up chasing the league’s top record.

Denver has an amazing home-court advantage, which helped them on their way to winning it all last season. But they also got big victories on the road and proved that they can win on the biggest stage regardless of the venue.

At 41-19 the Nuggets are currently the third seed in the Western Conference, but sit just a game and a half out of first place and trail only the Timberwolves and Thunder, two teams that are extremely green in terms of playoff experience.

With just over 20 games left, this is the time of year when the team needs to start ramping up and getting back into postseason form. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how every player on the roster has performed so far this season.

The starters

Nikola Jokic: A+ 

He’s the best player on the planet and he keeps on getting better; on his way to a third MVP award in four seasons, and has even become a plus defender - which was arguably his only “weakness”.

Jamal Murray: B+

He hasn’t raised his game to all-star status as many assumed he would, but his efficiency has been amazing, shooting 42% from three and he’s shown up down the stretch in big games like usual.

Aaron Gordon: A-

Gordon’s fit and role keep getting better and smoother for the Nuggets, and his struggles from the 3-point line are my only knock on his performance this season.

Michael Porter Jr.: B-

He’s improved, but is still a minus defender and hasn’t expanded his offensive game a ton beyond shooting, but at least he does that very well.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: A

KCP is just rock solid on both ends and does all the little things in a very reliable way; he’s also quietly within shouting distance of a 50/40/90 shooting season.

The consistent bench players

Reggie Jackson: B

Reggie is probably overtasked as a 6th man at this point in his career and his efficiency isn’t great on either end, but he’s been there for this team, and you know what you’re getting out of him almost every night.

Christian Braun: C

The Nuggets were hoping Braun would take a leap and be able to fill the role vacated by Bruce Brown this season, but it hasn’t happened as the second-year player has been inconsistent at best.

Peyton Watson: B-

Watson is a bit of a wild card and he’s come on lately, giving these guys great energy off the bench and getting his chance to be in some closing lineups; just needs to improve his jump shot.

The deep bench players

Justin Holiday: C+

The veteran Holiday brother is what he is at this point in his career; filling in admirably at times, but ideally not part of the rotation when it matters.

Julian Strawther: C-

The 21-year-old Strawther is just way too raw to be playing real minutes for a contending team, and is likely still at least a couple of years away (he may need a change of scenery to get his shot).

DeAndre Jordan: C-

The 35-year-old Jordan is just way too overcooked to be playing real minutes for a contending team; he’s in the twilight of his career but seems like a good veteran presence on the bench (and don’t forget that one Clippers revenge game!).

Zeke Nnaji: B-

Zeke has come on recently, getting some expanded run, and has looked fairly decent as a backup big, but I don’t think anyone wants to see him getting meaningful playoff minutes.