The Denver Nuggets have continued to be one of the most consistent and efficient teams in a stacked Western Conference currently resting in third place, only behind the two juggernaut LA-based teams, the Lakers and the Clippers.
Despite the Nuggets continued success from last season, finishing the 18/19 season 2nd in the Western Conference with a record of 54-28, they continue to fly somewhat under-the-radar compared to other NBA franchises.
Maybe it’s due to the Nuggets being in a ‘small-town’ market rather than New York, Chicago or L.A., or maybe it’s due to the Nuggets style of play. Denver does not possess over-the-top celebrity personalities such as Kyrie Irving or LeBron James, Denver’s play-style does not lend itself to some of the more explosive or eye-catching teams in the NBA.
But whether or not the Nuggets are getting the recognition they deserve doesn’t matter. Mike Malone’s team are well on their way to another season as one of the most impressive teams in the NBA.
At the core of the Nugget’s silent success lies their roster filled with versatile and smart players. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are at the forefront of the team, Jokic being a top-five, top-ten MVP candidate, but the depth and adaptability Denver possesses at the wing positions is almost unmatched. Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter JR. and Torrey Craig all boast defensive know-how and hustle, the ability to dribble the basketball, shoot the 3 and great length.
Barton, the teams starting small forward, is currently fifth in the NBA’s +/- rankings. Barton finds himself behind MVP candidates such as Giannis Antetokoumnpo, James Harden, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. Barton is also averaging 15 points per game alongside a career-high 6.8 rebounds.
In regards to the impact Nuggets head coach Mike Malone has had on Barton’s development as a player, the forward had this to say on a conference call on Thursday, “He’s had a big influence on my development. He gave me a chance to really be myself in the NBA and play my game. Really he just gave me a chance to develop on the floor and play through my mistakes and become the player I am today. He’s played a huge role in that.”
Denver finished last season on a somewhat painful and disappointing note, missing the chance to play a KD-less Warriors team after losing to the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round.
If the Nuggets are to prove themselves on the world stage and challenge for the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer then their supporting cast of characters surrounding Jokic and Murray will have to rise to the occasion, something they’re showing signs of very early on.