If you aren’t convinced yet that this year’s Denver Nuggets team is legit based on what we’ve said here at Armchair, maybe Paul Millsap can convince you. In an interview with Altitude Sports reporter, Chris Dempsey, Millsap had this to say on his new team:
“I think that especially with the young guys that we have now in Denver, the growth is unbelievable,” replied the four-time All-Star. “The sky is the limit. I think this team can be a lot better than that team, and that was a 60-win team. I’m coming into this thing with high hopes, knowing and understanding what the situation is and knowing that we can be that team.”
The crazy thing about this isn’t that Millsap thinks this team can be better than his 60-win Atlanta Hawks team. Rather, he’s absolutely right and this Nuggets team still won’t come very close to 60 wins.
Millsap was the last piece to go from the 2014-15 Hawks team that caught fire to take the top seed in the Eastern Conference years ago. The team was rewarded for its’ unexpected dominance by having four of its’ starters named to the All-Star team. But even in that magical season, the starters of that team can’t even stack up with this year’s Nuggets starters.
Point Guard Matchup
The only starting position the Hawks would definitely win based on player production so far is the point guard spot. In Jeff Teague‘s lone All-Star appearance of his career in the 2014-15 season, he averaged 15.9 points and seven assists. Comparing this to Jamal Murray‘s 9.9 points and 2.1 assists per game last year, Teague gets the nod for now. This could very well be subject to change in the future though.
Shooting Guard Matchup
At the shooting guard spot, Kyle Korver similarly made his lone All-Star appearance in the 2014-15 season. His numbers don’t exactly jump off the chart as All-Star worthy with 12.1 points, to go along with 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists for the season. It was a combination of team success and a ridiculous 49.2% 3-point percentage that earned him that nod. Compared to Gary Harris‘s 14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 42% shooting from deep last year, the advantage goes slightly Harris’s way. The fact that his numbers were produced as a 22-year-old also helps his case that he will continue to widen the gap between himself and Korver.
Small Forward Matchup
At the small forward position, the Hawks saw DeMarre Carroll have a career year for them that season. He averaged 12.6 points and 5.3 rebounds on 39.5% 3-point shooting. While playing a lot of power forward a season ago, the current primary small forward of the Nuggets, Wilson Chandler, held averages of 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last year. With each being career-highs, Chandler bolstered his best season to date. In conclusion: advantage Wilson Chandler.
Power Forward Matchup
The Nuggets even seem to win in the match-up of Paul Millsap versus himself. Although it is getting an older version of him, he has continued to reinvent himself and keeps getting better. His stats last year of 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists hold this statement to be true. Even his two year younger self couldn’t match those numbers, instead averaging 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
Lastly, at the center position we have Nikola Jokic versus Al Horford. Jokic manages to make Horford’s 2014-15 season averages of 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists merely look cute. In under 28 minutes per game “The Joker” put up 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. Not to mention, his ridiculous 57.8% field goal percentage compared to a still very solid 53.8% posted by Horford. Simply put: advantage Jokic.
The lopsided amount of victories for the Nuggets starters speaks volumes to just how loaded the Western Conference will be this year. Not to be overlooked though, team chemistry is huge and that was something that the Hawks thrived on. If the Nuggets want to reach its’ full potential this year, it will have to find the right fit between each other.
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