The Denver Nuggets are playing some of their best basketball this decade as of recently. They are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, including quality wins against at Portland Trail Blazers, at Oklahoma City Thunder and at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. Their win against the Toronto Raptors might be the most impressive of the seven.
The Nuggets visited Scotiabank Arena to face off against the Raptors who are practically invincible on their home court. They were able to contain Kawhi Leonard and shut down Kyle Lowry which is not easy. It was a great overall effort by the Nuggets, and helped solidify themselves as an NBA dominant team.
Left The Six with a win, but it came with a price
Towards the end of the opening quarter, starting shooting guard Gary Harris left the game with an apparent groin injury. This injury now puts five Nuggets on the injury report, two of which were opening night starters.
However, the loss of Harris did not slow down the Nuggets. Led by Nikola Jokic‘s second triple-double of the season, the Nuggets took down the beasts of the Eastern Conference. They will look to continue their win streak on the road against Charlotte Hornets.
While all is good for the Nuggets right now based on their record, there are some tough issues on the horizon. Harris, Isaiah Thomas and Will Barton are expected to return by the end of the year. Michael Malone is already playing a 10-to-12-person rotation and struggling to give everyone minutes. Once these guys return, will the Nuggets find themselves in a conundrum trying to get everyone on the court?
That’s why Michael Malone is getting paid the big bucks
Michael Malone is no stranger to hurting player’s egos. Throughout his tenure in Denver, he has made a number of tough decisions regarding who gets to play and for how long.
Most notably has to be relinquishing former fan favorite Kenneth Faried‘s minutes down immensely. Another would be taking Jusuf Nurkic out of the starting lineup, which ultimately led to his trade to Portland. All in all, Malone probably has a plan ready to implement once these questions arise.
What I would most likely do once everyone is healthy.
Malik Beasley/Torrey Craig or Gary Harris
Juancho Hernangomez or Will Barton
These are a few position battles that will be affected.
The first two are going to be a lot easier than the third as everyone knows Harris and Barton are the rightful starters. Once those two are healthy enough to return, they will return to the starting lineup.
Will that mean they are going to continue to receive 30-35 minutes of playing time? I’m not sure, but even before either were injured, Malone usually was not playing anyone that many minutes. He knows the depth he has with Beasley, Hernangomez and Craig, so he is definitely going to give them their opportunity to contribute.
Nonetheless, these decisions above are not going to be the issue talked about once the Nuggets return to full health.
The true conundrum: Who plays backup point guard?
Monte Morris or Isaiah Thomas
This leads me to the third positional battle which is for the backup point guard spot. Monte Morris has played almost perfect as Murray’s backup, posting a 7-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. That type of point guard play is on par for all-star point guards, and we are seeing it out of a second-year pro.
However, Thomas’s resume speaks for itself regarding how he can affect a game. 53 points in a playoff game and two all-star appearances. If Thomas can be a version of what he was with the Boston Celtics, then Malone will have to play him.
What is Malone going to do to avoid issues?
Honestly, I think Malone is going to have to utilize a three-headed monster back court. With that being said, Murray is the outright starter and there is no changing that no matter the success of Thomas nor Morris. However, who is to say Malone cannot play Thomas and Morris with each other while letting Thomas play off-ball?
The offense would not miss a beat, but that would require the Nuggets to play fast and aggressive on defense. Due to Thomas’s small stature, he is a defensive nightmare and will obviously be put into switches when guarding in the half-court.
Needless to say, Malone is an NBA head coach and he knows his player personnel inside-out. He has a plan that will use Thomas and he will implement it accordingly. Will the Nuggets have some hiccups trying to make room initially? Will Thomas have to accept that he is most likely not going to be getting the same minutes he received back in Boston? Both are a resounding yes, but I think Malone is the perfect coach to lead the Nuggets out of this so called “conundrum” they are heading towards.
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