Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Tomahawk Tuesday: Can the Denver Nuggets weather the storm?
The Denver Nuggets have had a really impressive 18-9 start to the season and for the first time all year they are about to face some serious adversity. Last Friday at Charlotte, their star power forward Paul Millsap went down with fractured right big toe that is expected to sideline him for the next four-to-six weeks. Millsap has been averaging 13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game, doing a little bit of everything for this Nuggets team. On top of his absence, the Nuggets are also dealing with the absence of their star shooting guard Gary Harris, Jr., who has been diagnosed with a strained right hip, keeping him out for the next three-to-four weeks. Harris is putting up 16.6 points per game, carrying a good chunk of their scoring load.
It would be bad enough if it was just Millsap and Harris that were out. But there's more: Will Barton is considered week-to-week with a sore hip; Isaiah Thomas is still out indefinitely as he recovers from right hip surgery; rookie small forward Jarred Vanderbilt is yet to play a game as he recovers from right foot surgery; and rookie small forward Michael Porter, Jr. is also yet to play a game due to back surgery. Things have gotten so bad for the Nuggets that they've had to use their hardship exception to sign guard Nick Young to a non-guaranteed contract.
As good as the Nuggets have been playing, it's tough to see them staying afloat in such a tight Western Conference amid all of these injuries. The good news for them is they still have guard Jamal Murray (17.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists) and center Nikola Jokic (17.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 7.6 assists) healthy. Both of those guys are having fantastic seasons and are certainly capable of shouldering more of the load. The only question is how much of the load can they carry?
During the next three-to-four weeks, the fate of this promising Nuggets team will likely be decided given how competitive the Western Conference is. If Murray and Jokic can keep their team playing above .500 ball, odds are good they'll be able to gain some ground back in February and March. If on the flip side, they play below .500 ball, we're probably looking at a team that finishes 7th or 8th in the Western Conference with the possibility of missing the playoffs altogether.
The NBA can be a cruel world and the Denver Nuggets are finding that out right now. Hopefully for them they'll be able to weather the storm and keep themselves in contention. They've been one of the feel good stories of the league this year and it would be a real shame to see their season go down the tubes due to injury so early on.
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