May 19, 2024

The Nuggets’ stretch run will be defined by three key questions:

The Nuggets youth and flattening the curve philosophy - Denver Stiffs

  1. Can the Nuggets contend for the No. 1 seed? At this point last season, the Nuggets had a comfortable five-game lead over the Grizzlies for the top spot in the Western Conference. However, this season, the landscape is much more competitive, with the Nuggets currently sitting in fourth place with a record of 36-19, and the top four seeds separated by only three games. Given this tight race, it seems unlikely that any team will secure the top spot easily. Consequently, the Nuggets may not prioritize chasing the No. 1 seed, focusing instead on maintaining a top-four position to secure homecourt advantage in the first round. From insights gathered from those close to the team, it appears that the Nuggets’ goal is to secure a top-three seed, although facing certain teams like the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs, particularly in the first round, could present challenges.
  2. Will Coach Michael Malone broaden the rotation? Immediately after the All-Star break, it seems unlikely that Coach Malone will expand the rotation significantly. He appears determined to address the team’s recent three-game losing streak by leaning heavily on the starters to secure victories. However, a pressing concern for the Nuggets is fatigue, as their starting lineup logs the most minutes per game of any five-man lineup in the NBA. While championship fatigue may play a role, the lack of depth on the bench is also a contributing factor. It might be beneficial for the Nuggets to diversify their rotation to alleviate fatigue and provide valuable playing time for players like Julian Strawther and Jalen Pickett. Nonetheless, the more probable scenario involves increasing Michael Porter Jr.’s minutes with the bench unit while minimizing taxing minutes for Aaron Gordon.
  3. How will Christian Braun and Peyton Watson perform for the rest of the season? Braun and Watson are crucial members of the Nuggets’ bench, expected to play significant roles in the playoffs. Despite their importance, the Nuggets are unlikely to make any roster additions at this stage. Watson, though untested in playoff environments, possesses considerable talent and potential, especially in defense and playmaking. However, his adaptation to playoff intensity remains to be seen. On the other hand, Braun has experienced a challenging sophomore season, showing only marginal improvement in his shooting and defensive performance compared to last season. There’s hope that Braun will regain his form as the playoffs approach, as his contribution will be vital for the team’s success.

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