May 27, 2024

The Denver Nuggets, while not currently dominating the regular season, still possess formidable strength as the defending champions, currently ranking fourth in the Western Conference. Despite their impressive standing, they face a crucial flaw that demands attention following the NBA All-Star break.

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Throughout the 2023-24 season, the Nuggets’ performance mirrors the consistency of Nikola Jokic, solid but not extraordinary, with a 38-19 record, placing them tied for third with the surging Los Angeles Clippers. Jokic continues to excel, averaging 26 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds per game, albeit not at MVP levels.

On both offensive and defensive fronts, the Nuggets demonstrate competence, ranking 12th in offensive rating and 11th in defensive rating. However, their Achilles’ heel lies in their bench unit.

While minor in the grand scheme, the inconsistency of the bench poses a potential hazard to their championship aspirations. Unlike last season’s key contributors like Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, and Jeff Green, this year’s bench lacks the same impact. Brown’s departure to the Indiana Pacers has left a significant void, with Braun struggling to fill the sixth-man role effectively. Additionally, Zeke Nnaji’s development has fallen short of expectations, and while Reggie Jackson provides stability, overall bench performance has been lackluster.

In the playoffs, rotations typically shorten, placing more pressure on starters. However, increased postseason minutes for bench players like Braun, Justin Holiday, and possibly Peyton Watson raise concerns about their ability to withstand the heightened intensity. The Nuggets’ starting five boasts exceptional chemistry, but the performance of their bench could make or break their title defense. Should bench players falter under playoff pressure, opposing teams will exploit this weakness relentlessly.

Thus, the critical question remains: Can Denver’s bench players rise to the occasion and support their championship ambitions, or will they succumb to the demands of playoff basketball, jeopardizing the Nuggets’ quest for a repeat title?

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