Expectations for the Nuggets 2015-16 season were low at the start of the year. Vegas had the Nuggets pegged for 25 to 27 wins; they have already surpassed that with 31 wins and six more to go. It has gone unnoticed in the NBA but the Nuggets are a few shrewd moves away from being playoff contenders next season. In his first season with the Nuggets, Mike Malone has committed the youth movement and is getting a lot of production from those young players. Players like Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, and found a future sixth man of the year winner in Will Barton have improved as the season has gone on and show promise for seasons to come.
The Nuggets have shown steady improvement as the season has gone on. After the all-star break their scoring average has gone up from 100 points a game to 106. They are pushing the tempo up at every opportunity they have, like in the play below. After the defense comes up with the block Barton secures the rebound and looks to push the ball up the court finding Mudiay on the wing. Mudiay does a great job of not over dribbling and immediately hits the cutting Darrell Arthur for a dunk.
Mudiay’s frame at 6’5” and a strong 200 pounds is the prototypical body for an elite NBA point guard. His size and strength is a strong advantage for Mudiay and the Nuggets. He displays it in this play against the Heat, he’s able to maneuver his way into the paint and use his strength to finish the play while bouncing off the defender.
Mudiay is doing a great job of creating not just for himself but for teammates as well. He leads all rookies in assists with 5.5 per game, dropping great dimes like this one off the dribble to Will Barton on the backdoor cut.
Barton has exploded this season for the Nuggets after being traded by the Blazers late last season. His play off the bench has him in contention for the sixth man of the year award this season. Known as an explosive athletic wing, Barton is expanding his game by shooting a career high 36.6% from three and averaging 15 points on a nightly basis for the Nuggets.
There are still holes on the roster and work to be done in the offseason for the front office. They currently rank 23rd in the league in three point percentage and give up nearly 105 points a game. The team needs to look to add more shooters and defenders to their lineups. The Nuggets are in a great position to be buyers in the trade market come draft time. The front office will potentially be armed with four picks in the upcoming draft, have a great trade asset in Kenneth Faired, and tons of cap space to make moves. A package with a few draft picks and Faired can net them the shooters and defenders they are looking for.
Although the Nuggets future doesn’t appear as flashy as the Timberwolves and the Pelicans their future is just as bright if not brighter. With a coach in place in that is committed to the youth movement, a young point guard with a chance to be a star, and assets to make the additions needed to take this team to the next level. Their potential extends higher than a Mile High.