Good, bad, and ugly: Nuggets preseason encapsulation

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Valley View Casino Center.
Sep 30, 2018; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Valley View Casino Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets preseason has finally come to a close as they beat the Chicago Bulls 98-93 on Friday night to give them a 4-1 record heading into the season.

There were setbacks on offense, but there was also progression made on the defensive end. Let’s dive into some of the areas of improvement as well some rough areas in the good, the bad and the ugly of the preseason.

The good – Denver’s second unit shines

One of the brightest spots for the Nuggets in the preseason was the bench unit. There were plenty of questions heading into the preseason about the reserves, especially with players like Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. shelved for the foreseeable future due to injures, but overall, the Nuggets bench mob showed that they could be a weapon.

In five preseason games, the second unit played well on the defensive end while also displaying some offensive firepower. They played with energy and effort in each game. They even closed out games for the Nuggets as they were instrumental in Denver’s 4-1 preseason record. Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Mason Plumlee and Trey Lyles all impressed and showed they could be relied on for rotational minutes and would be able to be effective when given the opportunity.

One of the most impressive standouts from the second unit was backup point Monte Morris who showed that he could run the team and was arguably Denver’s best player throughout the preseason. He averaged 12.4 points and 5.0 assists per game while only having seven turnovers throughout the whole preseason. He is a poised point guard that is set to make a huge jump in minutes and prove that he belongs in the NBA. If preseason is an indicator of what is to come, than he is on the right track.

The bad – Lackadaisical play from the starters

For a team that has missed the playoffs by just one single game in each of the past two seasons, you would assume that there would be more effort, fire, and enthusiasm to get the year started, even during the preseason. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Denver.

This is a Nuggets team that still has quite a few things to work on and plenty of unanswered questions heading into the season. The hope was that there would not be a lack of focus and determination during the preseason. One of the biggest issues that Malone has harped about was the effort waning from time to time last year and it was an issue during preseason as well. It’s understandable to cruise just a bit in the preseason, but for a team that has so much to prove this year, laser focus should have been the mindset; specifically for the starters who got plenty of rest throughout the preseason. To be fair, Denver’s starters did pull it together by the end of the preseason when they had their best overall game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

The Nuggets have very high expectations this season and it will take every individual being on the same page to get to the place that they want to be. There is no room for error. I expect Denver to end their drought this upcoming year and get back to the post season. With that being said, every single player has to be on the same page and all-in. They do not have the luxury of starting off slow.

The ugly – Preseason is preseason

I applaud the NBA for lowering the amount of games played in the preseason, but let us face the facts – the preseason is just not good.

The preseason is a place that can be beneficial to a few players such as reserves fighting for a roster spot, a G-League player looking for a guaranteed NBA contract, or fringe players looking for a more lucrative contract from an overseas team, but there are also risks of injuries and fatigue. In my opinion, the NBA should limit the preseason to just three games or eliminate the preseason completely. There has to be some alteration of some sort.

One thing is for certain, the regular season could not come any sooner and, with the season being a few days away, all is restored in the world.

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