Good, bad, and ugly: Nuggets remain undefeated heading into preseason finale

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes (46) during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Oct 14, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes (46) during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have improved to 3-0 in the preseason with only one more game remaining before the regular season begins in two weeks.

The Nuggets have been resting players, are testing out new potential lineups that they could utilize, and are still finding ways to play at a high level and that remained true by the time the final buzzer sounded in Phoenix on Monday night.

With a 107-102 Nuggets win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday evening, here are the good, bad and ugly from Denver’s third preseason game.

Good – Best offensive game of the preseason

Denver’s offense looked the best that it has all preseason long. It was more free-flowing and fluid which is a big reason that Denver won the game.

With players resting, Malone decided to go deep into his bench and allowed 14 players to log playing time.

In a game that came down to the bench unit having to overcome a late-game push, the Nuggets saw their offense come alive and eventually finished the game with five players scoring ten-or-more points.

Multiple players stood out in the game. Gary Harris was one of Denver’s best players on the night and he finished with 18 points. He was his normal impactful self on both sides of the floor.

After struggling in the last couple of games, Jamal Murray also came alive and finished with 16 points. He knocked down two 3-pointers and had a couple of scoring flurries early on.

Jerami Grant dazzled as a member of the starting lineup for the first time. He was very active offensively as he finished with a team-high 22 points in the game, including some highlight dunks, but he was also knocking down shots from beyond the arc as well.

Grant’s arrival is one that will be discussed aplenty as the season progresses as he is a player that brings so many strong characteristics to the table that translate to wins.

When Denver’s offense is flowing as it was on Monday evening and them playing team defense as they did it is going to be extremely difficult to beat them as they have great depth that gives them advantages.

Bad – No one stands out as a potential starting small forward

The battle for the starting small forward position will be a reoccurring theme this season and Malone will definitely have some tough decisions to make all season long.

Throughout the preseason, and against the Suns, the players did not help with those decisions. This was a game where all of the players who are competing for the starting small forward role played relatively well, but none of them have done anything to separate themselves from the bunch.

Torrey Craig started against the Suns and he did not have a good night on offense, but he was a +20, which led all players, thanks to his typical energetic play style and effort on defense.

Will Barton came off of the bench and was inefficient. He went 2-8 from the field for five points and still looks to be working himself back up to game speed from his injury.

Juancho Hernangomez knocked down his lone shot in the game as he finished with six points on the night. He turned the ball over three times and was a team-worst -13 in the game.

Based on Monday’s game it appears as if Porter Jr. should be in the driver’s seat. He was the most impactful out of all the players that are competing for the position.

He impressed yet again as he finished the game with 11 points and five rebounds while showing the flare that has made him as one of the most entertaining players on the Nuggets roster.

There was a sequence in the game that MPJ had back-to-back blocks and also a basket on the other end. Porter Jr. still has a long way to go, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but he has been one of the most consistent players for Denver in the preseason.

Ugly – Is depth an issue?

The Nuggets have a glut of forwards who are NBA-caliber players. That means that Denver has players who potentially will get meaningful minutes during the preseason, but they will not get those minutes during the regular season. So how can the Nuggets get a good read on who should be a member of the Nuggets rotation and who should not?

Denver only has four preseason games overall and have already played three of them. They have shown multiple lineup combinations that they could go with, but there is still no indication who will end up being the men who end up with the short end of the stick.

With there only being one game left before the season begins, it is going to be interesting to see who gets those final rotation minutes and even more so to see if Denver will have a chance to see what their second group and bench unit will look like heading into the season.

Having a lot of talented players is typically a positive, but on a contending team that is looking to build chemistry, every single possible moment together matters and Denver is not getting that with so many players attempting to prove that they belong.

Hopefully, in Thursday’s final preseason game, Denver will be close to having their rotations set so that the Nuggets can hit the ground running.

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