The Denver Nuggets season is all but over, and no, Emmanuel, I do not want you to make the playoffs (ping pong balls!). But that doesn’t mean the remaining games are useless. In fact, they are vital to the team’s future.

The Nuggets have begun their transformation, and now comes the fun stuff; we get to see the good side of the young, inconsistent team, because we’ve already suffered through the bad part. We knew there would be growing pains, and there have been plenty, but as far as I am concerned, this team is way ahead of schedule.

But how, Josh? They’re eight games below .500!

Well, I’ll tell you, and it’s all thanks to the development of these three kids: Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic.

Mudiay still has a long ways to go, but he’s shown a lot of growth through his first season in the NBA. He’s averaging 11.7 points, 5.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. If you just look at his numbers from March — granted, it’s only been four games — he has been outstanding, averaging 19.5 points, 6.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.

This is the Emmanuel we all wanted to see!

And his rookie counterpart, Nikola Jokic, might be even better, at least right now. Jokic has been more than a pleasant surprise, a gem found in the second round that will be on the all-rookie team when this season comes to an end. He can score, he can pass and, boy, is it pretty to watch. Heck, if you just gave him the minutes, he might be an All-Star!

The third part to the core, and probably the most underrated of the bunch, is Gary Harris. Harris was known for his defensive prowess, but over the last couple of weeks, he’s shown he can hold his own on the other side of the floor as well. Harris and Mudiay in the backcourt, with Harris locking down the opponents best scorer and Mudiay setting up easy shots shooters like Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler will be a recipe for success next season.

Now, onto the confusing part of these new-look Nuggets. What is going on with Jusuf Nurkic? What did he do to Michael Malone?

Well if you ask Malone, he’ll still stick up for the big Bosnian; however, the repeated DNP – CD’s (Did Not Play – Coaches Decision) suggest otherwise.

I like Nurk; I like him a lot. His attitude is what is getting in his way, but it’s also one of the reasons I like him. Denver needs a tough guy, and he fits the bill. But if he can’t please the head coach, then he does not deserve to play. I would suggest one thing, though, coach Malone: If he’s not a part of the future plans, then at least give him minor minutes to showcase his skill set to other teams. I personally want Nurkic on the Nuggets long term, but if he does not fit, then he doesn’t fit!

Finally the biggest, best and most obvious change has been the above mentioned Michael Malone. Fellow MHS writer Aniello Piro recently wrote about Malone changing the culture in Denver, which you can read here. The young but great basketball mind that is Aniello is exactly right. What Malone has done with this young team is nothing short of outstanding.

This team is on the right track. As I opened with, they’re not only on track, but they are ahead of schedule. I thought this would be a two- to three-year rebuild, but if the Nuggets continue to improve at the pace they are now, they’ll be a playoff team next season!