The Denver Nuggets were enjoying a mostly clean bill of health to start the 2017-18 NBA season for the first time in what seemed like decades, but all good things must come to an end at some point.

Late in the second quarter in the Nuggets’ contest versus the Chicago Bulls back on Thursday night, Nikola Jokic went down in substantial pain after rolling his left ankle driving to the rim. He stepped on Jerian Grant’s foot and flattened his ankle as he got fouled going to the hoop. Jokic did stay in to take — and make — his two free-throws, but then proceeded to go back into the locker room for further analysis.

Jokic was eventually ruled out with a left ankle sprain. He did receive an X-ray and an MRI on his left ankle and luckily both results were negative signifying that there is no structural damage to Jokic’s left ankle of any kind.

“Thank goodness it is just a left ankle sprain,” Nuggets’ head coach Michael Malone said at shootaround before the Nuggets took on the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. “They took the MRI, and everything confirmed that. It is nothing more sinister than that, which is good news. There is a lot of swelling in the ankle, but he was able to get some treatment during shootaround today.”

Jokic will travel with the Nuggets on their upcoming six-game road trip and Malone hopes to get back his star Serbian center back towards the latter half of the road trip.

“Oh yeah; [Jokic] will come with us and at some point — obviously it is a very long road trip — and hopefully, he would be able to participate towards the middle or end of it,” Malone explained. “That is probably — right now — the best case scenario.”

If Jokic is to return in the later portion of the Nuggets’ six-game road trip it will likely be for Denver’s matchup with either the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, Dec. 12th or in Boston on Dec. 13th when the Nuggets are scheduled to take on the Celtics. That means Jokic will likely miss five or six games and a total of 13 to 14 days, but how long it will actually take to get Jokic back on the hardwood is anyone’s guess.

“How long he is out I am not sure. I’ll be honest; I do not think he will be playing the next couple games,” Malone explained Saturday morning. “Unlike his other ankle injury, this one swelled up right away. I was surprised he was able to get his sneaker on it was so swollen.”

While the future outlook for Jokic still remains unknown, that is not the only issue that the Nuggets’ frontcourt is dealing with.

First of all, Paul Millsap will miss the next 2-3 months due to a surgical procedure to repair ligament damage in his left wrist after sustaining the injury back on Nov. 19th in Los Angeles against the Lakers. Millsap is the largest free agent acquisition in the history of the Nuggets’ franchise — after signing a three-year deal worth $90 million — and represented the organization taking the step forward from ‘young-and-talented’ into ‘playoff-contender’. Millsap is not expected back until sometime around the All-Star break.

Secondly, Wilson Chandler has been dealing with a sore lower back that has been bothering him for a large chunk of the season and it could seemingly continue to bother him for the remainder of the year.

“I think with that kind of injury, there is probably going to be a lot of management day to day. What you don’t want — and I’m sure what is probably in the back of Wilson’s mind — is feeling better, coming back for a game, and now all of a sudden he is all the way back down again,” Malone explained at shootaround before taking on the Lakers. “I think he wants to try to get to a point where he feels like he can play throughout and not just be in one game and out the other. That is hard for him and it is hard for the team. I think with that kind of injury it will be something we will have to monitor throughout the season.”

Chandler has been playing more as a power forward since Millsap underwent surgery on his left wrist. Chandler has been playing through the pain, but just recently started missing games because of his back pain. He has missed the Nuggets’ last two contests against the Bulls and the Utah Jazz and he is questionable heading into the Nuggets’ matchup with the Lakers on Saturday night.

“Wilson was able to go through shootaround today,” Malone said. “He looked good. It was great to have him back out there. I think he is definitely feeling better. As far as his status for tonight (against the Lakers) I would still say he is probably questionable. For the first time getting back on the court, getting up and down, and moving — seeing him move — was much better than how he was moving in that last game he played against Memphis. He was really laboring in that game. He is definitely heading in the right direction. Whether it is tonight or Dallas, we will have to wait and see.

Lastly, Mason Plumlee has been playing through a core strain that has been bothering him for about two weeks. Plumlee’s core strain flared up again against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 24th and he has been playing through the pain ever since. Plumlee told Mile High Sports that it should not linger but only time will tell.

“I don’t think so,” Plumlee explained to Mile High Sports when asked if his core strain could continue to bother him. “Like I said, the reason for taking some time off the last couple days is because I didn’t feel it getting better. Like, the Memphis game — the Memphis game was painful so I let the staff know. There is nothing alarming on the MRI or anything like that. We are just taking it day by day.”

To summarize, the Nuggets could be without their starting center, power forward, and small forward while also being forced to play their backup center extended minutes while he also continues to deal with injury issues. That is…not a recipe for success.

So, where does that leave the Nuggets’ options in the frontcourt?

Well, it seems Plumlee does not want to miss any time. He was adamant when he spoke to Mile High Sports that he does not foresee missing any time, but the fact that he continues to pop up on the Nuggets’ injury report does not calm Denver’s nerves. Beyond that, the Nuggets’ rotational picture is extremely blurry.

If Jokic misses any significant time it will be Kenneth Faried who will have to log minutes as the backup center because there are not any other traditional centers on the Nuggets’ roster. That would take Faried out of his starting power forward slot which presents even more questions.

With Faried forced to play center, it leaves a void at the power forward position in the starting unit. Denver could turn to Trey Lyles as a starter because he fits so well alongside Plumlee or the Nuggets could play small, and start either Juancho Hernangomez or Richard Jefferson at power forward. The spacing and perimeter-oriented play of Lyles, Jefferson, and Hernangomez complements the playmaking of the paint-bound Plumlee. Darrell Arthur, who has been largely an afterthought this year, could also find himself in line for a bump in playing time as well.

The Nuggets are now desperate for players to step up with the potential of having three starters out for the foreseeable future. The idea of ‘next-man-up’ has to not just be understood but be embodied by the rest of the roster if the Nuggets hope to survive the following couple of weeks.

“Now, if we have no Wilson, no Paul, and no Nikola — well — what a great opportunity for other guys to step up. That is where — like RJ had good minutes the other night — we need more of RJ. We need more from Juancho. Everybody. When you have the injuries that we have right now, everybody needs to step up.”