The 2018-2019 NBA season is shaping up quite nicely for the Denver Nuggets. The team is playing some of their best basketball of the young campaign and it has resulted in a seven-game winning streak. This stretch has helped elevate Denver to the top of the Western Conference with little indication that they will relinquish the position anytime soon. However, with Oklahoma City nipping at their heels, the Nuggets will have to maintain their elite level of play. The team may be young, but their recent success has indicated that they can compete with anyone in the league. In recent seasons, the Nuggets found themselves staring up at the juggernauts of the West in the Golden State Warriors. In 2018, the Warriors are the team chasing Denver. It is uncertain how long the Nuggets will hold first place in the West, but they have made basketball in Denver exciting again.
The Denver Nuggets have enjoyed success despite the absence of a few key players. Guard Gary Harris has seen limited action over the last week as he suffered a groin injury in Denver’s victory on Monday. Harris is Denver’s second-leading scorer, so losing him at this point in the season was not ideal. Despite Harris going down in the first quarter, the Nuggets were able to stave off a late rally by the Raptors and win their sixth consecutive game. In addition to other players stepping up in times of adversity, one of the keys to Denver’s recent success has been their defensive play. Currently, the Nuggets rank third in opponent points per game and fifth in total defense. In 2018, the Nuggets are a team who understand the value of defense and their efforts are being rewarded. In order for the Nuggets to continue their streak, they will need to improve their offensive production.
The Denver Nuggets are seeking their first trip to the postseason since 2013. Furthermore, they are looking to advance past the first round for the first time in nine years. 2018 has the feel that both of those milestones are within reach despite the fact that the Nuggets are only 24 games into their schedule. The Nuggets are trending upwards and players such as Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are just getting started. As they continue to develop their game and adapt to the NBA, the Nuggets are a team that should not be overlooked. While they do not have the biggest stars on the court, the organization has done a respectable job of drafting young talent and developing them from within the system. It speaks volumes to how general manager Arturas Karnisovas has reconstructed the team following Tim Connelly’s promotion to president of basketball operations. All of this came after former NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri signed a five-year deal with the Toronto Raptors to become their next general manager in 2013.
During the initial transitional period, the Denver Nuggets struggled to win on a consistent basis. Since current head coach Michael Malone took the reigns in 2015, the Nuggets have improved each season under his leadership. The team won 40 games in his second season, 46 last season, and missed the playoffs by a single game. With their impressive start in 2018, there is reason to believe that not only will the Nuggets eclipse 46 wins, but they could reach 50 for the first time since George Karl’s final season leading the Nuggets in 2013. Similar to that year, the Nuggets have a young team, but veterans help round out the roster. Given this balance, Denver has the ability to both develop their younger players as well as slowly acclimating them to the pace and style of play in the NBA. In time, this will undoubtedly pay dividends as the Nuggets look to emerge as a perennial contender in the West.
The 2018-2019 season is far from over. However, the Nuggets and their fans have to like what they have seen through 24 games. With 2019 on the horizon, the Nuggets have the potential to prove that they belong atop the West. One of the downfalls in past seasons has been the elongated losing streak that rears its head near the season’s midpoint. If the Nuggets can do their best to avoid or limit the damage, it will be hard for other teams to overlook Malone and company. Prior to the season, it was clear that the Warriors were the team to beat. Given their recent surge, the Nuggets have a chance to be that team come 2019. With their heightened level of play, all signs point to the Nuggets being a playoff team in 2019.