The 2019 NBA season is more than halfway over. Through 44 games, the Denver Nuggets have the best record in the Northwest Division at 30-14. Recently, head coach Michael Malone’s squad was on the wrong side of history on January 15. In a match up against the Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets were pummeled 142-111. They allowed an NBA-record 51-point first quarter and never recovered. As bad as the loss sounds, it was only Denver’s fourth loss at Pepsi Center this season. In fact, their 19-4 home record is the best in the conference and tied with Toronto for second-best in the NBA. Furthermore, the Nuggets have a chance to eclipse last season’s win total of 46 as the season progresses.
One of the most promising aspects in 2019 is Denver’s ability to respond. Currently, the Nuggets’ longest losing streak stands at four. Following this rough stretch, Malone’s troops responded and pieced together their longest winning streak. In winning seven in a row from November 21-December 5, the Nuggets had established themselves as a team who plays fundamentally sound. In seasons past, a prolonged losing streak may have negatively affected the players’ mindsets. However, it is clear that the 2019 Denver Nuggets have a certain mental toughness. It is a quality that has been lacking since Denver’s last postseason appearance in 2013. While questions still remain in regard to whether or not the Nuggets are ready to compete with the heavyweights in the NBA, one thing is known. The Nuggets understand how to play with confidence and defend their home court. If Denver is to make 2019 special, they will have to maintain their strong home court advantage.
As a team, the Denver Nuggets are trending upwards. When Malone took over following Brian Shaw’s termination in 2015, the team was nowhere close to contending for championships. Inheriting a young and inexperienced squad resulted in growing pains during Malone’s first season with the Nuggets in 2015. The team finished 16 games under .500 at 33-49, but were able to amass 46 wins last season. However, in the midst of his fourth season at the helm, it appears that Malone’s steady approach in improving the franchise each season is paying dividends. The Nuggets have emerging young stars such as Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray who are making names for themselves in the league. Coupled with Gary Harris and Paul Millsap, the team has all the necessary components to be legitimate perennial contenders. They have done so not by attracting the top names in free agency, but in developing young players and bringing aboard seasoned veterans.
As the Denver Nuggets’ quest for an 11th division title continues, the future looks bright for the men clad in blue and yellow. It is uncertain whether or not the team will capture the Northwest division title in 2019 or even 2020. However, when fans tune into a Nuggets’ broadcast, they are likely to watch a team compete until the final buzzer. Furthermore, they will witness a special player in Nikola Jokic who is redefining the center position and who should be an All-Star this season. The Denver Nuggets have long been viewed as a middle-of-the-pack team with rising talent. In 2019 and beyond, that is sure to change. The rest of the NBA has long been poking a sleeping giant and it appears that the giant has finally awoken this season.