Denver Nuggets: Could roster talent soon surpass Warriors level?


The Denver Nuggets may have a poor man’s Golden State Warriors roster…but with an MVP-worthy center. Let’s dive into an in-depth comparison of the squads.

The Denver Nuggets‘ season has come to a close, and the squad is all but forgotten. Seriously, the biggest news these days revolves around Nikola Jokic‘s horse, Dream Catcher.

But amidst the tough ending is the unmistakable glimmer of a silver lining. After a long playoff drought, the Mile High City is back. The Nuggets proved themselves as playoff-certified, winning the first round and nearly knocking off Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers in the second.

With year-long chatter surrounding the Golden State Warriors’ upcoming player departures, the Nuggets find themselves primed to make a run at the Larry O’Brien trophy. The squad finished second in the West, and the first place team faces an uncertain future. Anyone can do that math.

What the Nuggets have, as Golden State begins to fizzle, is a poor man’s replication of the Warriors’ blueprint, only with an MVP-worthy center. Check it out:

Point Guard: Jamal Murray

2018-19 stats: 18.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game

Golden State Comparison: Stephen Curry

2018-19 stats: 27.3 points, 5.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game

Curry is one of the league’s most decorated players, and Murray has never been likened to him at an equal level. Nonetheless, there are similarities here. Like Steph, Murray proved himself a competitor in postseason, averaging 23.6 points in the conference semifinals. Murray also has a level of Curry-like showmanship when he catches fire.

Each shoots a silky jumper, while possessing the ability to finish at the rim. Per Basketball-Reference, Murray actually shoots better from mid-range (44.9 percent from 16 feet to 3-point line), than Curry (43.3 percent). Murray has better athleticism going to the basket, and heats up quickly at the 3-point line, although no one in the league barrages the deep ball at Steph’s level.

Shooting Guard: Gary Harris

2018-19 stats: 12.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game

Golden State Comparison: Klay Thompson

2018-19 stats: 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game

Hampered by various injuries, 2018-19 was a tough season for Harris. His lockdown defense on Lillard in the conference semis was encouraging, however, as he held Portland’s stud to just 39.6 percent shooting in the series. He joined forces with Paul Millsap to revamp Denver’s flimsy defense of old, converting them into a top-10 stopping unit (108.0 defensive rating).

Honestly, the Harris vs. Thompson comparison held more water in 2017-18, when Harris averaged 17.5 points a night on 48.5 percent shooting. Both players are strong defenders and shooters, with Thompson being slightly better in each category. Harris possesses more athleticism, however, and his multi-threat potential is exciting. His health will be an important factor in 2019-20.

Small Forward: Michael Porter Jr.

2018-19 stats: N/A

Golden State Comparison: Kevin Durant

2018-19 stats: 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game

Michael Porter Jr. is perhaps the most exciting prospect to walk into Denver’s locker room since Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Baring legitimate injury concerns, he may potentially be the missing piece to lift the Nuggets to a championship level. Porter has frequently been likened to Kevin Durant, who’s averaging a stunning 36.9 points in his past nine playoff games. Imagine someone like this on the Nuggets…even if it’s to a lesser degree?

Porter has the potential to someday resemble Durant as a multi-talented scorer who’s built for fourth quarter isolation buckets. He is already among the Nuggets’ best shooters in practice, with supreme length and athleticism to boot. As early as 2019-20, he’ll be a great catch-and-shoot outlet for Jokic. Currently, his health is the biggest question mark.

Power Forward: Paul Millsap

2018-19 stats: 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game

Golden State Comparison: Draymond Green

2018-19 stats: 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game

Paul Millsap doubles as the team’s defensive quarterback and steady veteran. Before Millsap in 2016-17, the squad finished 29th defensively with a 111.7 defensive rating. Fast-forward to 2018-19, his presence helped the Nuggets attain their aforementioned 108.0 mark, which landed them at 10th in the league. Similarly, Green is Golden State’s defensive quarterback, combining this talent with a more aggressive form of energy and leadership.

Aside from their obvious captain Nikola Jokic, Millsap plays a secondary tone-setting role for the Nuggets. In the Portland series, he averaged 21.3 points per game in Denver’s three wins. In the four losses, he averaged just 14.5 points. The Nuggets have a $30 million team option on Millsap, although many expect the parties to agree upon a cheaper, multi-year deal.

Center: Nikola Jokic

2018-19 stats: 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game

Golden State Comparison: A revolving door of mediocrity

2018-19 stats: N/A

This is the one area Denver absolutely differs from Golden State. All-Star center Nikola Jokic is one of the best young players in the NBA, even entering some discussions for MVP. He also proved himself a strong playoff performer, averaging 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game in his first career postseason.

Golden State has lacked a consistent center over its five-year dynasty. Dancing around the likes of JaVale McGee and Kevon Looney, they finally took a chance on DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed far more games than he’s played due to injury. The future is bright for Denver with Jokic steering the ship. He should be their centerpiece for years to come.

Next. Post-combine 2019 NBA Mock Draft. dark

The Denver Nuggets are not at the same talent level of the Golden State Warriors just yet, but as they continue to mature, it might not be long before the defending champs’ downward trajectory crosses path with this young group on the rise.