The Denver Nuggets hosted the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder for their first game of the year at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets were looking to finish the preseason with four wins and just one loss but fell 96-86.
Here’s how each Nuggets’ player faired:
Nikola Jokic: C
This was a strange game from the Serbian phenom. Yes, his rebounding came back. Yes, he was hitting cutters with pin point passing. Yes, his touch was on display as a shooter. While all of that is good Jokic shot as badly as anyone on the roster and struggled on defense. Jokic is still Jokic and shows all of the incredible skills that make him so intriguing but he has not been as impactful as he was to finish last season.
Paul Millsap: C
Millsap went largely unnoticed against the Thunder. It was not that he had a bad game, per say, but nothing that Millsap contributed jumped off the page. This was just a very bland performance from Millsap but he gets a higher grade for playing solid defense. Overall, not Millsap’s best showing.
Jamal Murray: C
Murray was once again tentative at times and sometimes to shoot when open. There were multiple possessions where Murray had an open look at a three-pointer and just failed to fire away. Malone said pregame that he wants to see Murray take open shots and not play quietly but, instead, Murray’s presence was not felt nearly enough.
Chandler, who only played in the first half, has struggled to be an offensive producer for the Nuggets. Throughout the preseason he has arguably been the Nuggets best defender thus far and he continued that trend against the Thunder. Chandler is going to be called on on a lot for doing the dirty work and defending the opponents best wing player and, so far, he has done a wonderful job of it. If Chandler heats up offensively he could be an absolute force on both ends of the court this season.
Gary Harris: C
Nothing special from Harris tonight. He struggled to shoot the ball but played solid defense all night and was always playing with maximum effort. Harris continued to show off his expanding offensive arsenal but, at the end of the day, he was not able to positively impact the Nuggets much with his time on the court.
Jameer Nelson: B+
Nelson was the steady hand that he has been since arriving in Denver but he got abused by Russell Westbrook on defense every time they were matched up. While Murray had another lack-luster performance, Nelson did not do much to separate himself. It seems this point guard battle is going to remain undecided until the Nuggets head to Utah on Oct. 18 for their first regular season game of the year.
Will Barton: A
Nobody on the Nuggets shot well against the Thunder but Barton found a way to light up Oklahoma City from beyond the arc as well as impact the game in many other ways. Barton was making plays for others, gobbling up steals, getting into the paint to snatch rebounds, and was still stretching the floor by hitting threes. Overall, Barton had one of the better performances of anyone on the Nuggets roster and was one of the few reason that Denver was still within striking distance in the fourth quarter.
Plumlee’s defense may be the biggest surprise of the preseason. He has been physical, disruptive, and relentlessly aggressive. That, in combination with the Nuggets’ new defensive scheme, has created a situation where Plumlee’s defensive skill set is maximized. To add a cherry on top, Plumlee was working the floor as a point-center and making great decisions with the bench unit. Overall, great preseason for the newly-signed Plumlee.
Hernangomez was a bright spot for the Nuggets against the Thunder. He was able to rebound well in his limited court time, hit a three-pointer, and was showing that he can do more than just shoot off the catch. Hernangomez was cutting off-ball, attacking closeouts, and played solid defense all night. Hernangomez was one of the better Nuggets all night.