An Nguyen (@The_NGUYENNER), Joel Rush (@NuggetsDenJoel), Johnny Domenico (@JohnnyD_BSN), Kalen Deremo (@PrincePickaxe), and T.J. McBride (@BSN_McBride) came together to finish off the Nuggets 2016-17 season by handing out the end of the season awards. This is part two of the two-part awards series.
Who was the Nuggets’ Defensive Player of the Year? Why?
An: I’m going to say, Wilson Chandler. He’s exactly the type of versatile defender that makes teams dangerous on that end. He can guard wings with his lateral quickness and size, as well as bang down low with big men thanks to his bulk. I believe Gary Harris can be a better defender, but his potential on that end will always be stifled as long as the coaching staff takes the conservative approach to defense, limiting his elite ability to create turnovers with his lightning quick hands and anticipation.
Joel: While it is tempting to withhold this award altogether, my choice for Nuggets Defensive Player of the Year is Jamal Murray. He deserves it first and foremost because, even as he still has much to learn and made a ton of rookie mistakes, no Nuggets player put in more of a consistent and energetic a defensive effort night in and night out than Murray. And in fact, the numbers bear out his hard play, as among qualified players he actually led the team in defensive efficiency with (an albeit still bad) rating of 108.1.
Johnny: Gary Harris wins for his highlight plays and body of work over the whole year, but there were a number of times that it seemed like none of Denver’s perimeter defenders were interested in keeping opposing guards out of the paint this season. Special recognition goes to Chandler, however, as he shut down a number of big time opposing wing scorers (Jimmy Butler, Paul George, etc) down the stretch as the Nuggets made their run for the playoffs.
Kalen: Gary Harris. He’s the best man defender on the roster by a fairly wide margin and had the largest impact from start to finish. He’s the only player the Nuggets had this past year who actually changed the outcome of close games with his defense.
T.J.: Joel is onto something by withholding this award entirely but instead I am going to force myself to pick and Harris has to be the winner based on purely effort alone. In a season full of short closeouts, lazy defensive rotations, and complete lack of competitiveness on the defensive end of the floor; Harris is the winner by default based purely on the fact that he at least gave effort each night.
Who was the Nuggets’ Offensive Player of the Year? Why?
An: While Nikole Jokic was simply unguardable and was the catalyst in making the Nuggets the most dangerous offense in the league after he was put into the starting lineup, I’m going to give this award to Harris. He scored a cool 14.9 points per game but did it on a scorching 50.2 percent from the field, which is good for 1st among all qualified shooting guards, and 42 percent from three, 7th among shooting guards. Not only was his shooting pristine but it was Harris’ constant cutting that paved the way for how the entire team plays today. Once his teammates started seeing the easy buckets they were missing out on, that’s what took the offense to the next level.
Joel: Again, Jokic stands alone as the only selection here. Jokic’s impact was so profound that we now cast December 15th, 2016, when he took the helm as the sole starting center, in an almost BC/AD light: The Dawn of the Age of Jokic. And indeed, newly recreated by Jokic’s emergence as point-center, Denver’s offensive efficiency leaped from 102.7 before to 113.3 after that pivotal date, as the Nuggets emerged as the league’s number one offense in that time period.
Johnny: Jokic is the supercharger that takes the Nuggets’ offense to another level with his contagiously unselfish play, but it’s still Danilo Gallinari that puts the team over the top when he’s hitting on all cylinders.There are a number of other players that occasionally took over Gallinari’s scoring load (Murray, Harris, Will Barton), but only Gallinari consistently had the killer instinct to take over games day in and day out. Sharing the basketball is great, but ultimately the name of the game is putting the ball in the hoop and nobody was more willing to do that for the Nuggets than Gallinari.
Kalen: Again, Jokic has to be the choice here. He didn’t average quite as many points per game as Gallinari but he shot 13 percent higher from the field and completely opened up the floor for his teammates, nearly leading the Nuggets in assists as a center. The offense exploded after he became a starter and the fact Denver finished as a top-three offense overall was largely a result of Jokic’s cerebral approach to scoring the rock.
T.J.: Jokic is absolutely the engine to what makes Denver’s offense go but it is Harris’ gravity that allows Denver the space to operate, which is why he is my winner for Offensive Player of the Year. When Jokic is looking to find open teammates from the high-post he needs windows to pass into and so much of that space comes from Harris’s elite off-ball cutting and lethal three-point shooting. Without the gravity Harris creates off-ball it would be substantially more difficult to for the Nuggets offense to operate.
Who was the Nuggets Most Valuable Player of the Year? Why?
An: It’s gotta be Jokic. I could go on and on about what he does on the court, the deadly arsenal, the complete skillset, the unselfishness — but what he did for the Nuggets this year transcends all of that. Ask yourself, if Jokic didn’t explode this season, where would the Nuggets be? Fans who would have been left wondering just how long the rebuild will last have had their prayers answered. In just a single season, Jokic has completely changed the franchise’s momentum from perpetual lottery team to up-and-coming young guns. That is why he is Denver’s Most Valuable Player.
Joel: Jokic emerged this season as the cornerstone of the Nuggets’ bright future, and is the only choice for Most Valuable Player. Beyond the flash and flair of his passing and playmaking, beyond his jaw-dropping statistical accomplishments for a player of his age and expectations, Jokic is singlehandedly the catalyst that has transformed Denver from a young team still struggling to find an identity to one of the league’s elite offensive powerhouses. The Nuggets have now clearly developed a unique, creative, and fun style of play they will build upon going forward, and Jokic is both the literal and figurative center of that transformation.
Johnny: Jokic is the only option for Nuggets Most Valuable Player. It’s not just his inside-outside game, otherworldly passing or smooth post moves, but it’s the fact that the Nuggets franchise finally has a cornerstone to build around. The trade for Mason Plumlee was controversial, to say the least, but it’s the first sign that the Nuggets are ready to start consolidating their numerous assets into a team built around the strengths of Jokic.
Kalen: There’s only one correct answer here and it’s Jokic. He put up the best stats, made the biggest improvement from last year and carried the Nuggets through their rough patches, as true stars often do. Unless Jamal Murray turns into the next Steph Curry it’s hard to see anyone making a case for Most Valuable Player other than Jokic in the foreseeable future.
T.J.: The Most Valuable Player for the Nuggets 2016-17 season, by unanimous decision, has to go to Jokic. Let’s go down the list, shall we?
Revolutionized Denver’s offense into the most efficient group in all of basketball since becoming the starting center with an offensive rating of 113.3, two full points higher than the Houston Rockets.
Gave the Nuggets a top-20 player and legitimate All-Star caliber player to build around who is still just 22-years-old.
Put up the most triple-doubles in a single season for a player born outside of the United States with six.
Jokic, since becoming the starting center of the Nuggets on Dec. 15, played 29.7 minutes a game, put up 23.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, and seven assists on 58.7 percent shooting per 36 minutes. That stat line has never happened in NBA history.
Jokic is without a doubt the Nuggets’ Most Valuable Player.