Nuggets Keep Falling Apart When Nikola Jokic Is On Bench

Denver Nuggets, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

The Denver Nuggets knew things could be a struggle at times this season without point guard Jamal Murray. Murray injured his knee last April and will miss a majority of the 2021-22 NBA season as a result.

That is a tough blow to handle, but not every team has a reigning MVP to rely on in the meantime as the Nuggets do. Nikola Jokic is more than capable of shouldering the load for Denver, but even the best players need help sometimes, and right now, his teammates aren’t doing enough to help him out.

The Nuggets are currently 4-4 on the season after dropping back-to-back games against the Memphis Grizzlies. Jokic was excellent in both games, combining for 57 points, 18 rebounds, 12 assists, four blocks and two steals in 68 minutes with only five turnovers.

That has unfortunately been the case all season for the Nuggets in the early going. No matter how well Jokic plays, the team cannot sustain any success when he is off the floor. 

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When Jokic is on the court, the Nuggets are dominant. They have an offensive rating of 108.3 and a defensive rating of 93.8, for an incredible 14.5 net rating. With him off the court, the offensive rating plummets to 88.3 and the defensive rating skyrockets to 110.3 for a net rating of ghastly -21.4.

That is an unacceptable number. Someone has to step up when Jokic needs a rest, otherwise, he is going to be burned out before they hit the halfway point of the season. He already had one injury scare in the early going, and as we have witnessed, the Nuggets cannot afford him to miss any time otherwise they would sink like a rock in the standings.

Head coach Michael Malone expressed frustrations with his team’s performance when Jokic is on the bench following Wednesday’s loss to the Grizzlies.

“I told our guys just now, Nikola’s not a good player, (he’s) a great player,” Malone said. “But every time he comes out, everything just falls apart. It’s every night. I went to him in the fourth quarter, I called his name, and he looked at me, kind of like, ‘Already?’ And I feel for him. … Nikola’s gonna be worn down by Christmas at this rate.”

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Michael Porter Jr., who signed a max-rookie extension before the season, has gotten off to a slower than anticipated start. His struggles play a part in the team’s struggles, as he is expected to be a go-to scorer for the team, especially when Jokic is resting. Through eight games, he is averaging only 10.9 points per game on an ugly .364/.217/.556 shooting split.

Until he and his teammates can figure things out whenever Nikola Jokic needs a rest, expect more up-and-down performances and tough-luck losses to pile up for the Denver Nuggets.