Certainly, it’s fair to label the Denver Nuggets as inconsistent.
Chock up the growing pains to a young roster still learning how to move on from a “confidence-building” win — like Monday’s 132-110 drubbing of the Golden State Warriors — and not suffer a bad loss to a sub-.500 team the next time out (see Wednesday/Minnesota Timberwolves).
But, though the ups and downs of a team striving to make that next step, NBC Sports and The Vertical’s Chris Mannix believes there’s something Nuggets fans can hang their hats on.
For the first time since trading Carmelo Anthony, Denver has a franchise player to build around: Nikola Jokic.
Mannix told 104.3 The Fan’s Sandy Clough as much Thursday, saying the budding star is someone they can attempt to surround with talent to help make another step toward continued success.
“I think you can build around this guy as sort of your tentpole player. And knowing you have that, it makes everything else so much easier,” Mannix said. “They’ve been searching for that in Denver for the last few years, really since Carmelo was traded.”
Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly even said earlier this week it “would be less than intelligent” to look at what Jokic has done recently and not find a way to compliment him going forward.
And Denver hopes they did just that this week, trading forward Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for center Mason Plumlee, who Connelly told “The Drive” on Monday was a “seamless fit” to compliment Jokic.
Nurkic, Denver’s first-round pick in 2014 (No. 16 overall), had recently fallen out of rotation and perhaps wasn’t as nice as a fit with Jokic as Plumlee would be, Connelly said.
Mannix said the trade has a chance to turn out “terrific” in the Nuggets favor, though it’s now incumbent on Connelly and his staff to evaluate if Plumlee, a free agent at the end of the season, is worth a long-term investment.
“I think the Nuggets are going to have to look long and hard upon how he plays next to Nikola Jokic and then figure out if he’s the right fit. If it turns out that way, they might have made themselves a terrific trade because we knew Nurkic couldn’t play alongside Jokic,” Mannix said.
“But if they can find a way to make Plumlee work, that could turn out to be one of those deals that takes them a step closer to being the contender they want to be.”
Since Jan. 1, Jokic has ranked sixth in points per game (22.3), 10th in rebounds per game (11.1), and second in assists per game (5.5) among all centers.
Jokic will also participate in two events during the league’s all-star weekend — the “Rising Stars Challenge, a game featuring first- and second-year players, and the NBA’s skills competition during “All-Star Saturday Night,” replacing Joel Embiid as an alternate.
Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @johnnyhart7.
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