Ever since parting ways with Carmelo Anthony back in 2011, the Denver Nuggets have excelled as a team built around balance and depth. Prior to this season, the Nuggets were even considered by some to be the deepest team in the NBA. However, has Denver’s second unit lived up to this praise in the early going?
Thus far, the answer has been a clear no. Though Andre Miller and JaVale McGee act as a formidable pick-and-roll duo and are arguably the best bench players in the league at their respective positions, their collaboration has been the sole bright spot in an otherwise disappointing Denver bench unit.
Corey Brewer is averaging a solid 10.4 points and four rebounds per game, but his streaky shooting has been an issue, as has been his lack of production in other areas. Brewer has looked like a superstar, though, in comparison to Wilson Chandler.
Chandler, who was expected to be Denver’s primary offensive option off the bench this season, has appeared in just four games thus far, while visibly struggling due to his hip injury. The 6’8” forward played terribly in the preseason and has failed to make a significant contribution in any of his regular season games thus far.
Former lottery pick Anthony Randolph has been an early disappointment as well. Randolph has logged just five minutes of court time this season, fewer than rookie Evan Fournier and far less than what Nuggets’ fans would have hoped for the promising young forward. Randolph’s athleticism and versatility make him an ideal fit for George Karl’s system, so it’s a shame to see the 23-year-old consistently riding the pine early on.
The absence of Chandler’s scoring punch has been the primary issue for the Nuggets, as Miller is the only member of the second unit capable of consistently creating his own offense. Fortunately, Denver’s (mostly) young and explosive second unit has plenty of upside, and there should be ample competition amongst the Nuggets’ youth for playing time at the perimeter positions and at the power forward slot.
However, the bench unit cannot produce based solely on potential, and Denver’s more established bench players need to step it up in order to allow this team to be a contender.
While Denver’s bench is stronger than most and deep enough to keep the Nuggets in the playoff race, it is currently nowhere near the best in comparison with stacked teams like the Clippers, Spurs and Celtics.
The addition of a healthy, rejuvenated Wilson Chandler could do wonders for this second unit, though, so Nuggets fans must hope that Chandler can reach full recovery by the new year.