R.J. Hampton #13 of the Denver Nuggets dribbles the ball up the court against the Cleveland … [+] Cavaliers at Ball Arena on February 10, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.
Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has a conundrum on his hands, and resolving it will require some tough choices which will likely have to be made soon.
The dilemma Malone faces essentially boils down to this: As a team with title aspirations that’s striving to be as competitive as possible, the Nuggets when fully healthy don’t have very many minutes to spare around the margins (with the exception of “garbage time” in blowout games).
But with recent injuries having afforded meaningful minutes and larger roles to rookies R.J. Hampton and Zeke Nnaji, the pair are now showing such promising potential that it’s ratcheting up an increasingly obvious need to cultivate their growth.
“it’s nearly impossible,” Malone told me before Denver’s February 12 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, after I asked him about balancing the tension between working towards title contention and finding opportunities to develop young talent.
Meanwhile, the rest of the pack playing at least players under 23 with at least 50 minutes all have a less than one percent chance of both making and winning the Finals, with the sole exception of Portland at 1% odds of reaching the title game. The Nuggets are clearly the only team in this set with realistically plausible championship hopes (with the possible exception of