Nikola Jokić – A
Jokić only needed 28:18 on the floor to post 21-18-9 on 10-15 shooting. The Sombor double actually hurt his season average in assists per game. Without DeAndre Ayton, among a long list of other inactive players, Phoenix started Bismack Biyombo. He and Dario Šarić were tasked with slowing the B2B MVP, which should count as some form of cruel and unusual punishment. It was easy for Jokić, as it should have been against such a depleted roster.
Jamal Murray – B+
Murray walked a neat balance between dropping deflating shots and upholding the flow of the offense. He plays as well against the Suns as any team in the league, and he stayed true to that reputation with an early barrage of impressive shotmaking. But it wasn’t the Murray show. Denver played connected hoops Wednesday night.
His minutes with the second unit looked much improved. Of course, the biggest factor was the quality of the opponent, and it helps when Bones Hyland is going thermonuclear, but Murray looked more comfortable and assertive. The latter’s noteworthy, as Malone challenged him to take charge of the unit and put his fingerprints on the offense.
Murray’s also leveled up in his entry passing. His ability to get Jokić the ball from almost anywhere on the floor this season is striking. It was once an area of improvement for him that now looks like a strength.
Michael Porter Jr. – B–
Porter had a little trouble defending without fouling, but he made another positive impact despite shooting poorly. He opened the contest with a ferocious rebound and impressive outlet pass, channeling his inner Jokić. His three-point shot isn’t falling like it was to start the season, but again, every time it verges on concerning, he nails a tough shot that restores faith. In this case, it was a corner three with Mikal Bridges right in his face. Most wouldn’t even get the shot off. Porter buried it.
AG – B-
AG didn’t grab any rebounds in this one, partially because Jokić devoured them all. He also only took four shots. But it wouldn’t be accurate to say he played poorly. AG fills in the cracks in Denver and did so with stout defense against the Suns. This tape won’t be featured in any All-Star campaigns. Still, he did his job again.
KCP – A-
KCP was nearly flawless against Phoenix. He only took seven shots, and five were 3s, four of which he made. He was scorching hot from deep, avoided turning it over, and recorded two steals. Earlier in the season, we found ourselves wondering how competitive the Nuggets would look in any given game. That concern never really extended to KCP, however. Like AG, he brings it every night.
Bones Hyland – A
Speaking of getting hot from deep, it was a Bones night in Ball Arena. Hyland knocked down five threes and dished four assists to lead the second unit. As Bones grows, we hope his game becomes less contingent on tough shotmaking. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that he’s hitting the shots.
Bones can break the dam at home. If the starters are bringing it, and Bones has it too, the momentum can get away from the opponent in a hurry.
Bruce Brown – C
It was a quiet night for Bruce Brown, who popped up on the injury report as probable to play with a right thumb sprain. He missed his looks from 3, but it’s no harm, no foul after a big win.
Zeke Nnaji – B+
Nnaji grabbed just one rebound yet still turned in a strong performance. He moved and finished well around the rim, scoring 15 points in under twenty minutes. There’s a noticeable timidness from him when attempting to rebound, but the finishing looked more tenacious this time.
These are now Nnaji’s opportunities to lose, with DAJ the alternative option as needed. It’s a better look for the bench.
Vlatko Čančar – C+
Vlatko’s big contribution was a full-court sequence that started with a precise entry pass to Jokić, featured a monstrous swat at the rim, and ended with a bucket. He’s a highlight machine.