Nikola Jokić – C-

Jokić was dominant in the second half of a road loss to the shorthanded Hawks. He couldn’t be stopped in the quarters he cared to show up for. And that’s precisely what Michael Malone worried about after the wins over Houston. It was an incomplete effort from the starters — especially Jokić, who wasn’t interested in playing the first half of basketball. It wasn’t about shot attempts. It was about impact. He was virtually absent on the floor while Clint Capela had his way. His herculean effort in the third almost made matters worse. It looks like a choice for him when he flips the proverbial switch. Why did he wait so long?

Jamal Murray – C-

like Jokić, Murray wasn’t playing much defense in the first half. His impact was severely limited, but he nearly made up for it in the critical second-half runs. He and Jokić looked poised to take back a game they’d left up for grabs until Murray lost control at the wheel in crunch time. A transition three after a turnover around the five-minute mark took the wind out of their comeback sails. And a turnover of his own shortly after signified the end of the effort. Denver’s two stars were not good enough.

Aaron Gordon – C-

AG led all Nuggets in shot attempts during the first half and was the only starter in double digits after two quarters. All five of his made field goals came in the paint. His priorities shifted in the second half when he took the Dejounte Murray assignment. That became AG’s focus, and while he faired slightly better than Bruce Brown and KCP, he couldn’t contain Atlanta’s star either. He was also responsible for a deflating turnover late in the game. One you could practically feel coming.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – D+

KCP struggled mightily. Atlanta’s Murray had no trouble scoring on him, and KCP had plenty of trouble scoring on his own. He scored only nine points on nine shots while grabbing two combined rebounds and assists. Pope got outplayed in virtually every aspect of the game.

Bruce Brown – D+

Brown looked small out there during his turns to slow Murray. He struggled to stay in front of him, and even when he did, Murray didn’t seem to feel him. He certainly didn’t fear him. He got to his spot and feasted on all three of Denver’s theoretical stoppers. A big part of the defensive struggles is the lack of rim protection—the lack of almost any effort at all from Jokić, frankly. Still, the guards haven’t exactly impressed with their one-on-one defense. We’re running out of time for the bolstered defense to look, well, bolstered. So far, it looks even worse.

Bones Hyland – C+

Bones did his job as a scorer, providing an early boost in his return to action. But part of Bones’ job description this season is game management, and he struggled in that department. He turned it over four times, one coming in what should have been the final possession of a quarter. He also struggled mightily on defense, which was no surprise given his suboptimal conditioning. And yet, Michael Malone tossed him into some curious lineups—like a three-point guard lineup that made multiple appearances. It was destined to fail.

Vlatko Čančar – B-

The bench needs Vlatko’s offense right now, which isn’t the most encouraging notion, but at least he’s providing it. Vlatko scored twelve points on 5 of 8 shooting and generally helped more than he hurt. He featured in some ghastly lineups that didn’t work, but Vlatko was low on the list of reasons Denver lost this game.

Ish Smith – C

Ish may not be the first person to blame for his unsuccessful minutes in Atlanta. What was he doing on the floor with Murray and Bones when Denver couldn’t buy a stop?

DeAndre Jordan – D+

Jordan didn’t play well at all in a matchup that probably better suited Zeke Nnaji. That’s all easy to say in hindsight but it was easy to think too watching him struggle to keep up.

Davon Reed – D+

Malone pulled Reed after some disastrous defense in the first half. That should’ve meant Christian Braun’s minutes, but we saw the debut of a three-headed point guard lineup instead.


Brendan moved to Colorado at the start of the 2017-18 NBA season with dreams of covering the Denver Nuggets with a full time media credential. After obtaining that credential during a brief tenure with the Denver Stiffs, he made the move to DNVR at the start of the rebrand. You can read his work on DNVR Nuggets, hear him on the DNVR Nuggets podcast, and follow his tweets @DNVR_Nuggets. Follow Brendan on Twitter - @BrendanVogt