Michael Porter Jr. – B

For most players on the Denver Nuggets roster, urgency is the keyword in any critique of their season opener Wednesday night. They played with virtually none, but MPJ was one of the exceptions, as he often is in almost any context.

Utah’s Lauri Markkanen attacked him in the first quarter and found success, but Porter was game for the challenge and settled into a stable performance. He gambled for some ill-advised steals but found his footing defensively and fought hard on the glass. Porter scored 15 points on 50% from 2 and 50% from 3 and was responsible for only one horrid possession. He even dove on the floor to force a jump ball. Porter played the right way, and frankly, his teammates would’ve done well to get him the ball more often.

Aaron Gordon – A

Gordon might’ve been the best Nugget on the floor in Utah. He took the best approach, at least. As Jokić told reporters in Utah after the game, aggressive AG is the best AG, and AG played with a strong understanding of why that’s the case. He was a bully from two-point range, burying helpless defenders and twisting his way to crunching finishes. He found open looks at the rim too off simple actions, just as we hoped to see when Denver returned to strength. Gordon grabbed four of his ten rebounds on offense — a stat that helps outline his effort level. He was ready to start the season strong. Too few of his teammates were ready with him.

Gordon did miss two open threes that might’ve gone a long way toward a comeback. It’s an area he still hasn’t found consistency in, but any struggles were not for lack of effort.

Nikola Jokić – C+

Obligatory preface: I grade Jokić differently from everyone else. Reality check: he was not good enough defensively or on the glass—not even close. The big fella was a nightmare from two-point range and scored 27 points on 70% from the field. It’s effortless, but he didn’t wield that effortless talent to set the tone. Only a fool would find cause for concern over a back-to-back MVP in the opener, especially when he put up the stats he did. But every Nuggets fan knows he’s capable of dictating out there, and most of us will admit he didn’t play up to his herculean standard. Jokić didn’t play hard enough, and scoring with him on the floor was far too easy.

KCP – C+

KCP did many things right in what’s ultimately a suboptimal debut. He scored his only two points at the line, but he shot just three times and focused on finding better shots for his teammates. He racked up six assists, tying Jokić for the team-high. It’s hard to boast about any defender’s prowess after what Utah did to Denver, but we got a glimpse of a high-energy defender who looks not just to get stops but make plays on defense. Still, Denver wasn’t good enough on that end, and KCP whiffed from the field.

Jamal Murray – C-

Jamal Murray made his return and made it through the end with virtually no trouble—sans a terrifying few seconds after he rolled an ankle—that’s what’s most important about his performance. But there are some meaningful takeaways once we peel back the sentimental layers and look at his game honestly, as he’s undoubtedly doing while watching the film. The Nuggets struggled in the Murray minutes. He’s still searching for the timing offensively, which he admitted to the media on Tuesday, and he’s got a much longer way to go defensively, which didn’t do Jokić any favors. I’ll write what you don’t need me to just one more time: it’s going to take a minute for Jamal to find his form. All the same, it was great to see him back out there.

Bones Hyland – D+

Bonesaw was not ready. Bones struggled from the field, made questionable decisions with the ball in his hands, and had those hands full when the ball was in the hands of Collin Sexton. Sexton bullied him, which isn’t too surprising given the disparity in strength, but what was most disappointing is Bones didn’t bring the usual intensity. In his defense, Bones did play minutes with a dreadful five-man bench unit and whatever other lineups Michael Malone tried to throw against the wall from there. Still, this is his lot this season, and his work is cut out for him as he seeks to bounce back.

Bruce Brown – C

Brown is a dream come true alongside the starters and a bit of a wasted asset with the second unit. Malone switched up the rotation in the second half, which helped get more out of a key offseason acquisition, but the bench unit looked a disaster in the first half. While the Nuggets bring Jamal back into the fold, how and where Malone deploys Brown will be crucial.

Jeff Green – D+

Uncle Jeff grabbed four rebounds, which is somehow a lot for him, and banished Kelly Olynyk to the Shadow Realm with a spectacular dunk.

But that’s where the praise ends. Green didn’t play well and played particularly poorly in the 6:28 that came alongside Deandre Jordan. That’s not a frontcourt propelled by their sense of urgency and high motor.

Davon Reed & DeAndre Jordan – F

These two led the clubhouse in causing me to wonder aloud what their roles were. They brought little to nothing Wednesday night, and Malone was exploring his options by the second half.


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