Jamal Murray – A

Murray scored his first 10 points in his first eight minutes of play. He was scorching hot, looking crafty and capable on his way to the rim. He scored three of his first four field goals in the paint. Murray’s such an adept interior player for his natural position. There are times when he’s a better player down low than on the perimeter—including against Houston Monday night. Murray struggled to defend at the point of attack, but in the second half, he had some impressive moments as the low man. Still, I’d be wrong to sell him short when he knocked down 4 of 8 three-pointers. He had it all working on offense and finished with a season-high 31 points.

Nikola Jokić – A+

Jokić put up a light 32-12-8 with only three turnovers in just 27:26 Monday night. He couldn’t be bothered much on defense, but Houston’s defense couldn’t bother him on the other end. He dominated the third quarter by logging all 12 minutes, scoring 16 points on 7 of 7 from the field, grabbing four rebounds, and dishing out three assists. Poor Bruno Fernando was in the torture chamber. Jokić led the team in free throw attempts and tied Murray for the most field goal attempts, yet the whole performance seemed to require very little of him. I guess it did. Houston is not a good basketball team.

Aaron Gordon – D+

AG recorded as many fouls as points (4) and posted a 0:2 ast/tov ratio. He logged fewer than 15 minutes thanks to early foul trouble, and effective bench minutes rendered his return unnecessary. He may have boosted his grade in those minutes, but Denver had the win locked up, and it’s nice to see key players get some rest. Malone acknowledged as much after the game.

Bruce Brown – B

Brown turned in a quality start in place of Michael Porter Jr., which prompted a long-winded compliment from Malone after the game. Brown has played point guard, shooting guard, and both forward positions. He’s started, and he’s staggered off the bench. He’s done it all for the Nuggets and done most of it at a high level. Brown led all players in minutes.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – C

KCP stayed out of the way with only four shot attempts—a commendable approach when Murray and Jokić have it going. But his zero rebounds reflect some inactivity, and he didn’t turn any heads defensively. While he can’t personally be held responsible for the starters’ inability to guard in the first half, he was a part of the equation. This team can’t defend for four quarters, no matter who is starting.

Ish Smith – A

Ish earned the coveted DPOG chain after eating Houston’s lunch off the bench—an emerging trademark of Denver’s third-string point guards. Smith also helped a depleted second unit win their minutes with 10 points and eight assists. He gave Denver just what the doctor ordered.

After the game, Malone praised Ish’s ability to contest jump shots despite his “stature,” which nearly prompted a follow-up from yours truly. But I think it was a compliment. We’ve got a new tiny king, folks.

DeAndre Jordan – B+

Houston eats glass, so Malone decided to go big well before the game started. With that in mind, rebounding was DAJ’s primary responsibility. He did well, grabbing 10 in 18:33 and shooting 4 of 5 from the floor. Offensive rebounding might’ve been the key to successful bench minutes for the Rockets, but DAJ helped stomp those dreams out.

Zeke Nnaji – B

Malone pulled Zeke aside and let him know that just because the team was going big didn’t mean he wouldn’t play. It was Nnaji’s job to stay ready for minutes he couldn’t see coming, and ready he stayed. In the end, Zeke logged 17:44 and scored 15 points on 7 of 12 shooting. He played well.

Vlatko Čančar – C-

The magic ran out for Vlatko Monday night. He continued to smoke layups at the rim and finished 0 of 3 from the field against the Rockets. He never stopped playing hard and had some nice moments defensively, but he took a step out of the spotlight in the latest win.

Davon Reed – C+

After a brutal first stint, Reed put together quality minutes off the bench. He shot 3 of 6 from deep—a welcome sight, as shotmaking is what he provides more than anything. He’s got to knock those shots down if he’s on the floor.

Author

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

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