The Denver Nuggets have finally hit their stride of late. While some would argue their schedule has been easy of late; wins are wins and they've put six into a streak. So that got me thinking: with the Nuggets recent improvement in bench play, is their bench a threat for the playoffs?
The answer is kind of complicated. Yes, part of their bench can certainly pose a threat. The bad thing is, part of that threat is pretty streaky. I'm talking about JR Smith. Sure, he has the ability to get really hot and light the opponent up, but, he also can be cold and lose almost all of his value.
To prove my point about JR, over the last two games, he's been shooting three's at about 56%. Looking at two random games back in January, he only shot 46% (and on less attempts, which makes for less of an offensive contribution). So, you can never count on JR to score 20+. He may do it, but don't rely on it come the second round of the playoffs.
The rest of their bench is stacked with hustle guys, not a lot of offense, but enough to get by at times. You have Birdman and Balkman for D and hustle, Anthony Carter as your all around solid floor leader and JR as your scorer.
I am leaving one guy out, Linas Kleiza. I don't know if it's a confidence thing or what, but he has really lost his touch. When confident, he's a great shooter and a solid slasher and all around player. Until he starts being affective in terms of making shots, George Karl might hesitate to put him in.
So, really I see the Nugget bench being fine to get through the first round. But after that, other teams are likely to have more depth and scoring off the bench. That could pose a problem for them in the long run. Hopefully, Bird's D will translate to more Nuggets offense come playoff time.