Nuggets Notes: Smith, Championship Chances, Murray, Brown

Nuggets reserve guard Ish Smith only recently made his debut for an NBA-record 13th team, and has already emerged as a key role player for the club, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports as part of an interview with the 34-year-old journeyman. Smith has made an impact on both ends of the floor already, as head coach Michael Malone detailed.

“He finds guys, he makes plays, he gets off the ball,” Malone said. “Him and [backup center DeAndre Jordan] in pick-and-rolls, having a big on the rim, that dynamic roller… And for a guy with his stature, he does a great job of contesting shots. Let’s go back to the Clipper game when he blocked Norman Powell’s shot, which led to a transition dunk. Ish does all the right things, all the little things on defense. And you trust him out there. It’s been great having him back.”

Across nine games with Denver, Smith is averaging just 3.2 PPG and 2.4 APG in 11.4 MPG, but making his presence felt in all manner of other ways on the floor. Speaking to Wind, he registered optimism about the Nuggets’ ceiling this season.

“There’s obviously another gear (the team can reach),” Smith said. “You don’t want to be peaking early in the season. So for us, we’ve got to gradually get to that level. But for us, coach Malone’s not lying, especially when we’re trying to win as big as we’re trying to win. We’ve got to bring our defense for four quarters. We can score the basketball, I think you’ve seen that. If we can travel our defense on the road and then at home, you know, make that commitment for four quarters, we’re going to be really, really good.”

There’s more out of Denver:

  • The 2022/23 version of the Nuggets could be the best club in the franchise’s history, with the ability to potential win Denver its first NBA title, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Kiszla notes that the Nuggets may actually be better than their 14-7 record suggests, as the team has played an inordinate number of road contests already (13). Kiszla adds that Malone continues to experiment with his rotations as he figures out the best fits for starters Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. this season after injuries kept them out for most or all of 2021/22. Reigning two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic seems capable of leading Denver, if healthy, to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
  • Shooting guard Murray is still working out the kinks in his first on-court action since tearing his ACL during the 2021 playoffs, writes Law Murray of The Athletic. “You’ve just got to keep a level head and know that the work that I put in the weight room and rehabbing, I know that it’s going to show when it needs to show,” Jamal Murray said. “I just got to take my time and be ready for April. And that’s when I’ll hopefully see the best version of myself.”
  • Nuggets GM Calvin Booth recently raved about the fit of under-the-radar free agency signing Bruce Brown, a versatile reserve capable of playing and defending multiple positions, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post.“I thought the fit with Jokic, his versatility, his defense,” Booth said. “I thought he was going to be the perfect fit for our team. It’s played out like that.”
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