The Denver Nuggets played their first full game of the season without star point guard Jamal Murray on Monday as he deals with a hamstring injury.
The Nuggets started the game rather sluggish, and at one point were down as many as 20 points to the visiting New Orleans Pelicans. Defensively, the Nuggets looked like they were always a step behind the Pelicans. Jordan Hawkins and Matt Ryan took this opportunity to rain threes down on the Nuggets for most of the night, with Hawkins going 7-of-14 from three and Ryan going 4-of-6.
Thankfully, Denver came flying out after halftime and stormed back to take the lead. They cleaned up their defense and were finally starting to get some of their own three-point shots to land. The Nuggets would eventually get the victory, 134-116.
Despite the victory, Murray’s absence was definitely felt. And, unfortunately, Denver may be without Murray for a significant time after head coach Michael Malone gave a worrisome update regarding his hamstring injury.
“I don’t expect Jamal Murray to be back in the near future,” Malone told reporters postgame.
With Murray’s injury being a bit more severe than most speculated, the Nuggets will look to other players on their roster to step up and fill the void. The big question now is, who will be that guy to step up?
Which Nuggets player will step up during Jamal Murray’s injury absence?
Heading into Monday’s matchup against the Pelicans, Malone said the team ran multiple practice scenarios with different players filling in for Murray. He even gave his own two cents on who he thinks can best step up.
“That’s why we had shootaround this morning, to go through all the different iterations and different lineups out there, and the different options,” said Malone. “Reggie [Jackson] is a starter, Collin [Gillespie] as a backup. Having no true point guard on the floor, using Aaron Gordon as a point forward. Nikola [Jokic] can run the point at any time, because that’s how good of a player he is.”
Based on Malone’s response, it seems like the Nuggets aren’t too terribly worried about Murray’s absence and are rather confident in some of their bench players.
Reggie Jackson and Collin Gillespie
One of the more obvious choices, and most likely, is Reggie Jackson. Jackson got the start against the Pelicans and put together an okay performance. He had seven points, went 1-4 from the three-point line, and had one rebound and four assists. Going forward, Jackson will certainly need to play a bit better if he wants to remain the starter and help the Nuggets get wins.
Collin Gillespie got some minutes off the bench against the Pelicans and put up a similar stat line to Jackson’s: six points, 1-of-3 from the three-point line, one rebound, and one assist.
If Jackson and Gillespie continue posting stat lines like that, the Nuggets might look to reshuffle things.
Perhaps they slide rookie Julian Strawther over from the other guard position? Strawther put on an electric performance against the Pelicans, which comes after an impressive preseason. The rookie had 21 points, went 5-of-9 from three-point range, and had two rebounds and one assist. Strawther was feeding off the energy of the crowd, and his confidence continued to skyrocket with every drained three. If Strawther continues performing like this, maybe the Nuggets should ride the hot hand.
Despite these options, the Nuggets still have the league’s best center in Jokic, who puts up a majority of the team’s points on any given night. This Nuggets roster is also jam-packed with lots of other talent, including Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. Because of this, Denver will most likely be just fine in Murray’s absence.