Without a traditional superstar, are the Nuggets set up for failure?

NBA Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NBA Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Without a traditional superstar, is the Denver Nuggets set up for failure in the star-studded Western Conference?

With an amazing start to their season, the Denver Nuggets stand tall in the Western Conference at 24-11 and are only 4.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for first place.

However, it seems like the Nuggets are lacking something. How can they be this good in a conference that is loaded with star power?

When you break down their roster, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray do the heavy lifting on the offensive end. They are a formidable tandem, but probably not a top duo in the entire league right now.

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The rest of the starting lineup is a fine cast of characters, including Paul Millsap, Will Barton, and Gary Harris. All five of these players are the only ones averaging double figures on the team.

The bench is a bit suspect, but the young Michael Porter Jr. seems like the most logical fit for the sixth-man spot.

Taking a deeper dive into the team stats, the offense does not appear to be their calling card. According to Basketball-Reference, even though Jokic and Murray taking on the scoring burden, the team as a whole ranks 19th in the league in points per game, 28th in pace, and in the bottom half of the league in shooting percentage from the field and from 3-point range.

What they lack in offense they make up for defensively as the Nuggets are in the top three in points allowed and opponent 3-point percentage. Where the modern NBA is all about 3-point shooting, being able to have a solid perimeter defense is a key to why they have been able to surge through the season.

It still seems paradoxical that the Denver Nuggets are in the upper echelon of the Western Conference despite no identifiable star.

Are we sure there is a clear and concise leader of this team? Every other team in the West has one.

Sure, Nikola Jokic is one of the best big men in the game and has an all-around playing style, but has he taken that next step?

Has Jamal Murray separated himself from other point guards in the conference as someone who can be reliable every night?

It’s tough to say.

It is almost impossible to win a championship without any clear star talent who can singularly lead the team in the final minutes.

Maybe that is a good thing? It would be assumed in the waning minutes of the game, you know LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, and James Harden will all have the ball in their hands. Therefore, head coach Mike Malone will know how to prepare accordingly.

How will the other teams try and stop the Nuggets? Realistically, any of their starting five could take the last shot, so by having no clear star leader, there is more uncertainty in a defensive sense to guard the right man.

You would really have to turn back the clock to the 2004 Detroit Pistons, who had great talent, but they led by committee.

Perhaps Denver needs to take a page out of the Pistons’ playbook and lead by the sum of their parts.

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Regular-season success is all well and good, but the great teams are measured by what they do in the postseason. This is not to knock what the Nuggets are doing this regular season or the talent they have right now.

Just do not be surprised if there are some questions come playoff time.