The Thunder failed to win in Denver against the Nuggets in a game where they were playing catch up for the most part. The Thunder were able to make runs and make the game somewhat interesting but this game felt like it was heading towards a Nuggets win. Here are ten thoughts from this loss:
1) This was Jerami Grant’s first game against his former team this season after being traded this past summer for a protected first round pick. Grant was given the starting nod due to Paul Millsap missing this game due to injury. Grant’s numbers are down across the board this season, which has to do with the fact that he is playing a bench role on this team compared to being a starter last season. But in his first start this season, Grant finished with 13 points on 4-8 shooting with five rebounds.
2) This was a win-win scenario for the Thunder. They win and they improve the odds of that 2020 Nuggets’ first round pick to be higher. If they lose then they increase the chances of their own 2020 first round pick to be higher. It’s important to note that the Nuggets’ 2020 first round pick is top 10 protected so if the pick lands in the top 10 then the Nuggets will own it. The Thunder would then have two more tries at attaining the Nuggets’ first round pick in 2021 and 2020 under the same circumstances, if not then the pick would be converted into two second round picks in 2023 and 2024. This season’s pick becoming top 10 is unlikely though since many see the Nuggets being one the better teams in the Western Conference.
3) Tomorrow will be the first day that NBA players who signed a deal during the offseason can officially be traded. Nearly 40% of the league signed deals this past summer. Because of their massive salaries and teams not being able to match it due to this rule, Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari are two players that have often been brought up on players who could be moved after the December 15 deadline. Most see Gallinari as the more attractive piece than Chris Paul but tonight’s game was the opposite of that sentiment.
4) Chris Paul had a 15 point and 10 assist double double this game to go along with four rebounds and four steals on an efficient 5-8 shooting . Paul bumped knees with Grant in the fourth quarter and took some time to get up but finished the game. Hopefully he’s all right. Paul also recorded his 2,163rd career steal to pass Hakeem Olajuwon for 8th on the NBA’s all-time leaderboard.
5) Meanwhile, Danilo Gallinari has his worst game of the season against his former team in Denver. Gallinari finished with just seven points on 1-13 shooting with his only field goal made not coming until late in the fourth quarter.
6) Ever since given the starting job due to Terrance Ferguson’s absence, Abdel Nader has been great for the Thunder. In his last four games, all starts, Nader is averaging 9.5 PPG on 61.5 3FG%. Nader continued this hot trend in Denver, scoring 14 points on 5-7 shooting. Not to kill the Nader hype, but he got called for two travels tonight, seems like the referees have put an extra emphasis on traveling this season as calls are being made on nearly a gamely basis.
7) After facing early season criticisms for his slow start, Nikola Jokic was fantastic tonight, finishing with a 28 point-12 assist-14 rebound triple double. There’s not much opposing teams can do against players like Jokic, they’ll get theirs most games. Steven Adams himself had a good game too, grabbing a 18 point and 14 rebound double double. Adams also grabbed six offensive rebounds. Offensive rebounding has always been a strength of Adams but this season he has been struggling in that department, averaging just 3.1 ORPG, his lowest since the 2015-16 season.
8) The Thunder struggled from deep this game, going 6-23 (26.1%) from three this game. The only player on the team that did well from three is Dennis Schroder, who went 4-8 from three this game. Speaking of…
9) This was another inconsistent game for Schroder. He struggled through the first three quarters until he exploded in the fourth. Overall, Schroder finished with 22 points on 8-17 shooting with five rebounds and four assists with 13 of those points coming in the fourth quarter. Schroder continues to show he can get hot as quickly as he can go cold.
10) The Thunder are in a rebuilding stage and the type of players a rebuilding team should target in trades are young, underappreciated players on rookie deals filled with potential. Michael Porter Jr. fits that mold. The Missouri product was projected as a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft before having to have back surgery. Porter Jr. doesn’t have much of a role on the Nuggets and probably never will since the Nuggets are in a contending phase, they aren’t afforded the patience of going through trail and errors for him. Porter Jr. missed all of last season due to a second back surgery he underwent in the offseason and is averaging just 9.1 MPG in 14 games this season. Perhaps a change of scenery will do the 21 year old some good and help increase his chances of reaching his potential? Being on the Thunder would give Porter Jr. the chance to play a bigger role on a team with low expectations and possibly reach his ceiling as a player who many projected to be a franchise cornerstone back in high school. Yes he has back issues and those are always alarming red flags but Porter Jr. is exactly the type of player a team like the Thunder should target in trade talks and take a risk on. In tonight’s game, Porter Jr. played just four minutes and recorded a block.