Stats: Jolly Old Saint Nikola

This column should just be about the Nuggets every week, huh? Well, the Nuggets had one of the worst losses of the season with a 112-92 defeat in Dallas on Monday. Yeah, Mike Malone wasn't happy on Monday.

Just about anyone who follows the NBA nationally knows about one player who may not be used correctly right now. While he was hurt due to a wrist injury earlier this month, Nikola Jokic is playing some fantastic ball. He is coming off matching his career-high 27 points on Monday and has been one of the most efficient players this month. Here’s his shot chart in his last five active games (he missed three games, so that's why the graphic says "Last 8 Games"):

Goodness. That’s good for a 72.3 true shooting percentage (TS%) while his other rates are solid: 22.6 usage rate, 23.6 total rebounding rate and 23.3 assist percentage. Regarding his box-score averages, they’re very nice with 17.8 points, 10.6 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.0 blocks, 0.4 steals and 1.6 turnovers in just 25.1 minutes per game — that playing time ranks sixth on the team in that span.

That raises the question: Will Mike Malone ever play Jokic 30 minutes? Well, based on his comments after Monday’s loss, it doesn’t look like it. "I played him too many minutes, but just trying to find guys that will at least go out there and compete, play hard,” Malone said (via Harrison Wind of BSN Denver). Malone only played him 26 minutes, which still seems way too low. By the way, Jokic added 11 rebounds, four assists and one block in the loss on Monday.

This isn’t the first time he’s tried to get everyone to cool it on Jokic. After the Nuggets took a home loss back on Nov. 18, he had one of the strangest coach quotes of the season (via BSN Denver again; they have good coverage!):

“You guys got to understand, he’s not going to be the same player he was last year,” Malone said after Jokic scored eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds, struggled defensively, but notably closed the fourth quarter and overtime for Denver. “Gallo was out, Wilson Chandler was out. Last two months of the season we played our young guys, we played them 35 minutes a night almost. We’re healthy, we have guys playing, so everybody stop expecting Nikola Jokic to be something he’s not. I think it’s unfair to him. He’s playing well, he’s rebounding, he’s looking for his offense, he’s playmaking for other guys and that’s all we need him to do.”

Uhh, what? Well, he may have to change his tune on this because the Nuggets’ first unit is has been one of the worst in the NBA. In fact, check out the bottom lineups for net rating for lineups with 20 total minutes played over their last 10 games (109 lineups qualify):

Yeah, that’s three of the bottom nine for the Nuggets. For a team that went 3-7 and didn’t get blown out too often, that really shouldn’t happen. That foursome of Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic, Danilo Gallinari and Emmanuel Mudiay is dreadful. In fact, check this out. They are the worst four-man lineup combos with at least 70 minutes over their last 15 games (224 lineups qualify):

Woooooooof. Besides another Denver lineup, no other group is even close to them.

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Taking it a step further on that lineup stuff, check out all of the Nuggets lineups with 20 minutes over their last 10:

Yeah, that is a problem. I like Mike Malone as a coach and think he can turn it around, but he really has to make a change to his first unit. Although, maybe he thinks Gary Harris (foot) can save him. Last week, Malone said he’s hoping to get Harris back “in the next week or so” while Mudiay also thinks Harris returning will help a ton. "Y’all don’t understand. That man there makes my life so much easier,” he said.

Speaking of Mudiay, Malone said it’ll be a “point guard by committee” approach going forward. Mudiay has arguably been the worst starter in the NBA lately, but Malone isn’t pulling the plug. “We need Emmanuel to go out there, run his team,” Malone said. “Be a playmaker first and look for opportunities to score when they’re there.” The coach also said it’s Mudiay’s team — maybe that’s why they’re struggling so much.

To be fair, Mudiay has shown some flashes, he’s worked really hard and he entered the NBA extremely raw. Still, it makes a lot of sense to start Jameer Nelson even if it’s just to help get Mudiay going. Hey, maybe going against more second units could help.

One last thing before we put a bow on the Nuggets stuff: Jamal Murray has been pretty good. While I highlighted Jokic above, Murray has been in the mix, as well. In his last five, he’s averaged 11.4 points, 3.4 boards, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.6 turnovers and 1.6 treys on a 53.1 true shooting percentage. The positive assist:turnover ratio is a good sign for him, but he’s not really playing point guard like he wanted to. The only point guard minutes he’s picked up lately was when Mudiay missed Thursday for a “sprained right ankle.” Murray did have one of the coolest moves of the season last night:

OK, so let’s wrap this up and just hit some one-liners on what we can expect going forward for these guys:

Nikola Jokic should be a beast. He may not be a top-25 guy in standard leagues, but top 40 seems doable. Love him in DFS.

Wilson Chandler has to stay healthy, but his minutes seem safe and he should have plenty of value.

Danilo Gallinari’s minutes are finally starting to trend down, which would be a good thing for his durability.

Jameer Nelson it looks like he’ll get minutes in the 20s for the foreseeable future. Should have value in deeper leagues.

Emmanuel Mudiay just doesn't translate to fantasy right now. Maybe that'll change at some point.

I’m a little worried about how Gary Harris returning affects Jamal Murray and Will Barton. I would expect a bigger hit going to Barton.

It feels like it’s time to pick up Gary Harris in fantasy.

Kenneth Faried needs a trade. He was likely going to be a DNP-CD on Monday, but Darrell Arthur got hurt.

Darrell Arthur just can’t stay healthy.

Juan Hernangomez’s defense should keep him in the lineup. He’d be an interesting stash for when Gallo misses time.

Jusuf Nurkic hasn’t been very good. Every NBA team knows he won’t leave his post around the rim. It causes so many open treys.

Quick hits

Speaking of losing, the Lakers are on the longest losing streak in the league. They’ve lost seven straight and have seen their playoff chances dissipate. In fact, they’re now out of the eighth seed by 2.5 games, which is actually the same hole they’re in for the top spot in the lottery. Remember, the Lakers have a top-three protected pick going to the 76ers. As of Dec. 13, they only have a 6.1 percent chance to keep that pick. If you Trust The Process, you may actually want the Lakers to win some games. Maybe D'Angelo Russell returning helps -- I love DAR as a buy-low guy in fantasy.

There’s an offense right now that is on pace to be the best offense in NBA history, and it’s probably not who you think. The 2016-17 Toronto Raptors currently have the best offensive rating ever (per Basketball Reference). Surprisingly, their starters are actually minus in net rating. However, the lineup of Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson and Lucas Nogueira has a 131.0 offensive rating! That lineup leads the NBA in net rating among lineups with at least 48 minutes together (86 lineups qualify). Kyle Lowry is a bad boy and is in the mix for MVP.

How about a little DFS? Dorian Finney-Smith! He’s been terrific over his last three, averaging 12.0 points, 7.0 boards, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks and 2.0 treys. He’ll take a hit once Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles) comes back, but he’s on the board in 14-team leagues. He’s obviously a DFS option while he’s still so cheap.

Umm, how good is Rudy Gobert? He leads the NBA in all the field goal-type percentages: field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. For fantasy, he’s third in output for the field goal percentage category behind Clint Capela and Dwight Howard. Unlike those two, Gobert isn’t destroying his owners in free throw percentage. He’s actually up to 74.2 FT% in his last nine games. Coach Quin Snyder even joked Gobert is going to shoot the team’s technical free throws. He’s got to be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. The Stifle Tower would be my pick. Quick side note: Gordon Hayward is playing extremely well.

One last thing I always like to check out is ESPN’s offensive real plus minus (ORPM) stat. Here are the bottom 29 players in the NBA. Some interesting names on there (via ESPN's NBA stat page):

Enjoy the games tonight! If you missed Monday’s season-long pod, check it out below!