Season Preview: Denver Nuggets
Quietly, the Denver Nuggets have turned into an offensive juggernaut led by a budding superstar in center Nikola Jokic.
Damian Jones has spent most of the past two years with the Warriors' G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors. But now, Jones is expected to be a mainstay for the Golden State Warriors, potentially in a starting role.
Jones earned the starting nod in the Warriors’ preseason opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves, totaling four points, four rebounds and two assists. Jones is battling with the likes of Kevin Looney and Jordan Bell—two key reserves in the Warriors’ championship team a season ago—to get the first-string job.
Head coach Steve Kerr has already named Jones the starter for Friday’s preseason contest in Seattle against the Sacramento Kings. He has yet to declare Jones the starter for the regular-season opener, but all indications are that Kerr has no plans to start anyone else at center on opening night.
The Warriors lost Zaza Pachulia (Detroit Pistons) and JaVale McGee (Los Angeles Lakers) in free agency, both of whom started games at center in each of the past two championship seasons. They more than made up for the loss of the two journeymen centers by signing four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins—but Cousins won’t be available until January at the earliest as he rehabs from Achilles tendon surgery. This leaves the door open for Jones, the 30th overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, to be the starting center until Cousins returns to action.
Warriors assistant coach Jaron Collins is excited to see the development of Jones.
He’s shown us in flashes. But he has an opportunity for more minutes and an extended role,” said Warriors assistant coach Collins. “I know he’s excited about seizing that opportunity. I want to see, just like everybody else, how he performs.
Jones has an unparalleled opportunity in starting next to All-Stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green—a quartet that has won consecutive titles together. Jones says he will take advantage of the chance to play alongside four great teammates and culminate all his hard over the past two years.
“You become more comfortable and doing the same things over and over again. You’re starting to get accustomed to it,” Jones said. “Then having the mindset and trying to have a good year or two to bring it all together.”