4. A rested Paul Millsap
The Nuggets have an elite offense and an average defense. The latter relies heavily upon the broad shoulders of Paul Millsap. The Nuggets defense is 8.5 points per 100 possessions worse when Millsap sits, by far the largest differential of any key rotation player. It’s not just his effectiveness that holds the Nuggets’ scheme together, it’s also his versatility.
Millsap’s defensive versatility index this year was the highest it’s been in the seven seasons for which defensive matchup data is available from the NBA’s player-tracking stats. He spent nearly a quarter of his possessions defending shooting guards and small forwards which is, by far, the highest mark he’s had in this era. In hypothetical matchups against the Lakers and Clippers, Millsap is going to have a ton of defensive responsibility, for both shutting down a primary creator and for playing coach-on-the-floor and helping the rest of the defensive unit maintain integrity.
For a 35-year-old veteran, two months off to rest his legs leading into the playoffs is a big plus.