Six weeks ago it was easy, maybe even practical, for Nuggets coach Michael Malone to dismiss the question.

Malone was sitting at the introductory news conference for coveted forward Jerami Grant and was not interested in indulging questions that training camp and preseason would ultimately answer.

“I haven’t even thought about the depth chart and rotations,” Malone said with a laugh. “I’m enjoying the moment. … Jerami Grant’s gonna play for us. He was a starter on a playoff team.”

That Grant, whom the Nuggets acquired from Oklahoma City for a first-round pick, would get run wasn’t the question. Instead, it was how does his arrival cascade down the Nuggets’ depth chart?

Now, just over a month away from a highly anticipated training camp in Colorado Springs, there is little doubt Malone has considered how this might all shake out. With 14 of the 15 roster spots filled, here’s how we project the Nuggets’ depth chart heading into the 2019-’20 season.

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray directs ...

John Leyba, The Associated Press

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray directs his team in the first half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday, May 12, 2019, in Denver.

Point guard

The Nuggets revealed exactly how they feel about Jamal Murray’s potential when they signed their incumbent guard to a 5-year, $170 million max deal hours after the start of free agency. Murray’s bullish playmaking can occasionally lead to some careless turnovers, but his confidence and tenacity on the court are undeniable. An All-Star nod was dashed after a slow start in October and November of last season. With a healthy summer off, expect Murray to garner some All-Star chatter early this season.

Backup guard Monte Morris was a revelation last season. Veteran Isaiah Thomas was signed, in part, as insurance since the Nuggets entered last season with a gaping question mark behind Murray. Morris, fresh off signing a new contract, didn’t let that question linger. His steady play didn’t waver until the postseason, when the extended season exacted its toll. After shooting 41 percent from 3-point range last season, fans should be encouraged that he’s spent the offseason working to extend his range.

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, center, ...

John Leyba, The Associated Press

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, center, goes up for a basket between Portland Trail Blazers guards Damian Lillard, back, and CJ McCollum in the first half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Sunday, May 12, 2019, in Denver.

Shooting guard

Nothing came easy for Gary Harris last season. At different times he battled groin, hip and ankle injuries, and his inconsistent season reflected it. During 15 games in March, the most he played in any month, his 3-point shooting percentage soared to 48 percent. Unsurprisingly, Denver’s overall team defense plummeted when he missed significant time in December. Once the postseason came, his two-way value was even more apparent. A healthy offseason could portend a strong bounce-back year.

Malik Beasley’s breakout season was a direct result of Harris’ frustrating year. He became a double-digit scorer, a dangerous 3-point threat and a fearless high flyer. As a starter, his production was undeniable – 15.9 points, 2.6 rebounds on 55 percent shooting from the field. The gap between Beasley’s defense and Harris’ defense, however, was pronounced. Beasley has immense promise, but until his defense improves, Malone can’t consider him in a three-guard set alongside Murray and Harris.

Will Barton (5) of the Denver ...

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Will Barton (5) of the Denver Nuggets against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first quarter on Sunday, May 12, 2019. The Denver Nuggets versus the Portland Trail Blazers in game seven of the teams’ second round NBA playoff series at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Small forward

No position carries more question marks for the Nuggets than small forward. The assumption, with significant caveats, is that Will Barton will be the leading candidate to start on Oct. 23 against Portland. But the battle for minutes is going to be intense. Barton’s season was thrown off-kilter almost from the start. When he returned from a core muscle surgery in January, the rest of the team, then running the league’s sixth-best offense, was flowing. He later admitted he felt like he was playing catchup the entire season, an even tougher scenario given that he’d just signed a huge contract.

Barton faced more criticism than anyone else on the team. He has a lot to prove and a lot to play for in warding off competition this fall.

His biggest challenger is probably rookie Michael Porter Jr., who could start assuming he’s healthy. If Porter is remotely close to what reports have suggested, he’s the team’s best option at the three. His 3-point shooting could dramatically enhance the offense, broadening driving and passing lanes for the rest of his teammates. It’s why there was so much excitement and subsequent disappointment after a knee sprain derailed what would’ve been his Summer League debut. The coaching staff already has its opinion of Porter. Fans and media will get their first glimpse of him in live action on Oct. 8.

Torrey Craig proved his worth in April when a lineup shift dramatically altered Denver’s first-round series against San Antonio. Craig’s relentless, physical defense changed the dynamics of the Spurs’ offense. As valuable as he is in certain situations, it’s fair to wonder whose minutes will be limited and whether the Nuggets need to consolidate their talent on the wing via a trade. If so, a trade of Barton might be their best option though Craig is on other teams’ radars, too.

Paul Millsap (4) of the Denver ...

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Paul Millsap (4) of the Denver Nuggets fouls Damian Lillard (0) of the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter of the Nuggets’ 121-113 game one win on Monday, April 29, 2019. The Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trailblazers game one of their second round NBA playoff series at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Power forward

There’s no use hating the player when he’s just working the game. Veteran Paul Millsap was always coming back – it was just a matter of the number. The Nuggets settled that when they picked up his $30 million option in late June, ensuring that their starting power forward wasn’t going anywhere. Millsap should, once again, be the defensive anchor inside while also chipping in on offense. At 34, his game isn’t going to reinvent itself. Thinking otherwise is unfair. He’s still a glue guy within the Nuggets locker room and someone who can help usher the team into serious contender status.

At Grant’s news conference, Nuggets president of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said he expected their big offseason acquisition to be in Denver for a “long time.” With Millsap set to be a free agent next summer and Grant facing a player option after this season, it’s not hard to see Denver’s line of thinking. Malone loves Grant’s defense and thinks he has the ability to guard all five positions. In addition, his energy and movement could mesh seamlessly with Nikola Jokic. Would the Nuggets ever deploy him as a small forward? Might he be on the floor for crunch time? Neither is out of the question.

The Grant trade most profoundly impacts Juancho Hernangomez, who struggled through an injury-marred season which culminated in offseason core surgery. That he’s already playing for Spain’s national team ahead of the FIBA World Cup is an excellent sign. Still young (23) and with a lot of promise, Hernangomez is going to have to claw for minutes in what’s become a loaded frontcourt.

The Nuggets officially signed Vlatko Cancar, a 2017 second-round pick, in early June. The reality for the 22-year-old is that he’ll likely benefit from being on the roster, but he’s unlikely to be a regular contributor.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) ...

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson (67) in the first half half at Pepsi Center March 12, 2019.


Any outstanding questions about Nikola Jokic’s fitness, whether his unusual skill set could serve as a franchise centerpiece or how he’d hold up during a pressure cooker playoff series, were all answered last season. His ability to raise his level of play, even as both San Antonio and Portland schemed to diminish his impact, was remarkable. After finishing fourth in MVP voting, it feels like last season was a small glimpse of what he could become.

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