The Denver Nuggets might have the most secure starting lineup in the NBA. Their starting five of Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic obviously led them to the franchise's inaugural NBA championship, but even before they won, coach Michael Malone showed a huge amount of trust in that group. In total, that group played a combined total of 340 regular season games. They also started a combined total of 340 games. In the playoffs, that trend continued. The Nuggets played 20 games, and that same group of five started all 20 of them.
Without having the exact numbers in front of me, that seems like it would be a rarity. Not a single member of their preferred starting five came off the bench at any point throughout the course of the season, and given their collective stock has only risen given what they did in the NBA Finals last season, it's hard to see that changing.
But where's the fun in making that assumption? Realistically, of course it's going to be hard to break into the Nuggets starting lineup for any of their bench players, but stranger things have happened. With that in mind, this is the player in more danger than the rest of the starters of losing their spot in that group.
Granted it's unlikely that KCP loses his spot in the starting lineup, but he's in the most danger for a couple of reasons. The first is simply the process of elimination. I think we can safely assume that Nikola Jokic isn't going to be overtaken by Zeke Nnaji or Deandre Jordan as the Nuggets starting center, so that rules him out. Jamal Murray, too, isn't going anywhere, while Aaron Gordon demonstrated just how important he is to the team with some terrific playoff performances.
Which leaves Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr has had his critics over his short career, but last season he took a huge step forward, demonstrating a willingness to play a role which better suited the players around him. His offensive talent is undeniable, and he was still able to showcase that throughout the course of the season without needing to be the go-to guy on a team which already has Jokic and Murray taking that mantle. Also aiding his development was a willingness to buy in on defense – previously a very obvious flaw, he came on in leaps and bounds at that end of the floor last season.
That makes him hard to take out of the starting five, but then, so is KCP. Which brings us to the second reason I've lined up Caldwell-Pope. For someone to lose their spot in this starting lineup, obviously somebody has to replace them. With Bruce Brown now gone there aren't exactly a plethora of names putting their hands up to do that, but clearly the most likely one is Christian Braun.
It's no secret that the 22-year-old is well-liked by the powers that be in Denver, and it's easy to see why. In his first season he averaged just 4.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game, but his per 36 minute numbers were similar to those of Caldwell-Pope, and his defensive capability was plain to see, too.
He's still a way off breaking into the starting five, but in season two there's also a chance he takes a big step forward. If he does, Caldwell-Pope would be the obvious casualty. Braun has plenty of similarities to the Nuggets starting shooting guard, so if he was to jump into the starting lineup for, as an example, Porter Jr, it would alter the dynamics of the group a lot more – not something the Nuggets would be particularly keen to do. There's a long way to go for Braun to steal Caldwell-Pope's spot and it's much more unlikely than not that it will happen this season, but if anyone is going to be removed from perhaps the most secure starting lineup in the NBA this season, KCP is the most at risk.