This is the second part in a series where a Denver Stiffs writer identifies one skill that they would like to see that a player worked on over the summer. Today we’re talking about the grizzled veteran in the starting lineup, Paul Millsap.
A year ago at this time, Nuggets fans were excited to see a marquee free agent take the court for the team in Paul Millsap. The veteran and former All-Star forward had the promise to bring a different flavor of intensity, physicality, work ethic, and talent to the team that they hadn’t had at the power forward position.
After a bumpy start to the season, Millsap injured his wrist, missing half the season and never really being able to play at full strength after he returned. While his injury limited the things he could do, his basketball IQ was on full display, and he was frequently in the right place at the right time in the second half of his season.
While Millsap is past his physical prime, his ability to decipher the game is what makes him special now. He knows where to go, when to rotate, where his teammates should go, and what he needs to do in order to be successful.
With that in mind, here’s the one skill I’m hoping he’s worked on during the offseason.
It seems ironic that he might need to work on rebounding, seeing how that is one of the skills that helped him get started in the NBA. Millsap was a monster on the glass in college, and early in his career, that was one of his primary responsibilities on both ends of the court. While with the Jazz, Millsap averaged 2.4 offensive rebounds per game, but as his career has progressed (along with his shooting range) those rebounds have gone away.
It makes sense that he’d be rebounding less if he is shooting more 3-pointers. He’s going to be located farther away from the rim, and he needs to get back in transition after a shot from the perimeter. Whether he’s taking the shot or not, the scheme might not call for him to be located near the rim when the shot is attempted.
With the Nuggets, one of their team strengths over the last several years has been offensive rebounding. They finished second in the league as a team in offensive rebounds, behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, last season. With Nikola Jokic, Mason Plumlee, and Wilson Chandler, they had two above average rebounders that could be on the court at the same time (and sometimes, they’d play all three!).
With the offseason trade of Chandler to Philadelphia, and what Nuggets fans can only hope is less lineups with Plumlee and Jokic, thanks to the addition of Michael Porter Jr and the return to full health of Juancho Hernangomez, that takes away two of those offensive rebounders. Replace Chandler in the starting lineup with Will Barton, a man that will never be mistaken as a low-post banger, and the Nuggets may see their proficiency on the glass decrease this season.
Offensive rebounds are a huge way the Nuggets can gain an advantage over their opponent. Missing shots is going to happen, but capitalizing on a miss to create an easier shot (a la the Kobe assist) helps the Nuggets maintain an elite offense despite not having the most efficient offense.
The Nuggets won’t have to miss Wilson Chandler’s contributions if they’re able to get more offensive rebounds each game from Paul Millsap. With a fleet of stretch-fours and guards that can fire from the perimeter, it’s up to Millsap, Jokic, and Plumlee to clean the glass.
More of this please: