It’s almost Christmas time, and the Denver Nuggets have some things on their wishlist that they’ll want to see under the tree.
The Denver Nuggets, like all of us, are approaching Christmas day. For Jamal Murray, he’s coming up on Boxing day, but that’s an article for a different day. Christmas is when we all wish for new gifts that we want. Growing up, we all wanted that new game system, toy or whatever was the hot item that year.
40 years ago, Atari was all the rage. A simple concept in terms of controller, but it was so popular that one million units were sold in 1979 alone. 10 years later, another game system in the Nintendo Gameboy dominated the market. This wasn’t even the Gameboy Color. It was a big, gray block that allowed you to play your favorite games on the go. You didn’t have Angry Birds and Candy Crush at your fingertips like you do now.
(A quick sidenote: @GbridgfordNFL on Twitter to tell me what you are hoping to get or that you want the Nuggets to get for Christmas.)
Enough about that, the Nuggets are going to have some things that are on their wishlist in order to boost their chances of success this season. Some teams near the bottom of the league have a lot more on their list than Denver does, which is why it should be a little easier for them to get what they want right? Right. I want the Nuggets to wake up on Christmas morning with a happy Big Honey and a happy Michael Malone. I think these gifts would do it.
A Front-Court Shooter Would Be Nice
But Gage, Paul Millsap is shooting a career-high 46.4 percent from 3-point range. Why do they need more shooting in the frontcourt? It’s really simple. There are a couple teams in Los Angeles that are really damn good, but they have a weakness at the center spot, especially on the perimeter. Denver has this Nikola Jokic guy that can take advantage of those centers, but they need someone that can run around the perimeter and wear out Anthony Davis, JaMychal Green or whoever those teams have chasing a stretch-four around.
Millsap is shooting great, 46.4 percent from 3-point range, and he’s arguably the more consistent player for Denver on a nightly basis. However, he’s not exactly a volume shooter. He’s shooting just 2.3 3-point attempts per game, which is identical to last season, but he’s just shooting a higher percentage. Denver could really use this guy in Washington, who has one of the NBA’s greatest nicknames. He goes by Davis “The Latvian Laser” Bertans. Have you seen this guy’s stats?
Bertans is slightly below Millsap at 46.2 percent per game, but his number is much more impressive. He’s averaging 8.6 3-point attempts per game and canning 4.0 of them. Over two-thirds of his 11.1 shots per game are coming from outside. For a team that has no consistent shooting on the bench, why would you not go after a guy that is shooting 44.2 percent from outside over the last two seasons?
His defense leaves much to be desired, but, by pairing him with guys like Mason Plumlee and Torrey Craig, those aren’t going to be as exposed. Also, seeing lineups that feature him alongside Jokic with his ability to space the floor will give even more room for Jokic and the remainder of the offense to operate. Spacing is king, and, in the playoffs, 3-point shooters can carry you a long way when they’re hot. Just ask the Golden State Warriors about their three titles in four years.
Torrey Craig From The Playoffs
Has anyone seen this man? He was last seen torturing Damian Lillard for seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals. Craig has re-cracked the rotation as of late, but there were a number of games that he was registering DNP-CD (Did Not Play - Coach’s Decision) on a nightly basis. He brings life and intensity on the defensive end of the floor, but he was such a liability on the offensive end that Malone couldn’t afford to play him. Teams were sagging so far off of him, and it was killing the spacing for everyone else involved.
After shooting 32.4 percent from 3-point range last season, Craig is shooting just 25.0 percent from distance this year. His offensive rating is at a career-low 102. His defensive rating is 103, which is a career-best, but the rest of the defense is playing well. They aren’t needing his defense as much, so they’re able to go for long stretches with him on the bench.
As long as Will Barton maintains his level of play, you don’t have to worry about Craig getting back to that level of play that he was at during the playoffs. However, it would be great if he could bounce back a little bit. Malone has been searching for a consistent presence at the backup small forward position, and he hasn’t been able to find it yet. With a matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers looming, it would be nice for that present to come early.
My Old Offense Back
So, Denver was a top-10 offense for like three years when they first deployed Jokic as this hub that everything operated around. In each of the past three seasons, they finished no worse than seventh in the NBA in offensive rating. As of right now, they’re 18th in the NBA in offensive rating. That is a step up from where they were after the first month of the year, but they’ve still looked far too disjointed at times.
This defense has taken a major step forward this year, but the offense needs to pick itself up to match that. Teams just don’t win championships when they aren’t humming on both ends of the floor. A major key to getting the offense back on track would be to get out in transition more rather than playing in the half court where teams are able to get set into their schemes against them.
Denver is 29th in pace, and they’ve decreased in each of the last four seasons after ranking seventh during the 206-17 season. The Nuggets have a ton of athletic wings like Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr. and Barton that can get out and run, but they don’t do that with Jokic on the floor. This offense needs a jump start to help compete with hot shooting teams, and looking into the past could help them accomplish that.