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Nuggets Newcomer: what the Nuggets can expect from forward Greg Whittington

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Leyton Hammonds (2) and Greg Whittington (1) are seen in... Photo by Tomasz Zasinski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As the Denver Nuggets return to training camp, it’s important for fans to become reacquainted with their favorite team. During a shortened offseason, the Nuggets made several player transactions, more than usual, and the resulting roster looks very different than it did before. 10 players on the 2019-20 roster have returned for the 2020-21 season, and they are:

  • Jamal Murray - point guard
  • Monte Morris - point guard
  • PJ Dozier - combo guard
  • Gary Harris - shooting guard
  • Will Barton - wing/forward
  • Michael Porter Jr. - forward
  • Bol Bol - forward
  • Paul Millsap - power forward
  • Vlatko Čančar - power forward
  • Nikola Jokić - center

That leaves seven roster spots, each of which the Nuggets have filled with a player hoping to move the Nuggets closer to winning their first championship in franchise history.

Today, it’s time to introduce Nuggets fans to Greg Whittington.


Greg Whittington player profile

Position: Forward

Previous Team: Galatasaray (Turkey)

Age: 27 (2/7/1993)

Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6’8”, 212, 7’2”

Statistics

19-20 season with Galatasaray: 25 games played, 12.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 56.8 FG%, 50.7 3P%

How did Whittington get to the Nuggets?

Whittington’s career to this point has taken him around the world. He began as a college player for Georgetown University, playing for the Hoyas for two years at the same time as Chicago bulls forward Otto Porter. Whittington did a lot of everything in college, but he wasn’t elite at any particular skill. Porter received much of the NBA interest while Whittington fell by the wayside.

After a couple of seasons of bouncing around, Whittington finally caught on with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He played well enough that he earned an international contract with Sydney in the NBL soon after. Whittington continued to hone his game internationally, ultimately ending up on Galatarasay in the Turkish League. He drew plenty of NBA interest in his stint there, showcasing a versatile skill set at 6’8” that has truly become the market standard for elite NBA teams today.

The Nuggets ultimately loved Whittington’s skill set as a versatile forward playmaker with defensive chops, and despite his older age (turning 28 this February) the Nuggets felt comfortable taking a flyer on a player they had scouted and believe he has more to offer at the NBA level. It’s rare to find players capable of doing everything on the floor at 6’8”, and though Whittington has weaknesses, they’re masked by quality outside shooting touch and a combination of defensive mobility and physicality. Whittington isn’t an elite athlete, but he is a functional one who can make athletic plays with his long arms. Sometimes, that’s all one needs to make a strong impression.

Highlights

What to expect from Whittington

Aesthetically, Whittington looks a lot like Robert Covington out on the court. His jumper looks strong, he moves his feet well and has some good, fundamental moves defensively, and he overpowered a league that wasn’t ready for him physically. He will face more resistance at the NBA level, but it doesn’t mean that he couldn’t succeed in a narrow role as an off-ball forward and team defender.

Now, it would take a lot for him to rise even to that level. The 27-year-old is starting out on a two-way contract with the Nuggets, and though he fills a potential void in Denver’s rotation as a long, mobile forward, he will be facing an upward battle to receive playing time. At forward, Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, and JaMychal Green will certainly be ahead of Whittington on the depth chart, while Bol Bol probably will be as well. With Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and others already established in the rotation with high minute totals, it would take a lot for Whittington just to see the time of day.

Still, if Whittington does get out on the floor, Nuggets fans can expect a hustler, playmaker, and outside shooter at the forward position. He won’t make the highlight level plays that a Porter or Bol can from game to game, but he could definitely become a player to raise Denver’s floor going forward. If Whittington’s skill set is playable against teams with difficult matchups for Denver’s incumbent forwards to handle, then Denver might be best served by throwing Whittington out there to see if he could handle it.

It’s difficult to know whether Whittington will be able to keep up with NBA competition. Perhaps, it’s easier to assume that he won’t, especially in escalated scenarios like the NBA playoffs. It’s one thing to stop the EuroCup’s best at the rim and quite another to step in front of LeBron James or Zion Williamson.

Despite the pessimism, there is a flip side to this conversation. The Nuggets targeted Whittington specifically. With multiple teams seeking out his services, the forward chose Denver for a reason. They laid out a vision of his role in the NBA that started on a two-way contract and ended up with something far more grand. The question as to what was described and/or promised to Whittington down the line remains to be seen, but it’s quite clear that the Nuggets saw something of value in Whittington’s game. Why else would they offer one of two two-way contracts this year to a 27-year-old playing in Turkey?

Training camp and preseason may offer a larger window into Denver’s vision with Whittington. We will see if he receives enough opportunities to showcase his potential to impact the Nuggets going forward.