If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
After a break due to a pretty busy last couple of weeks, we are back with another edition of Film Friday. The NBA season is right around the corner, and, while some teams know exactly what their starting five is going to look like, the Nuggets still have some holes to fill in. Point guard Jamal Murray, shooting guard Gary Harris and center Nikola Jokic are locked into their spots, but the two forward spots are question marks right now.
Today, we’re going to be looking at the starting five that we should expect to see for the majority of the season. There will be nights where players are rested or injured, but this is the group that we should be starting with. You start with your best five to get out to a lead. That’s what the Nuggets ultimately started to do in the playoffs after small forward Will Barton went down with a knee injury.
As a fan of the team, the main thing I’m concerned with is the defense of Michael Porter Jr. Last year, he wasn’t able to get consistent minutes until Malone had no other options because his defense was a major liability. The offensive side of the game is never going to be a problem. He’s a sharpshooter from outside with decent slashing ability. For this exercise, I’m projecting the starting five that I want to see.
Point Guard - Jamal Murray
We have no doubts about this one. The first clip isn’t even a clip. It’s just his masterpiece from the playoffs. Murray needed to live up to the contract extension that he signed last offseason, and he did that in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz. Murray had been cooking throughout the series, but he put the team in a backpack and carried them to victory for this final game. His scoring prowess was at its pinnacle in this game.
We follow up Murray’s general greatness with his ability as a one-on-one scorer. Point guards need to consistently demonstrate the ability to win mismatches with bigger players. Some players, such as John Wall or De’Aaron Fox, win with speed. That’s not how Murray wins. He shows here against Andre Iguodala his ability to modulate speeds to get the defender off balance and generate natural separation.
Shooting Guard - Gary Harris
There were people that were begrudging Gary throughout last season. People thought he was overpaid, and the Nuggets should be looking to trade him. Then, the playoffs came around, and it was clear the role that he was meant to play on this team needed to be filled. Gary is a lockdown defender for this roster, and he can comfortably guard small forwards and even smaller power forwards. He knows his role, and he excels in it.
In addition to his work as a defender, Gary needs to maintain himself as a consistent outside shooter. The idea that he’s going to shoot above or near 40 percent from 3-point range is unrealistic. Instead, Harris just needs to show that he is a threat. If he can knock down at least 35 to 36 percent of his outside attempts, that’s all this team needs out of him on a nightly basis thanks to his contributions on the defensive end and the other shooters around him.
Small Forward - Michael Porter Jr.
Similar to Murray, we’re not putting a specific clip in this spot. The team’s January 2nd win over the Indiana Pacers is the reason that Porter should be starting. Porter is one of the more unguardable players in basketball, and he’s only going to continue to improve. His ability to get a shot off over any defender while being an athletic threat inside makes him the correct choice at small forward.
This is the other area of Porter’s game that he’s already excelling in. Teams just don’t have an answer for him when he goes charging towards the rim as a rebounder. His combination of height and athleticism just make him impossible to keep off the boards. On this clip, there are four different LA Clippers inside the paint, and Porter still gets the board for an easy bucket. He needs to work on when to make those plays in terms of setting his team up at a disadvantage, but he’s still the proper play here.
Power Forward - Paul Millsap
This is the area of Millsap’s game that he really improved which took his game to a different level. For the first time in his career, Millsap shot greater than 40 percent from 3-point range. With players like Harris, Jokic and Murray who really excel on the inside, they needed someone to space the floor more, and that’s exactly what Millsap did. While he’s not an elite athlete at this stage of his career, he brings enough on offense to start alongside the young Porter.
Ultimately, this is the other reason that Millsap is staying in the starting five. He’ll probably rotate heavily with backup JaMychal Green, but his defense is still strong because of his intelligence. Against power forwards that are more fleet of foot, he’s going to run into some issues. However, when he’s allowed to just use smarts to put him in the right spot, he’s going to make the right play. While Porter is working on his defensive chops, Millsap can help bring him along.
Center - Nikola Jokic
How good is your starting center? He has roughly 74 game-winners in the last two years. Jokic just goes to a different level of play late in the game. With the emergence of Murray, the Nuggets now have two players late in the game that you can just give them the ball and have confidence they’re going to hit the final shot for you. Jokic’s scoring doesn’t always look pretty, but he’s just going to hit the shots far more often than he’s going to miss them.
You think Vic Fangio would like to have Nikola Jokic under center for the Denver Broncos on Sunday? I think that he just might. Jokic makes passes like this look routine. If you think this is easy, go outside with a basketball and try to whip a ball 50 feet on a line. You did it once? Great. Now, do it repeatedly for nine months. That’s what Jokic is doing. He may not be the best passing big in the NBA yet, but he is absolutely on track for that with plays like this.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.