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Film Friday: Transition to Something Better

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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.

The NBA, along with every other major sport-governing body, has ceased for the foreseeable future. The NCAA has cancelled March Madness. The MLB has delayed opening by at least two weeks. The NHL has put their season on an indefinite suspension. We are in a state of flux due to the Coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the globe. Despite all of that, we’re not stopping our Film Friday series. The show must go on, and, if we have nothing else that we can do, we might as well read about basketball. Right? Right.

Today, we’re looking at the Nuggets’ inability to take advantage of a numbers advantage in transition. When a team gets out in transition off of a turnover or long rebound and have a man advantage, it should be an easy bucket. Unfortunately, Denver can’t seem to do that, and it’s becoming a serious issue when we see them repeatedly blow scoring opportunities that can frequently keep them from stemming an opponents run.

2-on-1 Should Be Easy Money

Look at this clip from Wednesday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. You have a 2-on-1 situation with Monte Morris and Michael Porter Jr., who are good offensive players, against point guard Delon Wright. Wright doesn’t do anything spectacular on this play other than wait for Denver to make a move. They wait until they’re underneath the basket, and he has an easy block because they’re unable to take advantage of the huge matchup advantage of Porter.

Here, we have two athletic wings in Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant against a center in Willy Hernangómez. He’s tall, but he’s not large while also not being an elite defender with a career Defensive Box Plus/Minus of -0.6. Attacking the rim is what both of those guys are best at, but they instead dribble around waiting for the cavalry to get there before they start driving when it’s too late.

You’re Not Alone

Everyone wants to be the hero that gets the highlight dunk or layup that extends a big run, but you can be the hero by letting someone else be the hero. Will Barton has two different shooters running along the right wing up the floor with him. Torrey Craig could be a tough pass to hit, but Monte Morris is wide open as he’s fading towards the corner. If Barton hits him, he has an open look at a good shot compared to the contested layup.

I understand this is a play from a game that Denver was up by 27 at the point it takes place, but it doesn’t matter that it’s garbage time. Michael Malone has been seething mad even when the team wins that well because he wants them to play hard the entire game. P.J. Dozier is leading the transition opportunity, and he sees four red jerseys in front of him which means there are open shooters around him. Unfortunately, he forces up a bad shot rather than giving a teammate an open look. Is it nitpicking? Yes. In film, that’s what we have to do.

We Can Do Better

Sometimes, in transition, you may not have a man advantage, but you have the advantage of the defense not being set which should allow you to get an easier shot. That’s true for most teams outside of Denver. A guy can be feeling it, and that can give him the confidence to rise up no matter the situation. However, having a 6’10” power forward in your face on a contested 3-point shot when you’re in a slump is not one of those examples.

Your point guard is switched onto a center that is not known for being an elite defender. That’s a great matchup, until you remember that Jamal Murray does not excel at generating a ton of space even with his stepback. If this was in the final few seconds of the shot clock, I may look at this even as a good shot. Instead, you have 23 of the clock left, and you’re hoisting a well-contested stepback 3-point shot. We can do better than this.

Transition scoring is so important, and the best teams in the NBA excel in that area. Denver is 22nd among all teams in terms of points per possession in transition. To improve in transition, it’s either going to take an extra pass, finding the better shot or just making a different play. The bottom line is this team can be good in transition with some small adjustments throughout their game.

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.