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.
In the regular season, teams are carried by their depth. It allows them the ability to survive injuries to major players while other teams are struggling to get by. When the playoffs arrive, that narrative flips. If you don’t have star power, you’re not going to get very far. Even teams like the San Antonio Spurs, who live and die by the “No I in Team” mantra, had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard in their various championship runs.
X-factors off the bench or outside of your main stars can help keep you in a series with momentum plays, but, when the game is on the line, you’re handing the ball to your best guy. That’s what Denver is going to have to do when things get tight in Orlando. Nikola Jokic will be the focal point, and he’ll need someone else alongside him. Jerami Grant is this team’s x-factor, but they need someone to be another star.
Jokic and his counterpart are going to have their hands full when the playoffs kick in. Just in the Western Conference, each team, outside of the Memphis Grizzlies, has at least two legit studs on their roster. All of these teams have a star that they can rely on when the lights shine the brightest. Denver’s young roster hasn’t really been in this spot yet, but now is the time when they’ll have to be the ones that start shining.
Get Me A Bucket
The most obvious candidate to support Jokic, especially on the offensive end, is Jamal Murray. He’s the team’s third-highest paid player after Paul Millsap and Jokic, and he’s been inconsistent in living up to that price tag. When he’s on, he can absolutely cook nets. Rather than relying on raw size or speed, he uses natural skill that not everyone has.
Look at this clip, this game is on the line, and the team gives him the ball. He was up to 25 points on the night with Jokic just a hair behind him. Instead, they went to their sweet-shooting guard. He gets the switch onto a center, and he just immediately goes to work. He dribbles hard going towards the rim before pulling the ball back when he sees the big off balance. From there, it’s an easy splash. He needs to bring this type of shot-making to the bubble.
Jokic is going to be Jokic. This much is true. Teams are going to try to wear him out by running him down. They’re going to foul him hard to try and frustrate him. He’s going to come out of every game looking like he just got done in a street fight, but that never stops him. That’s why he’s arguably the best center in the NBA. He brings it every night, and he truly arrived last year in the playoffs with the performances he put up.
His shot doesn’t look particularly fluid, and he’s not the smoothest mover on the floor. However, he’s one of the best clutch players in the NBA. He has a net rating of 13.7 in clutch minutes for good reason. It doesn’t matter who he goes up against because he’s going to find a way to score. Karl Anthony-Towns is on him, and he’s playing him tight. It doesn’t matter because Jokic wants to score. He sets him up with the hesitation dribble, and he goes into a big fadeaway shot. That’s the one that you want your star making, and he makes them.
Now Get Me A Stop
I’m reusing from this last week because it’s still relevant, and Grant still doesn’t get enough praise in my opinion. He was written about all summer as the possible future at the power forward position. Through the season, he’s given you no doubt about his ability to do that. If he was starting for Denver in the playoffs against teams that play a smaller and faster style, I wouldn’t be the least-bit surprised.
Grant can guard any position on the floor well. Whether that’s Leonard, James or even Luka Dončić, you can have confidence in him. He’s strong despite being outweighed by a number of the bigger guys that he matches up with. This gives me confidence in him down on the block or out on the perimeter. If he’s switched onto James Harden, he can hang with him too.
Will Barton’s star started shining real bright in his contract year before he got his new extension. He’s a talented offensive player that can score at all three levels, and he can put in effort when motivated on defense. Similar to Grant, he can be an x-factor for this team in the playoffs, but most of his work will come on the offensive end. When he’s cooking, he takes the heat off of Jokic and Murray which opens the floor for everyone.
Barton is mostly an offensive guy, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t contribute on defense. Against the Miami Heat in early November, he was tasked with the primary coverage of Jimmy Butler. After a night where he scored just 16 points on 3-of-12 shooting, it seems like Barton played pretty damn well. He’s not going to lock up players on that end like you’re going to get out of prime Kawhi, but he can help you get that late game stop to push you over the top.
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.