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.
Last week, I took a look at what the Nuggets needed to improve on with the NBA season preparing to restart. The talks of that return have progressed even more, and basketball is coming back. I wanted to end this week with a little bit of positivity, so we’re going to take a gander at what Denver does well.
While it has felt all year like they consistently have to win ugly and have lost to bad teams, they are better than you’d think. They’re top 10 in offensive rating, and they have a solid defense at 12th overall. The best teams accomplish multiple tasks that allow them to propel to the top of the league, and the Nuggets are no different. Because of these achievements, they’re one of the top six teams in the NBA right now.
Passing Gets a Passing Grade
I have dogged the Nuggets a couple of times this year for poor passing. I’ve seen multiple games where they’ve gotten beaten by teams that take advantage of their isolation style of play at times. In years past, teams that have lead the NBA in assists or passes made have typically had some of the top offenses. Makes sense right? More assists generally equals more points. Denver is taking a bit of a different approach.
They have a top 10 offense in efficiency which is part of the reason that they don’t have the same number of potential assists as other teams. They’re in the top seven of passes made and assists per game. However, they’re 18th in potential assists per game. This is because of how frequently their assists lead to baskets. A whopping 63.4 percent of their points are directly off of assists, which is good enough for sixth in the league. They’re also third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. Piling up assists while you take care of the ball is a good recipe for success.
On the particular play above, Nikola Jokic has an advantage on the switch. We see him make this basket two or three times every single game. Instead of taking that shot, he sees Jamal Murray wide open for a 3-point opportunity. While he has a decent shot, he understands that Murray has a great one. That’s an easy decision, and Murray rewards him for it.
Board Men Get Paid
We all know this now classic line made famous by the silent killer that is Kawhi Leonard. Rebounds can just break down an opponent’s spirit after you get several in a row on the same possession. With their size and rebounding skills, Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. have been helping Denver be near the top of the league in the offensive rebounding category.
They’re third in offensive rebounding percentage with 29.4 percent. That means that they’re getting nearly one third of the offensive rebounds possible in a given game. In a long playoff series, they’re going to add up, and those few points are going to make all the difference. They were over 30 percent in their series loss to the Portland Trail Blazers last year, but they also outscored them by over 10 points over the course of the series. If they improve their clutch play in the playoffs this year, it’s a brand new ballgame with this team.
On this play that we’re looking at, Porter doesn’t really have any easy route to getting this ball. He’s out at the 3-point line with two different Cleveland Cavaliers in front of him. He bullies Cedi Osman to get closer to the rim, and he just uses that 7’ wingspan to tip the ball out to himself. One quarter of his rebounds per game are offensive boards, and those extra possessions add up over the course of 48 minutes.
Wide Open Spaces
First of all, let’s have some sympathy for the New York Knicks that shoot a whopping 34.4 percent on wide open 3-point attempts. That’s nearly a full eight percent worse than the league-leading Utah Jazz. Meanwhile, Denver is a respectable sixth in that area. They’re hitting those shots at a 40.2 percent clip. They have the ability to make teams pay for leaving them open, and that can make a difference against a team that tries to run in transition.
More often than not, those open shot attempts are going to come in the middle of the game. Teams are tired, and they’re willing to let those points slide while focusing up more in the later stages of the game. Denver forces you to either cover them or give up a free three points when you let that happen.
At the beginning of a game, teams are at their most fresh point. They should be playing their hardest defense until the fourth quarter at this point right? Well, someone should have told Charlotte that before they gave up a wide open look to Will Barton less than two minutes into the game. They made a 3-point shot of their own on the other end, but that doesn’t matter when you let it get negated right away by failing to close out.
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.