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 Denver Nuggets will go as far as Nikola Jokic is able to take them. He’s a superstar for this team, and he’s one of the 10 best players in the NBA. He gets overlooked by the national media because Denver’s a small market. He doesn’t put up crazy scoring lines on a regular basis because he’s willing to let his teammates help him by setting them up. Despite those doubters, he’s still the best center in the NBA by far.
Through three scrimmage games, Jokic left a lot to be desired. He’s been consistently willing to let others lead the charge on offense, and he’s not been very accurate on the occasions when he’s the one leading. In three games, he averaged 9.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. Collectively, he shot 7-of-16 through the three games, which isn’t that bad, but it is when you consider he’s consistently shot greater than 50 percent from the floor over the last three years.
He could come out in the first game and flip the switch to make us forget all of this. What if he doesn’t? What if he comes out with the rust we’re used to seeing from him at the beginning of the season, and he isn’t able to get it back before the playoff rounds? There isn’t much space separating them from getting a lower seed and a harder path. Who has to step up in that case?
Will Barton Needs to Score
If Jokic isn’t scoring, Barton needs to take on that role. Jokic brings about 20 points per game on an average night, and Barton can do that when he’s on. He needs to be aggressive when searching for his opportunities. Take a look at this clip above. He’s got a one-on-one opportunity with some absolute trees behind him, but that doesn’t phase him. When Barton thinks he has a shot, you’re not going to stop him from getting there.
Aggressive plays like this one are the ones that can open up the floor for everyone else. Barton is charging towards the basket, and the help defense collapses from the corner. He kicks it out to an open 3-point shooter. Ball movement and pressure can then give someone like Jokic open shots to try and get in their own rhythm. If Jokic isn’t scoring that night, Barton is going to have to be that key other piece that can pick things up.
Jamal Murray Must be a Leader
Jokic is this team’s leader, and they follow what he does. Paul Millsap gives a veteran presence for the younger players to lean on. Jamal Murray got a fat contract extension last offseason, and he’s been up-and-down living up to it. If Jokic isn’t himself during the restart, Murray needs to match his price tag. They need to count on him to knock down open shots like the one above. It’s not the most efficient shot, but it’s one he has to hit. He does, and that helps to build momentum.
Jokic is always the guy leading the charge with his passes, but he also averaged six turnovers per game in the scrimmages. Murray needs to show that he can handle that primary ball-handler responsibility. When he goes into traffic, he stays calm, and he finds the open shooter. Whenever he is the one driving inside, teams are going to collapse on him. They always do, and he needs to keep that calm and trust the other guys. A leader can take all of the weight on his shoulders, or he can trust his teammates to help him out.
Paul Millsap Has to Turn Back the Clock
At age 35, Millsap is closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it. He’s rarely going to be your leading scorer, and, while he’s still a good defender, he’s not as fleet-of-foot as he used to be. Sometimes though, he can make plays like this. He gets a position that he wants and goes to work. He’s backing down his man, and, once he gets some space, he puts up a fadeaway jumper. That’s the old-school Millsap they’ll need.
What he lacks in athleticism, he’s learned to make up for with his veteran savvy. Josh Okogie is much younger and more athletic, but he still gets blocked on this play because Millsap knows how to get to the ball. Jokic is this team’s primary rim defender when he’s on the floor, but Millsap can absorb that responsibility. He’s not going to be able to match up with the biggest centers because of their size. However, if he can effectively deter these smaller guards, that’ll save Jokic a lot of energy over the course of a game.
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