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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Miami Heat Rhona Wise-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.

Well, it took them a little bit, but the Denver Nuggets look like they might finally have their feet underneath them. After starting the season 6-7 through their first 13 games, they’ve ripped off a five-game winning streak, and their roster, namely Michael Porter Jr., is fully healthy in time for a key stretch with games against teams with winning records in three of their next five games, including games against the top two teams in the Western Conference in the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers.

Denver still has some kinks to work out. One of their chief ones is their inability to play full games. They frequently get blown out in at least one quarter of a game, and, unless they have a big lead, it puts them in a significant hole. However, they are starting to make some improvements in key areas which has helped them push all the way up to the fourth spot out West after they were in 11th earlier this week.

Today, we’re looking at a couple of different areas. We’re looking at some of the good and some of the bad to see where the Nuggets stand now and where they could be heading. With how stacked the conference appears so far, winning games early in the season matters a ton. The top seven teams are separated by four or fewer games, and they all have at least 10 wins. Let’s see how Denver’s doing.

Effort

This is such a small thing, and it sucks to realize it was ever an issue. These guys are played to play basketball every day. There are people in this world that only dream about it, and they get to live it. At times this season, there have been effort issues. Players either haven’t closed out or rotated hard enough, and it’s given up open shots. On this play, that’s not an issue for Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. They have Duncan Robinson, a career 43.1 percent 3-point shooter getting the ball for a 3-point attempt. Paul fights to stall the initial attempt, and Jokic uses his length over the screen to bother the actual shot and force a miss. Effort wins close games.

There were a couple of other plays from this game that I thought about going with, but I chose this one for a simple reason. It’s an issue that has been improved upon this season already. Just a few weeks ago, Gary Harris doesn’t close out here. None of the defense was. They were collapsing hard on the paint, but they weren’t sprinting to the 3-point arc. Harris crashes, but he hustles out to the line for the contest and forces the miss. Those plays add up over the course of the game.

When one JG leaves another takes his place

When Jerami Grant left in the offseason, it looked like Denver was about to be in a lot of trouble. He was a key piece to their rotation, and he was starting for them in the postseason against guys like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. While JaMychal Green isn’t starting, he’s providing great minutes off the bench for them. He gives them a big body inside on defense, and he’s third on the team in Offensive Box Plus/Minus behind Jokic and MPJ. Whenever he shares the floor with Isaiah Hartenstein, his 3-point shooting helps space the floor so much for everyone else.

Wings that can defend multiple positions, specifically both forward spots, don’t grow on trees. Denver had one in Grant. He left, and, while Green isn’t the same player athletically, he’s holding his own on the defensive end. Here, he goes one-on-one with Kristaps Porzingis, and he comes out of the battle with a win. Green doesn’t have to get out of these battles with a win every time, but it helps that they can count on him for production more often than not.

The Return of MPJ

Everyone knows Porter for his work on offense. However, in the four games since he returned from the Covid-19 protocol, the team ranks fifth in defensive rating, and Porter is second on the team among rotation players in defensive rating. Porter’s jumping ability allows him to affect shots most others can’t get to, and that boosts the rest of the defense every time he can make a play like this.

On the offensive end, he’s just a problem solver for your offense. If you need a bailout late in the shot clock, just imagine that you’re a hedge fund on Wall Street and you shorted Gamestop. You’re going to get taken care of. On this play, he just rises up and knocks down one would be a tough shot for most wings. For Porter, with his high release, that’s an easy shot 10 times out of 10.

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.