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2021-22 Denver Nuggets Media Day Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Can PJ Dozier be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate?

After missing the playoffs with injury, the Nuggets need PJ Dozier more than ever, can he step in?

PJ Dozier 2020-21 per game statistics

Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Field Goal % Three-Point % Box Plus-Minus
50 21.8 7.7 3.6 1.8 41.7 31.5 -3.0

Overview

PJ Dozier had been a player who bounced around the league, first signing with the Dallas Mavericks, then playing in Oklahoma City and Boston, and finally landing in the Mile High City. Ever since arriving in Denver, he’s been an intriguing player with high defensive upside. He first signed with the Nuggets on a two-way contract but was soon converted to a standard contract just before the bubble on June 30th, 2020.

The contract he signed was a steal of a deal; it secured him for 3 years for just $3.9 million. That’s just above the league minimum for a player who has given the Nuggets very solid and productive minutes during his time here. Quite frankly, the Nuggets front office should be thanking their lucky stars they got him on such a cheap contract.

He’s brought very good — and at certain points elite — defense to Denver’s rotation. Hell, through the first 17 games of last season, he brought great three point shooting too; shooting 40.5 percent on 2.2 three point attempts a game. Then, he unfortunately missed some time with injury and never really got his shot falling the same way again. In his last 33 games before he missed the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, he only shot 28.6 percent from three on 3.4 attempts a game.

If Dozier can return to that 40 percent three point shooter he was before suffering his first injury, it would make a world of difference for the Nuggets this year. By adding a deadly shot to his already great defense while mixing in some underrated passing (especially out of the pick and roll), you get a player that is extremely valuable in this league. Dozier has the potential to be an all-around defensive minded wing with good length, someone who could realistically cover both guard positions and a significant number of forwards in the league.

PJ Dozier seems primed to make a leap. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen.

Best Case for 2021-22

PJ Dozier’s best case scenario would be winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. I don’t think it’s that outlandish of a take to say he could get some buzz for it this year either. It’ll take a lot for him to accomplish such a feat, but he’s more than capable of doing it with some improvements here and there.

It would definitely take him shooting at bare minimum 37 percent from 3 on significant volume, which he was in line to accomplish before injuries derailed him last season. Another leap he’d have to take on the offensive end is being able to be a primary playmaker with the bench unit. I think that aspect of his game is already pretty far along though; and if current backup point guard Facu Compazzo struggles to create high level offense in high leverage games, it’s possible that head coach Michael Malone could ask PJ to do just that instead.

On the other end of the floor, he’d have to play at an all-defensive team level for the entire season. This is the part of his game that I feel most comfortable in saying is elite, and I think he’ll be able to show that this season. Will Barton or Monte Morris will more than likely miss some time, and on those nights I wouldn’t be surprised to see PJ start to defend the opposing teams’ best guard. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play heavy minutes off the bench to do the exact same thing either.

Worst Case for 2021-22

The worst case for PJ Dozier would be him falling out of the rotation due to injuries. As Michael Malone said, the biggest concern for Dozier is his health, so it’s not an unfounded belief if one might think he will miss too much time to be a consistent option.

Last season as a whole was a hellscape for all teams with injuries due to the ridiculous physical strain put on the players as a result of a heavily compressed schedule. It’s very possible that, given a full offseason to rest and recover, that Dozier can put some of his injury issues behind him and string together a strong season.

Beyond the injuries, if Dozier’s shooting never fully comes around for a full season and he remains inconsistent, it will be difficult to justify investing heavily into a role playing guard. The Nuggets are hopeful is shot comes around, but there’s a massive difference between a 40 percent shooter on high volume and a 31 percent shooter on moderate volume, which was where Dozier finished last year. If the shooting never bounces back, the Nuggets may struggle to score efficiently with Dozier playing a significant role.

One Bold Prediction

My bold prediction — and goal — for PJ Dozier this season would be that he’ll make an all-defensive team. He has the tools and grit to do it.

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