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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: Share that sugar

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-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.

In NBA 2K17, one of the main lines said by the in-game commentators when there was a sweet assist was to “Share that sugar.” I always thought it was a corny line, and my thought on that hasn’t exactly changed. However, it is a phrase that has still stuck with me the last few years when watching the best offenses in the league. You’re going to have your superstars carry the team late, or you’re going to ride the hot hand. When the entire offense is working though, you’re sharing the wealth across the board.

In 2020-21, the Denver Nuggets were 37-16 in games where they registered at least 25 assists. In games with 30 or more assists, they were 14-3. In games where they had fewer than 25 assists, they were 10-9 with all nine of those losses coming against playoff teams. The best teams always bring out the best in their opponents, and the Nuggets are going to get their opponent’s best shot every night. When that happens, they need to bring each other up rather than relying on one or two guys.

With Jamal Murray still on the shelf for the next few months, it will be even more important for everyone else to elevate the other guys around them. It’s a long and grueling season, as we saw last year when the guard position was beaten down by the time the playoffs came around, and this team can’t just rely on Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. to beat opponents every night. Everyone needs to be involved in moving the ball and sharing that sugar as it were.

You Make Everyone A Threat

This play is going to set up the next one. There’s no assist here, unless you count screen assists. Will Barton drives to the basket and gets the layup to fall. Carmelo Anthony sees the play coming, and he could slide over to help. Instead, he hangs out in no-man’s land which gives Barton room to get the shot off. How does this play set up the next one we’re going to talk about? Let’s take a look.

Barton has shown on many occasions that he’ll drive to the basket and put up contested shots. He makes no qualms about it, and he never lacks confidence. He’s already made multiple contested shots in this game against you, so, when it happens again, what are you going to do? Barton drives to the basket with some separation, and it forces Damian Lillard to leave his man to cut off the driving lane. When that happens, P.J. Dozier becomes unaccounted for and gets the easy basket. When you pass the ball, you make everyone else more dangerous which makes you more difficult to defend.

Use Your Best Players Best Skill

Jokic is great at many things on and off of the basketball court. However, the skill that separates him from essentially every other center that has ever played the game is his passing. Jokic finds players anywhere at any time, and this forces defenses into one of two situations. Double Jokic and leave a shooter or cutter open, or give Jokic a one-on-one matchup where he’s going to score far more often than not. This play is a great example of how little it takes for you to be wrong and for Jokic to take advantage. He’s working the two-man game with Markus Howard. Howard flips the ball to Jokic, and his man shades just a half step towards him to threaten the double team. Once he does that, Howard cuts to the rim for the easy layup. Jokic doesn’t need much, and he makes it an impossible decision for you with plays like this.

Jahlil Okafor isn’t a small guy. He measures in at 270 pounds. You could have told me he weighed 170 pounds on this play, and I would have believed you. Jokic just bullies him until he gets to his spot, and he puts the shot up over his outstretched hand for the easy basket. This is the bind that Jokic puts you in with his passing. Even with it very clear that Jokic is planning on putting up a shot, no other Detroit Piston tries to come and contest the shot because they would rather give up the contested two-point shot over leaving their man open. Jokic averaged a career-high 8.3 assists per game last year, and he could push that even higher this year.

More Room to Work

*Initiate the scramble drill* That’s basically what happens here for the Golden State Warriors. Denver has the ball moving, and the defense starts switching assignments. When that happens, someone is going to end up slipping through the cracks. Porter is that guy on this play. Dozier drives towards the lane, and, once that happens, multiple players slide towards him which leaves Porter unattended. Kelly Oubre Jr. closes out on him, but Porter lets him blow by. With the amount of passing and rotations that took place, no one has a chance to contest the shot, and it’s an easy make.

Some shooters have lightning-fast shots or a high release that makes it tough to block them. Other guys take a little longer, and it can be difficult for them to get off shots without that extra second. When you’re passing the ball around, the defense has to be stretched thinner which gives that extra second. While we had MPJ in the last clip, this one has JaMychal Green, who is far from the fastest jump shooter. Monte Morris drives to the lane and somehow finds the space to get Green the ball. C.J. McCollum is the only defender left on that half of the floor, and he has no chance to get to Green in time for a good contest which leads to the easy make.

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.