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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: I’d like to buy a bucket

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-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.

I don’t know if it’s the new ball that the NBA is using, or if someone put a cover on the Nuggets’ rims when they weren’t looking. All I do know is the Nuggets couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat right now. Last season, Denver had 10 players that shot at least 35 percent from 3-point range. After eight games this year, they have just four players above that mark right now in Zeke Nnaji, Bones Hyland, Will Barton and Nikola Jokic, with Nnaji having taken only three shots from downtown this year.

Knockdown shooter Michael Porter Jr. is in the worst shooting slump of his life at just 21.7 percent from 3-point range. Monte Morris had shot at least 37.8 percent from 3-point range in his previous three seasons, and he’s shooting just 31.0 percent this season. The Nuggets rank 28th in the NBA in 3-point percentage at just 30.0 percent overall. Since they shot 17-of-39 from 3-point range in their first game of the season, they haven’t made more than 11 in any of their seven games since.

Denver’s defense was able to carry them when the offense was sputtering, but that’s not going to be the case forever. The entire NBA has seen a downtick in their 3-point shooting, but regression will come, and Denver needs to find a way to get their shooters rolling again before other teams start beating them in shootouts because their gunners aren’t hitting. We talked about Porter last week, so this will be more focused on the rest of the roster. If you are interested in reading about some of his struggles, you can find that article here.

Monte Morris needs to heat up

I don’t know what it is with Morris, but, after being super steady as a guard the last three seasons, he’s been ice cold to start the season. Morris is shooting just 31 percent from 3-point range this year, and it’s not as though he’s been getting a ton of bad looks. Of Morris’ 29 3-point attempts, 17 of them have been classified as wide open, which means the nearest defender is six or more feet away. He’s shooting 35.3 percent on those looks. Looking at the shot above, there’s no reason that Morris should be missing this shot. He has all of the time in the world to get the ball up, and there’s no defender anywhere near him. With Jamal Murray on the shelf, they need Morris’ shooting to elevate the lineup.

We’re looking at this play for a couple of reasons. Morris finds his spot in the corner and settles in for the easy triple, but take a look at the pass that Bones Hyland makes to find him. For one, corner 3-pointers are consistently viewed as the best 3-point shot for players to take, so Morris is in the right spot here. Hyland has looked exciting off of the bench, and he brings a drive-and-kick ability to this squad that can fit in both lineups. Hyland has the attention of three different defenders, and he squeezes through before flipping the ball over to Morris in the corner. If Morris needs to operate off of the ball more to get better looks, Hyland might be a good player to pair him with.

Get Hyland More Shots

The rookie Hyland didn’t play in three of the team’s first four games, and he only saw minutes during garbage time against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, he’s proceeded to see consistent minutes off of the bench in the last four games, and he’s become one of the more consistent shooters the Nuggets have, as he’s one of their four players shooting above the league average at 36.4 percent. Hyland is a guy that plays with a ton of confidence, and he has no problem playing on or off of the ball. On this play, he starts in the corner and goes towards Nikola Jokic for the dribble handoff. When he sees that the driving lane is closed off, he finds Morris who initiates a drive, but Hyland stays ready for the ball and hits the open 3-point shot.

Hyland brings more spacing to the floor than the other guards currently on the second unit. Among Denver’s non-starting guards, P.J. Dozier ranks second behind Bones in 3-point percentage at 31.6 percent. After Dozier, it’s Austin Rivers down at a lowly 25 percent. Hyland still has to make improvements to his game, but he can legitimately shoot which makes room for guys like Rivers that do more work down inside the paint. On this play, Rivers gets the pass from Facundo Campazzo, and the help defense shuts off his window to get the shot off. When that happens, Hyland hits the open shot. Considering the struggles this offense has had, someone hitting an open shot is more than enough to get into the lineup.

Jeff Green or JaMychal Green Come on Down

Until last season, Michael Malone was never really a fan of playing a small-ball center. He had long rolled with Mason Plumlee. With Plumlee gone, the team went with Isaiah Hartenstein for a little while before Malone eventually caved and had Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green as the center for some minutes. Now, his backup centers are JaMychal and Jeff Green. That works, as long as one of them can knock down an outside shot. After eight games, they’re a combined 6-of-32 from 3-point range. Simply put, one of them has to make a shot. In the shot above, the Minnesota Timberwolves converge on the Nuggets’ guards and leave Jeff alone in the corner. Even with a defender closing out on him, the shot is largely uncontested, and he just misses it. As the small-ball center for this team, Green needs to at least be hitting 30 percent of his shots from outside. That’s a low bar, and he’s still missing it.

JaMychal and Jeff must be having a competition of anything you can do I can do better because they’ve been roughly the same player all year. JaMychal has attempted two fewer 3-points in 25 fewer minutes, and defenses are defending him the exact same way. He’s hovering around the 3-point line to space the floor, and the ball finds him when his defender sags off of him, but no one goes flying towards him to try and contest the shot. They just leave him open, and he’s missing more than he’s making. If either one of these guys can start making shots consistently, they’ll lock up the backup center minutes immediately.

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.