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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: Welcome Aaron Gordon, Let’s get to work

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-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… that was a pretty eventful day, wasn’t it? First thing’s first. Welcome, Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark. We’re glad to have you. Gary Harris, thank you for your time with the organization and for helping to bring this team from a perennial cellar-dweller to a Western Conference Finals participant. R.J. Hampton, your time with the team was brief, but you have a bright future ahead of you in this league. All that being said, let’s get to today’s topic.

The Denver Nuggets have largely been a silent player during the trade deadline in previous seasons. That wasn’t the case yesterday with two trades going down with the Nuggets upgrading the status of their frontcourt in a couple of ways. The first pillar to fall came in the morning when the team sent Isaiah Hartenstein and two draft picks for Javale McGee. The big move came later on when Denver sent out Harris, Hampton and a future first-round pick for Gordon. They saw Nikola Jokic’s MVP campaign, and they wanted to maximize their chances of success this year.

Gordon will likely be starting for Denver alongside Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr. and Jokic. This is one of the best five-man groups in the NBA if Barton is able to rediscover some of his consistency. We’re here to discuss Gordon and his fit with this team. Every player is added to this roster with the expectation they can fit with Jokic. Gordon has to show early on that he can do that, and these are the areas that he will need to matter the most.

Flash to the Rim

Pick and rolls involving both bigs are not the most common thing because few teams have two bigs that can operate that type of action together. However, when you have a pairing like Jokic and Gordon, you can put opponents into awkward situations. Gordon’s well known for his ability to sky to the rim. On this play, he runs the traditional pick-and-roll with point guard Markelle Fultz, and it’s one of the easiest buckets you’ll see with the easy dunk at the rim. Playing alongside Jokic, he can force centers to try and roll with him which will allow him free runs because of his speed. If he can get consistent points like this, he’ll fit in right away.

One of Harris’ best skills was his ability to slash to the rim. Now, instead of a 6’4” guard, it’s being done by a 6’8” forward with a 39” vertical jump. Gordon’s ability to find the dead space in a defense cannot be overstated. There are multiple instances where he catches his defender slipping, and he gets a free run to the rim. On this play, he performs a little slip screen to gain some separation. Once the shooter takes the baseline defender to the corner, he gets a free run to the rim for an easy dunk. While he may never have a consistent jumper, he’ll get easy dunks like this all day long when he flashes to the rim where Jokic can find him.

Stand out by Fitting in

You read that section title, and it doesn’t make a ton of sense until you think about it. Some players think they have to pour in 40 points or put up crazy stats and highlights. However, the best way to fit in on a good team that you’re new to is by just fitting in. With Denver, that’s all Gordon needs to do. They already have Jokic, Murray and Porter to put up points. Gordon will get his, but he needs to play like this. He could force up a shot in this situation. Instead, he finds Nikola Vucevic for a wide-open 3-point shot. His ability to get the ball to open players after penetrating, especially with his 4.2 assists per game this season, wll be all he needs to do on offense.

Never do too much, and play within the offense. There were times in Orlando you could tell Gordon was trying to be the hero for his team. Don’t do that in Denver. The system is set up to get players easy looks that you don’t have to force up. On this shot, Gordon has eight seconds left on the shot clock with two defenders on him. If he takes a second, he can find an open shooter across the court. Instead, he puts up a bad shot which won’t go into the stat sheet as a turnover, but that’s effectively what it is. Let your teammates help you, and the team will be better off for it.

Defensive Upgrade

The Nuggets were unable to bring back forward Jerami Grant this offseason when he elected to sign with the Detroit Pistons. With him went their best defensive forward from last year’s playoff. The team used Grant to matchup with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs, and they haven’t had that player this year. Gordon gives them that. He’s not a defensive eliminator, but he is good enough to make life easier on everyone else. Specifically, he has the physicality of Millsap while possessing the athleticism to make plays like this. Gordon is close enough to the corner that he can close out, but he’s close enough to make a play on the layup. Once he sees the cutter slash to the rim, he springs to action to block the shot off the backboard. He’s not a rim eliminator, but he can deter players from getting there.

Switches on defense are going to happen, especially in the playoffs. In the playoffs last year, every opponent put Porter into a switch with a guard because he didn’t have the lateral agility to stay in front of them without fouling which would force Michael Malone to pull him. Gordon will be slotted in next to Porter, and he can’t be the player they target on switches. On this play, he’s guarding Devin Booker on the inbounds play. It’s not the easiest play, and he’s constantly working away from Gordon. Aaron stays with him before forcing him to put up a bad jump shot. Bring that every night, and the defense should be in decent shape.

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.