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Film Friday: The young guns are here to stay

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-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.

After a brutal month of February, the Denver Nuggets are thanking their lucky stars that the All-Star break is finally here. P.J. Dozier is finally back from an injury, but the same can not be said for the rest of the roster. They have done well to avoid Covid-19 protocols thus far outside of a few players here and there, but they haven’t avoided the injury bug, especially of late. Maybe this break will finally allow them to get healthy.

Nikola Jokic is the only player that has suited up for every game this season. Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Monte Morris and Facundo Campazzo are the only other players that have cleared 30 games. This team has been able to tread water thanks to Jokic and star performances from Murray, but their depth is being pushed to its limits with guys like R.J. Hampton, Zeke Nnaji and Isaiah Hartenstein all getting extended minutes.

Following the break, their rotation should see an adjustment due to more bodies, and it will be curious to see how the minutes shake out for guys like Hampton, Nnaji and Campazzo who have all performed well in the absence of the guys ahead of them. Will the minutes look more like the Milwaukee Bucks which sees their starters take a reduced workload? Or, will we see those players take the back seat again? That’s what we are looking at today.

*All stats, film and analysis were done prior to the team’s 3/4/2021 game against the Indiana Pacers.*

Zeke Nnaji

Getting on the floor and being successful is a pre-requisite to becoming a long-term piece with this roster. After shooting below 30 percent from 3-point range in college at Arizona, Zeke has turned things around to shoot 41.2 percent from distance. He also is already showing off good cutting skills towards the basket which is something not every player on the team knows how to do. Here, he lets all of the eye candy and screens distract his defender before he heads to the basket for the easy layup. Being a value to the offense without requiring the ball in your hands is a perfect fit in Denver.

Playing well with Jokic is important on offense, but playing well on the defensive end is how you convince Michael Malone that you need to stay on the floor. We’ve seen with Michael Porter Jr. over the last two seasons that defensive lapses will get you bounced off the floor in a hurry. For a rookie, Zeke rarely has those lapses. On this play, he’s tasked with guarding the right wing part of the zone, he stays in a position to make a play on Khris Middleton, but he’s also able to cheat over for the steal. Making a play without overhelping is something the rest of this roster has struggled with throughout this season.

R.J. Hampton

Just like we said with Zeke, the same goes for Hampton on offense. You have to know how to cut and play off of Jokic. Hampton doesn’t have the shooting chops of Nnaji and some of the other guys on the roster, so he makes up for that with his cuts to the rim. His athleticism allows him to elevate well for a guard. On this play, Hampton wisely waits for his defender to overhelp on Jokic, as most defenders do, and heads into the paint for the easy layup.

One of Hampton’s major calling cards coming out of the draft was his wingspan. He’s 6’4” with a 6’7” wingspan, and, similar to P.J. Dozier, he can alter shots that not every guard is able to get to. He puts that length on display here by getting a block. It’s not often that 3-point shots get blocked, and it’s even rarer for a guard to get a block that far away from the rim. Hampton’s length and athleticism are forcing his way onto the court.

Facundo Campazzo

Everybody’s favorite point guard is here to stay. Facu has quickly made a name for himself with the Nuggets, and he was rewarded by being named to the Team World for the rising stars game at All-Star Weekend. Facu knows his role well, and he doesn’t try to do more than he’s capable of. He averages the fourth-most 3-point attempts per 36 minutes because his size makes it difficult for him to get shots off inside. On this play, he’s being guarded by Russell Wesbrook. He sees Westbrook overhelping, and he just waits for the ball get to him. He needs to improve on the 37.9 percent that he’s hitting 3-point shots, but he knows his role on offense.

The fact that Campazzo gets to this ball is impressive in itself. He lacks height and length, but he makes up for it with aggressiveness and instincts. He’s got an eye on the ball handler, and he’s just waiting for a chance to make a play. As soon as he sees the screener coming his way, he makes his move. Even if he’s unable to take it down and score on a fastbreak, he generated an extra possession for the offense. Having capable guard depth that can play both ends of the floor allows Denver to continue to have depth be a strength that not every team will have.

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.