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.
With the NBA preseason here and the Nuggets just one game in, it seems like the perfect time to overreact to the outcomes from Game 1. The starters all played 15 or fewer minutes, and superstar Nikola Jokic took just one shot on the night. So, there is definitely a ton of information that is logical that we can react to.
Ultimately, the most important outcome from the team’s 112-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. finishing the game healthy and looking good while they were out there. Additionally, the rest of the Nuggets finished the game healthy, and we did see some positive things to build on moving forward.
While it was the preseason and the team wasn’t running their normal sets, there were also some negatives that will need to be worked on before the season’s campaign begins. This Nuggets team has championship aspirations, and they don’t need to peak yet. However, they do to show that they’ve improved on issues they were displaying last year that cut their season short.
MPJ is Confident
MPJ played in just nine games last season while nursing a back injury that clearly had him off until he was sidelined for the remainder of the year. He was off to the worst shooting stretch of his career, and it was clear something wasn’t right. It’s early, but he already looks to have that confidence back. Early in the game, he got some separation from a screen by Nikola Jokic before catching the ball at the top of the key. Even with a defender right in his space, MPJ rises up for the confident jumper we’ve come to know and expect from the forward.
This one was another example of Mike just being confident in his shot. He catches the ball and immediately faces up with his defender. With the shot clock winding down, this is an isolation situation where he knows he’s taking the final shot. He uses a stepback to generate a little bit of separation before draining the fallaway jumper. It’s only been one game, but we’ve already seen that the old MPJ might just be back.
Second Unit Ball Movement
Last season, there was a clear element of struggle that the second unit was dealing with without Monte Morris to help create. This year, that second unit has more creators, but they have to be willing to get everyone involved. It’s early in the season, but there were too many instances where guys were trying to just drive or take on the defense by themselves. When they got the ball moving, better things were happening. After Bones Hyland gets his pass back from Davon Reed, DeAndre Jordan slips off of his screen and rolls to the rim where Bones feeds him the pass. The ball moving around keeps the defense off balance, and it makes it easier for everyone on the floor.
I like to imagine that Gregg Popovich was watching this play somewhere and smiling. It’s nothing overly special. Jordan receives the pass from Bones. After surveying the floor, he does a dribble handoff to Jeff Green who starts cutting towards the lane which forces the defense to rotate. He could put up a contested floater, but he sees the wide-open Davon Reed in the corner for the easy 3-point shot. This second unit can put up points this year, but they have to keep moving and keep everyone involved.
Zeke Nnaji Time
After a down year last season, Zeke Nnaji is primed for a breakout this year. The third-year forward recently had his fourth-year option picked up, and he could see a big role on the roster this season. He led the Nuggets in points with 15 in the first game, and he did so while only making one 3-point shot, which has been a huge part of his offense early on in his career. On this play, Nnaji was working as the screener, but he makes sure to just stay around the play after it initially goes away from him. Ish Smith drives and kicks to Vlatko Cancar. Cancar rises up and drops the pass to Nnaji, who is hanging out in the dunker spot and gets the tough two points through contact. It was reported Nnaji put up some weight this offseason, and he looks like he’s a bit stronger for sure.
This was another prime example of the increased strength that Nnaji was showing in the game against the Thunder. After boxing his man out of position under the basket, he goes to work for the rebound. He misses the initial putback attempt, but he doesn’t give up on the play. He snags two more rebounds before eventually tipping the ball in despite multiple defenders being around him.
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