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.
First off, let me start off by saying a quick Happy Thanksgiving to those of you that celebrate. Now that we got that out of the way, welcome back to another Friday of film study. The Nuggets are 11-7 and just 0.5 games back from the first-place Phoenix Suns. Prior to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray being placed into the league’s health & safety protocols, the team had ripped off seven wins in their previous nine games after starting the season 2-2.
This team has shown the ability to win in a multitude of ways on any given night. There are nights when Nikola Jokic has to carry them with 39 points, and there are others where he can score 15 or less while the team wins by double digits. Prior to a recent shooting slump, Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were the hottest shooters in the NBA and absolutely thriving alongside Jokic. The cherry on top of it all has been Aaron Gordon, who was miscast as a primary option last season, but he is in a wonderful spot as a secondary option this year.
Throw in the contributions we’ve seen from the second unit with guys like Bruce Brown, who is fresh off of his first career triple double, Bones Hyland, who had a career-high 29 points in Sunday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, and this team looks poised to do some real damage. We have plenty of time this year to focus on what the team is doing wrong, so we’re focusing on what they’re doing right today.
Runnin’ & Gunnin’
With Jokic in the starting lineup over the last few seasons, the Nuggets have never been one of the NBA’s speedy teams. They have often been slow and methodical while he works his way up the court. However, this season, they have the pieces around him to get out and run without having the offense fall apart, and one of the main reasons why has to do with their shooters. KCP is shooting 49.4 percent, and, prior to his recent slump, MPJ was over 50 percent from downtown. On this play, KCP swipes the ball away from his man, and the four non-Jokic players are off to the races. Gordon is inside with a mismatch on a point guard while MPJ is cutting to the rim with a step on his man while KCP has room to rise up for the shot. Adding his shooting to the rest of the lineup gave the team another layer to their attack that they didn’t have before.
This play starts again with a defensive play by KCP, and everyone is off and running. You’re in a five-on-two situation if you’re the Nuggets, so there are plenty of scoring opportunities available to you. KCP could dish it to Jokic in front of him or the trailer behind him in Murray. Instead, he finds the team’s other white-hot shooter in MPJ on the right wing. He gets his feet under him, and he rises up for the knockdown triple. Getting these shooters rolling early in a game makes life more difficult on the defense down the stretch, and it also will open up more room inside the arc to the team’s non-outside shooters.
The argument between Brown and KCP as the best offseason addition for the Nuggets is going to be one that we have all year long. Between Brown’s ability to do essentially whatever the team asks of him and KCP’s ability to be the glue guy that pulls the starting unit together, they have absolutely crushed it through 18 games. For Brown, his ability to be a ball-handler for the second unit and even with the starters when Murray is out of the lineup has been a godsend for a team that had traded away Monte Morris this offseason. This play by Brown is great because it shows off his quick reaction and action skills. Zeke Nnaji realizes that he has gotten behind the defense, so he floats to the open space in the dunker’s spot where Brown will be able to find him. After Brown gets around the Jokic screen, he fires the pass to Nnaji, who finishes the reverse layup before the defense can get in position to stop him. Brown running the offense just means the team has one more ball-handler to make everyone else’s life easier.
There are still times when Bones gets a little too confident in his shooting ability, but he has shown more of a willingness to play within the offense recently with six or more assists in three of his last six full games. This play is a great example of that. Earlier in the season, Bones is likely finding a way to force up a shot in this situation. Here, he drives and waits for the help defense to rotate over. Once it does, he holds the ball just long enough to whip the pass around the defender to a wide-open Vlatko Cancar.
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.