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.
We’re officially less than a week away from the NBA trade deadline, and teams around the league are preparing to make moves to prep them for their playoff runs or towards next season. The Nuggets find themselves in sixth place in the Western Conference in a tight race for playoff positioning. They’re just a couple of games back from the fourth-place Utah Jazz while being 3.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Lakers. Denver isn’t likely to make a huge move, but there are some options they should be looking to pursue at the deadline.
Denver is due to get starting point guard Jamal Murray back sooner rather than later, but they’re still in need of reinforcements at other spots with Michael Porter Jr. likely done for the year along with P.J. Dozier, who was traded a few weeks ago after being lost for the season with a torn ACL. Throw in the fact that the team has yet to get consistent play out of anyone other than Nikola Jokic this season, and Denver is in need of a shakeup.
The main problem for Denver is going to be finding movable pieces. MPJ, Jokic, Murray and Aaron Gordon are locked in for the foreseeable future, but what about everyone else? This team is all being built around that group of four, and, if there are better fits available on the market, Denver should be looking to pursue them, especially if they are under contract for next season when all of their stars should be fully healthy.
Wing Help off of the Bench
Orlando Magic forward Terrence Ross would fit in perfectly on the Nuggets roster off of the bench, and the team has already made a trade with Orlando in the last year when they acquired Gordon. Now, they could look to add another wing from them to bolster their scoring off of the bench at a position of weakness. Denver’s roster is heavy at the guard spot and the power forward spot, but they don’t have a ton of depth at the wing and small forward spot. For his career, Ross is a career 36.4 percent shooter from 3-point range, and his price point is even cheaper this season as he’s shooting just 31.4 percent. However, you can see on plays like the one above where Ross knows how to play a simple role within the offense as an off-ball shooter that can run off of a screen. Players always need to be able to play off of Jokic to function on this roster, and Ross fits that bill. However, that’s not all that he can do.
The Nuggets’ bench often has the inability to score because they have no one that can create their own shot. Some of that will be alleviated when Monte Morris goes back to the second unit, but they could use another consistent shot-creator in that group. Ross has that ability. On this play, he’s being guarded tightly by Luke Kennard. He sets him up with a couple of dribbles before driving towards the cup and making the acrobatic layup around the bigs at the rim. Ross won’t be the best setup man for everyone else, but, if he can consistently be a threat to score, he’d give this team someone on the bench that can be a microwave scorer for them.
A Bench Big
When playing backup center on this Nuggets’ roster, you have two jobs. One of them is on each end of the floor. On the offensive end, your job is to be big around the basket and to finish off easy looks. When the team had Mason Plumlee, the two-man game between he and Morris often consisted of pick-and-rolls that resulted in lobs to Plumlee. Since he left, the team hasn’t had a consistent player in that role, but that could change if the team were to target Nerlens Noel of the New York Knicks. The former top-10 pick has never been a great player on offense, but he still has the athleticism to elevate for big slams like the one below. There is enough shooting on the second unit to offset what he doesn’t bring in that aspect, and he’s really being brought for the other end.
The Nuggets’ second unit has been a defensive problem all year once the initial on-ball defenders get beat. There is no one behind them to deter drives to the rim. Noel’s calling card on defense has always been his athleticism and his ability to rotate over when he’s guarding someone off of the ball. On this play, he’s battling with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the left wing. Once he sees his teammate get beat off of the dribble by Pat Connaughton, he starts to rotate before rising up for the huge block. Having a presence like that on the second unit would immediately elevate the play of the guys around him.
A New Sharpshooter
The Sacramento Kings have tried to move Buddy Hield a few times over the last couple of years, and they nearly traded him this last offseason before the Los Angeles Lakers decided to go in a different direction. Now, as an older player that just turned 29 on a young roster that’s not ready to compete for championships, they need to move him while he still has value. Hield is a career 40 percent 3-point shooter, and he’s been one of the best spot-up shooters in the NBA for the last several years. With MPJ sidelined for the remainder of the year, the Nuggets don’t have a high-volume 3-point artist that shoots a high percentage. The play above shows what Hield can bring even when he’s not set and standing still. The Kings are running in transition with Hield out on the break on the left wing. Tyrese Haliburton swings it out to Hield, and he rises up and knocks down the shot before the trailing defender catches up to him.
Hield had a good bit of time on the last shot to fully set himself and get the shot off. MPJ and other tall shooters have the benefit of a high release to avoid getting blocked. Hield just uses his quick release to make sure it doesn’t matter how close you might be because you’re not going to stop the shot. On this play, the clock is winding down, and his defender is closing on him fast. He catches the ball high which allows him to get the shot up and off before the defender can get a hand on it. There’s nothing more that he needs to do. Of the three players we discussed today, Hield would require the most to acquire from a salary standpoint, but he also would be able to bring a ton of value to this roster.
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