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Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets

Nuggets season in review: Markus Howard

Reviewing the 2021-22 season for Denver Nuggets two-way contract Markus Howard

Photo by Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images

Markus Howard - 2021-22 per game statistics

Part of year Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals + Blocks FG% 3P%
Regular Season 31 5.7 4.1 0.2 0.4 0.3 38.6 40.0
Playoffs Did Not Play

The story of the regular season

After playing 37 games in his rookie season, Markus Howard played just 31 games this year due to a number of factors. First, the addition of Austin Rivers and draft selection of Bones Hyland made things difficult for him to get on the court initially. Second, he was just starting to get into a rhythm and make some plays until he got hurt on December 15th against the Minnesota Timberwolves, suffering an MCL sprain and a nearly ugly knee injury. When he returned on January 13th in a brief appearance, it was only six days before the Nuggets acquired Bryn Forbes in a trade with the attention of playing the veteran significant bench minutes.

So, Howard never fully had an opportunity to integrate himself into the Nuggets bench unit. Despite some strong moments here or there, Howard’s minutes remained few and far between as a purely garbage time option until the final game of the season. Then, Howard decided to let it fly, scoring 25 points on 17 shots in just 24 minutes off the bench. If there was ever the right time to be a gunner and prove his scoring abilities, it was then.

Did it translate in the playoffs?

Howard never had an opportunity to play in the playoffs this year. It wasn’t his fault either. Along with Davon Reed, Howard was on a two-way contract and ineligible to play in the postseason. The Nuggets played the star studded backcourt of the Golden State Warriors, and with a full rotation of additions in the backcourt, Howard was never going to be the difference between the Nuggets outplaying Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

That doesn’t mean Howard’s game CAN’T translate to the playoffs. In his rookie season, Howard averaged 4.7 points per game and shot 42.3% from three, primarily in a winning series against the Portland Trail Blazers. His ineligibility prevented him from playing this year, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to be a outside lethal shooter going forward, even under the brightest lights.

Best Moment - 21 points @ San Antonio

On December 11th, Howard came off the bench and made five three-pointers in the first half to swing the game against the San Antonio Spurs on the final day of Denver’s seven-game road trip. The Nuggets were dead, and Howard breathed life into them with his lethal outside shooting. The Spurs had no answer for Howard, and his 21 points led the way in what turned into a rout.

Season Grade: C

Unfortunately, this could just as easily be an ‘Incomplete’ grade, but a C feels reasonable for what Howard’s expectations heading into the season had to be. The knee injury derailed the progress he was making, and the trade to acquire Forbes all but sealed his fate to be glued to the bench for the rest of the season. It’s too bad, but Howard was definitely a casualty in Denver’s pursuit of making the playoffs this year. A forgettable season from him all things considered.

What does the future hold for Howard?

Howard’s role in Denver never really took shape, and for the second straight year, he will enter free agency as a restricted free agent following the expiration of a two-way contract. Last year, the goal was for Howard to play in Summer League and showcase his talents to the rest of the NBA in the hopes of picking up a guaranteed contract, but testing positive for COVID foiled those plans. I’d expect a similar plan to unfold this season, depending on how the rest of Denver’s roster comes together.

The Nuggets have plenty of free agents at the end of their payroll, from Austin Rivers and DeMarcus Cousins to Forbes, Facu Campazzo, and Vlatko Cancar. There’s always the possibility that the Nuggets bring back Howard as a depth piece if other guys walk, or if it’s a question of money.

Still, Howard is one of the guys on the edge of the NBA that might benefit from the stability of playing overseas. He’s certainly an NBA caliber shooter, one of the best actually, and his weaknesses in other areas would be mitigated in less athletic leagues. It’s a question that Howard and his agent will surely consider, though that doesn’t mean the NBA dream has died yet. Another team may become interested in Howard’s flamethrower abilities. We will just have to wait and see.

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