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.
The Golden State Warriors wrapped up their 4-2 series victory in the NBA finals last night to give them their fourth title in eight years and fourth title in six trips. Their core group of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are all 32 years or older, with Andre Iguodala coming in at 38. Their window is closing sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, for the Nuggets, their window of title contention is wide open.
Their core group of Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are all still at the beginning of their athletic prime or have yet to even reach it. Jokic is the oldest at 27 with Gordon reaching that mark later this year. Depending on the status of Will Barton, Austin Rivers and DeMarcus Cousins, Jeff Green will be the only player over 30 that is on the roster when next season kicks off.
Certain teams see their window open and close before they’re ever able to seize that opportunity. A prime example of this is the Portland Trail Blazers teams of the last half decade. They consistently had solid teams, but they never made it over the mountaintop before they were forced to blow it up. Luckily for Denver, they have that window propped open and need to seize their opportunity while it’s being presented to them.
As we just saw with the incredible display that Curry put on in the Finals to win his first Finals MVP award, a superstar player can go a long way towards winning on the biggest stage. However, it’s important to have the players around them playing at a high level. One of the biggest developments we saw in this postseason run for the Warriors was the play of Andrew Wiggins.
In his eighth NBA season, most had written off Wiggins as a player that would never live up to the hype he had received as the former first overall pick. The Warriors never gave up on him, and they worked constantly to try and make him better. They were rewarded as he ended up being their second-best player in the Finals. The development of your non-superstars is just as important as the development of your stars.
For Denver, they have a couple of guys that can take this team to another level if they nurture that growth. One of those guys is Davon Reed. Reed is not a guarantee to be on the team next year, but he absolutely should be. Reed shot 43 percent from 3-point range last season, and he has the size to guard most players from point guard through small forward. Reed knows how to play off of Jokic which is a skill that the Nuggets should be looking for in anyone they consider adding to the roster. He can knock down jump shots, but he also has the ability to cut effectively. On the play above, he gives the ball up to Jokic before heading to the corner to set a screen. When he lulls his defender to sleep with the light jog, he cuts and knows the pass is going to be his way because he knows Jokic will recognize the opening before he finishes the layup. Reed has been around the NBA for a few years, but he’s never gotten a full chance to be locked into a rotation spot. If he’s back in Denver next year, he should be playing regular minutes every single night.
This play could be the result of a couple of things. The defender is not paying attention to the scouting report. Reed is shooting over 40 percent from downtown, so I can’t understand why you’re leaving him alone. It also could be that Jokic has a 1-on-1 with Kevon Looney. Regardless, this is why Reed matters so much with Jokic on the floor. When the double team comes his way, Jokic will find the open man, but the shooter has to hit the shot. Reed can do that for you when he’s on the floor.
Bones Hyland is the other young player that’s outside of the core four of this team that can make a huge difference in their future success. Jordan Poole saw his role reduced as the playoffs wore on, but he still had a key role to play, especially in Game 6 when he scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half while helping the team take a big lead. Bones has all the confidence in the world in his shot, and everyone in the gym knows it.
The next step for Bones will be taking advantage of this knowledge and using it against the defense with his passing. When he shoots more and starts to heat up, the defense will be playing tighter to him. That’s when his passing comes into play as it does on this play. Bones uses the screen from Jokic to gain separation and start driving towards the rim. As the defense collapses on him, he doesn’t panic or try to force up a shot. Instead, he whips the ball to his left and finds the wide-open Aaron Gordon for his seventh assist of the night. Over the last season and a half without Murray and with Monte Morris in the starting lineup. We’ve seen the second unit struggle for creation, but Bones can fill that gap and take the bench up a level with some growth.
This play demonstrates a skill that I think no other guard on the roster has currently. It’s the ability to win with speed. When Murray or Morris get a big switched onto them, they can win with finesse, but they rarely have the ability to just drive by them. Bones sets up Goga Bitadze with some dribble moves before blowing past him. He comes up short on the floater, but, because Bitadze is out of position, Bones is able to easily get his own miss and put in the layup. Bones’ speed and reckless abandon are a skillset that needs to be nurtured to develop it to its maximum potential because it can dramatically alter defenses when he’s on the floor and playing well.
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.