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 2022-23 NBA trade deadline has now come and gone. The Nuggets remained largely quiet aside from a couple of small moves. They added Thomas Bryant from the Los Angeles Lakers to give them more depth at the center position in exchange for Davon Reed and three second-round picks, and they sent second-year guard Bones Hyland to the LA Clippers for a pair of second-round picks.

Other teams around the Western Conference, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and most notably the Phoenix Suns, were taking some big swings in an effort to improve their title chances this season. Denver’s road through the West just got tougher, and there’s no way around it. Denver still has an open spot, so they’re a likely destination for a player on the buyout market. Until that player gets added though, the team is going to have to work with what they got.

Bones still has a lot of potential, but it was clear that his time in Denver had run its course. The divorce was the best move for both sides of this situation. While you would have preferred to get more for a player with three years of team control still remaining, the rest of the league knew that his departure from Denver was a matter of when and not if, so they just had to wait for Denver to agree to a deal. Where does Denver go from here? At full strength, they’re one of the top teams in the West, but things are tighter than they were a week ago.

Rise Up Rookie

With Bones gone and Reed gone, the Nuggets just put a big vote of confidence behind Rookie Christian Braun. He’s played 14 or more minutes in his last 10 games, and he’s even earned a couple of starts during that stretch. Braun has shown flashes this season of being able to handle a more important spot in the rotation, but, as we know with Michael Malone, he holds his rookies to a high standard. On a team with championship aspirations, that standard is even higher.

With Bones gone, that opens the need for another capable ball-handler with the second unit. As of now, that group is largely reliant on Bruce Brown to run the show, but it needs a second person there. Braun shows off his ability to handle and distribute on this play with just a simple pick-and-pop with Jeff Green. Green sets the screen for Braun, and, as Braun is going towards the paint, he slows down for just a half second before appearing to rise up for a floater attempt. With the defense focused on him, he flips the ball out to Green, who knocks down the shot.

Braun’s defense also just became exponentially more important as well due to the moves of other Western Conference teams. With Kevin Durant on the Suns, Braun is going to draw that assignment at least once in a playoff series, and he needs to be able to hold his own. He also needs to continue to show his activity level when he’s playing off of the ball. On the play above, the ball is kicked out to the wing opposite him. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rotating out to that shooter, Braun has to stay on that string with him. He rotates over to the man at the top of the arc, and he gets a tipped ball that nearly goes out of bounds. Anthony Edwards recovers it, but he has to force up a bad shot at the end of the clock. Braun’s offense will matter, but his defense is going to be what has the biggest microscope on it.

A New Face

Last offseason, the Nuggets made a series of moves, and the one that was always the most confusing to see was the signing of DeAndre Jordan. Jordan just didn’t have the legs that he used to, and he didn’t seem like the guy that could last for an entire season. Fast forward six months, and that turned out to be true, as Jordan was largely out of the rotation for the last month. Now, in his place, the Nuggets added Bryant.

The sixth-year center out of Indiana had grown unhappy in Los Angeles, so it will be interesting to see how he responds to playing behind Jokic. Regardless of that, he gives the team something they didn’t have with Jordan. He’s a serviceable backup big that can bring you energy and can create some offense for himself at times unlike Jordan. On this play, Bryant has a mismatch with the 6’4” Royce O’Neale switched onto him. He establishes his position and just bullies his way to a basket. You’re never going to run your offense through Bryant, but you can count on him to at least put in effort every time he’s on the floor. 

Bryant ends up getting the block at the end of this play, but I’m looking at everything else he does before the block as the upside that he’s bringing. It looks like mildly mindless activity where Bryant is just sliding around in a 5×5 square, but each movement is serving a purpose. Bryant sees the cutter going along the baseline, and he shades over to cut off a possible passing lane. Then, Jaylin Williams is cutting into the paint, and Bryant answers him before his teammate can slide over to help. The block at the end was the cherry on top. He is still able to slide back and get the block without fouling. An energetic big that can at the very least make shooters think twice at the rim would go a long way towards helping Denver’s second unit.

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.