Time is ticking for the Denver Nuggets to find the right group of players around Nikola Jokic to earn an NBA championship. The last couple of years have been littered with injuries to their best players, but they still competed with the best of them in the West. Without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets compiled the 4th best road record and a top-ten scoring offense that ranked second in field goal percentage and third in assists. Their issue? Defense.

Denver allowed 110 points per game last season and 112 points per game at home which ranked 22nd in the NBA. Michael Malone preached the value of defending home court as they graded 16th in home record last season. GM Calvin Booth noticed their deficiencies last season and tried to remedy those with the signings of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown. Booth put an emphasis on obtaining more size, length, and athleticism in an effort to bolster this defense.

With the exception of a couple plays here and there, Monday against Phoenix was the first time Denver’s defense showed its potential for the upcoming season. After allowing the Suns to shoot 7-10 from three, they held them to 12-37 at the game's end. They held Phenix to 42% from the field, and they forced 14 turnovers with the Suns starters playing the majority of the game, and Bruce Brown was a key part of it.

Bruce Brown is an early nominee for fan favorite

A player that stood out early and often was Bruce Brown. He appears to be one of those gritty, typical fan-favorite players that only knows one gear, dives on the floor for loose balls, and contests shots like his hair is on fire. I saw multiple times where sprinted from one area of the court to the next just to contest a wide-open shot in the third preseason game. Brown started 45 games on a talented Brooklyn Nets team, so to have a starting type of player coming off your bench with that type of energy could be infectious to that reserve group.

The Nuggets have struggled with the pick-and-roll offense for a while now, and particularly the Phoenix Suns have destroyed them for years with those types of actions, but Bruce Brown could be the cure to those issues. As you can see in some of those videos, he slithers off the screens with ease and maintains the determination to recover if needed.

Chris Paul is clearly one of the best players to ever suit up, and one of the best pick-and-roll facilitators ever, but Bruce Brown was glued to his hip and stifled several opportunities in pick-and-roll situations. Another one of the Suns' best players, Devin Booker, led the game in scoring with 20 points, but he shot 5-17 from the field and 2-9 from three, and Brown was a huge part of hindering his progress throughout the game.

I thought one of Denver’s largest glaring defensive issues last season was guarding the perimeter, more specifically the talented guards in this league. Although I thought they struggled guarding Phoenix’s bigs, they looked great on the perimeter after that first quarter. Not only Bruce Brown, but the addition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will provide several benefits as well.

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KCP might be the missing piece in Denver’s starting five

With a 6’8” wingspan KCP supplies the ideal length for a perimeter defender in the modern NBA. He is quick for his size and as a veteran, he understands offensive schemes along with player tendencies.

If you watch this video it gives you a great representation of what KCP brings to the defensive end. This is great team defense, but watch the effort he puts in here. He switches three times, and when they run a screen with Markkanen, he switches again and fronts the post with aggression. When the shot goes up, he doesn't hope the ball magically bounces to him. He bodies a bigger, taller player and that box out creates an opportunity for a team rebound.

He plays the game selflessly on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he is great off the ball and that's exactly what Denver needs. On the weak side of a pick and roll, he can find the open area and spot up for the open jump shot. One of his weaknesses early on in his career was his jump shooting, but he has appeared to remedy that with consistency. He has not shot under 38% from the three-point line for the last three years including a 41% year when he won the championship with the Lakers.

He also shot 47% from the mid-range area last season, and 46% on the left corner three. From 16-24 feet, he shot 47% and from 24+ feet, he shot 39%.

He brings a championship pedigree and knows how winning basketball should be executed. In an interview with Mike Singer of the Denver Post he said, “I’m ready for it… I’m gonna eat a lot.” He knows how to play alongside a passer like Jokic from his time with LeBron, and that type of confidence from that quote should excite Nuggets fans. He is ready for the moment, he knows his role, he and appears to be a great team player.

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