Denver Nuggets Film Friday: A new identity

NBA: Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Entering the offseason, the Nuggets didn’t have a ton of flexibility in terms of adding to their roster. They were limited on cap space and tradeable assets (that weren’t a part of their core group moving forward), and they weren’t flush with future draft picks to acquire talent that was ready to help them compete for a title in the here and now. The NBA season ended less than a month ago, and the Nuggets have dramatically altered their roster from last year to the one they’ll be trotting out in a few months.

Denver went into their offseason with a clear plan of action in their minds. They wanted to get younger and more defensive minded on the wings, and they wanted to focus on adapting their team to fitting the modern game, while still building around their franchise cornerstone in Nikola Jokic. A team that features offensive-minded stars in Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. needed a supporting cast that was strong where they were lacking.

Long-tenured veterans Monte Morris and Will Barton, headed off to the Washington Wizards, with the team returning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith. Between free agency and the draft, Denver brought in Bruce Brown Jr., Davon Reed, Christian Braun and Peyton Watson. All four of those guys feature athleticism, youth and a defensive-minded game. Denver’s shifting their identity, and it could pay dividends sooner rather than later.

Spot-Up and Knock Down Shots

KCP was brought in from Washington to do two things. He needs to play defense and knock down spot-up 3-point shots. Last season, on 4.4 spot-up possessions per game, he was averaging 1.09 points per possession while playing on an offense that featured limited offensive creation following the injury to Bradley Beal. On the shot above, you can see that he doesn’t have the easiest look at the basket. For one, he’s got a defender in a great position to contest the shot. Smith passes the ball to him, but, as the pass is just off, he has to move over to it while rising up to get the shot off before the defender closes out on him. Denver won’t ask him to often create his own shot. However, when called upon to make spot-up 3s, he’s up to the task.

Brown’s PPP were nearly identical to KCP while playing with the Brooklyn Nets. On 2.3 attempts per game, he averaged 1.1 PPP while playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. There was more creation and gravity than there was in Washington, but Brown was still doing his job. In Denver, on offense, what is Brown going to be asked to do? He’ll occasionally be a ball-handler and set up man, but, when playing alongside the starting unit, it’ll be his job to find open space and knock down shots. Here, the entire defense collapses on Durant and Andre Drummond. Rather than following his defender in to get closer to his teammate, Brown stays in the corner and knocks down the open shot.

A Renewed Focus on Defense

Reed not being on the playoff roster over some money remains a mistake, and that’s not going to change. However, he’s on the roster now, and he’ll be a key rotation player for them next season thanks to his work on defense, along with his shooting, as he shot 43 percent from 3-point range last season. This play is exactly the clip to show off his defensive value. He starts the play guarding Brandon Clarke before switching onto the 6’11” Jaren Jackson Jr. Despite the height mismatch, Reed is smart enough to never let the play get to where he is at a disadvantage. He slides his feet, and, when Jackson has the ball too low, he gets the block as the team takes the ball the other way for the fast-break layup. A wingspan of 7’ with a 6’5” frame is the exact thing teams are looking for in the modern NBA, especially when they have an outside shooting stroke.

Hustle wins games. There’s no doubt about that. When there are 10 guys on the floor, the one that’s the last to give up is the one that’s going to win out. Bruce Brown is going to be that one more often than not. This play is just one of the many examples of where his hustle keeps him in plays when he has no right to be in on it, and this isn’t even the only one in this game. Buddy Hield does well to use the screen to generate separation from Brown as he’s cutting to the hoop. Undeterred, Brown gives chase, and, when Hield goes up for the layup, Brown rises up for the block. Not only does he get the block, but he immediately turns the other way and gets out onto the break. Brown is going to be a swiss army knife that other teams are kicking themselves for not getting in free agency.

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.

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