Reviewing the 2021-22 season of Nuggets big man JaMychal Green
JaMychal Green 2021-22 per game stats
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The story of the regular season
During the 2020-21 season, JaMychal Green was one of the most important reserves on the Denver Nuggets. He quickly cemented himself as the third big man in the rotation behind Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap, and he retained that spot even after the Nuggets added Aaron Gordon to the mix. The Nuggets gave Green a raise in the 2021 off-season, and more of the same was expected from Green this year.
The Nuggets also decided to change course on the backup center position entirely, which had a strong effect on Green. Rather than bring back JaVale McGee, the Nuggets decided to go small in their second unit, penciling in Green as the second unit center instead. The plan did not work. At all. The Nuggets struggled with JaMychal as the long pick and pop option on Denver’s second unit, and though not having Michael Porter Jr. healthy changed Denver’s course of action offensively, the issues also occurred on the defensive end without a big rim protector serving as a back line defender.
It may not have been Green’s fault entirely given other weaknesses on the roster, but he certainly didn’t prove to be the solution. The Nuggets pivoted in a different direction in January, signing DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract and then converting him to a guaranteed roster spot. Initially, Green was out of the rotation entirely with Zeke Nnaji playing well in a reserve role, but Zeke’s knee injury offered Green a chance to slot in as the backup power forward. The Nuggets were successful in this configuration, with Cousins and JaMychal becoming ‘The Bash Bros’ and outmuscling several backup frontcourts on their way to stabilizing Denver’s second unit.
Was it perfect? No. Did JaMychal’s three-pointer ever return? Not really. But the team figured it out, and JaMychal was a part of that group throughout the year.
Did it translate to the playoffs?
The Nuggets of course lost in five games to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, but the bench unit wasn’t really the target of a ton of criticism. Bones Hyland performed reasonably well in his first go-round, DeMarcus Cousins took advantage of an easy matchup, and Austin Rivers proved to be Denver’s most important bench piece with his capable perimeter defense. JaMychal Green wasn’t really a part of that, and the Nuggets traditional five-man bench unit mostly struggled with Green out there. The minutes were generally better when Aaron Gordon and Will Barton replaced Green and Bryn Forbes respectively.
Was Green bad? Not significantly, but he did shoot 20% from three-point range, and the Nuggets struggled to defend the perimeter while both he and Cousins were on the floor together. Had the Warriors invested more resources in attacking that unit, the numbers would most certainly look far worse. They didn’t need to in the end.
Best Moment – A Scott Hastings gem
There weren’t a ton of massive highlight games for JaMychal this season, but one that certainly made the rounds was this clip of Scott Hastings and Katy Winge. Katy asked about JaMychal’s injury status on the Altitude broadcast and whether Scott knew if JaMychal would be available. In a way only Scott Hastings could pull off, he turned around and asked JaMychal right behind him, who was warming up on the court. JaMychal shook his head on camera for all to see, drawing laughs from all around the NBA world.
Get your news directly from the source, kids.
Season Grade – D+
The expectations were much higher for Green this year than what ultimately occurred. Put in a difficult position and asked to play the center position, JaMychal really struggled, especially on the offensive end, to find his role for much of the year. When he slid over to power forward, things got better, but not so much that it put to rest any questions the Nuggets may have about his future in Denver. Zeke Nnaji outplayed him for much of the season, and had he been healthy post All-Star break, it’s possible JaMychal doesn’t play at all down the stretch.
What does the future hold for JaMychal Green?
JaMychal has a player option worth north of $8 million for the 2022-23 season. If he declines it, he will most likely not be back with the Nuggets next year as Nnaji continues to grow into a role and Michael Porter Jr. hopefully returns from injury. Jeff Green also has a player option of his own and may be in the team’s plans instead. Denver’s financial situation also contributes to a potential change in direction as the Nuggets are expected to be well into the luxury tax next season.
If JaMychal exercises the player option, he will most likely be back in Denver, though he’s a prime trade candidate if that happens due to his very movable salary and Denver’s weaknesses at other positions. There’s a world where JaMychal returns and Nnaji is moved instead as a more valuable young player, but the Nuggets appear committed to Zeke as a younger (and cheaper) member of the rotation going forward.
JaMychal Green has brought a certain grit and grind to the Nuggets rotation that has been greatly appreciated, especially in his first season with the team. At this stage though, Denver’s roster has changed, and their needs have changed too. Whether Green will be part of the future remains to be seen, but his toughness will certainly be missed if he does go.