Denver Nuggets Film Friday: We grow larger

NBA: Draft
Brad Penner-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.

The 2022 NBA draft has come and gone, and the Nuggets have added three new faces to the roster that all bring their own set of skills to the game. There were rumors that they could be in the market to trade up using their two first-round picks. Instead, they elected to stand pat in an effort to get more swings of the bat. They also traded into the second round for one final pick before their night came to an end.

With their first pick, they drafted Kansas wing Christian Braun. The 6’7” junior is coming off of a season where he was the team’s second-leading scorer while being second on the team in assists per game. At 30, they followed that up with UCLA wing Peyton Watson. The 6’8” freshman has some room to grow on the offensive end, but he immediately slots in as a long and bothersome defender on the other end. They rounded out their night with French center Ismael Kamagate. The 6’11” big man has a 7’3” wingspan and has been putting on size to his frame to help make him better around the rim as a defender and back-to-the-basket scorer.

There was a theme in these picks. All three of them addressed a legitimate area of concern for the Nuggets. There could be some questions about the value or the decision-making process that the front office used to get to these final picks, but you cannot argue that the team wasn’t aware of their issues. They went to work to address them, and the team can thrive if these guys hit the ground running.

Christian Braun

If there is one thing that is certain about Christian Braun, it is the fact that, if he isn’t successful in the NBA, it won’t be due to a lack of confidence. Braun oozes confidence in everything that he does on the basketball floor, and he is always trying to make sure everyone knows about it. He is the type of guy that you’ll love if he’s on your team, but you’re likely going to hate playing against him. For that, among other reasons, I’m glad he’s on Denver.

Off the ball on defense, Braun has a nose for the basketball. He is always on the lookout for loose balls or careless passers and ball handlers. Braun loves to get out and run in transition, and he does that by turning defense into offense. On this play, he’s lurking on the wing opposite the ball. He starts to creep over when his teammates trap the ball handler, and he turns a lazy pass into a steal and a dunk at the other end.

In addition to his work off the ball on defense, Braun is a strong player on the offensive end of the floor. He can handle the ball effectively, and he’s fantastic as an off-ball cutter, which fits in perfectly alongside players like Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Braun can create his own shot, but he’s also highly adept at finding space to either get a shot up from 3-point range or a lane to the rim. On this play, it’s early in the game, and Braun is looking to set the tone early. He sees his point guard lose his dribble and starts setting up his defender. After fading towards the corner pulls the defender over, he cuts to the rim for a wide-open dunk. Braun is a player that fans should quickly fall in love with.

Peyton Watson

Peyton Watson is definitely a little more on the raw side offensively when compared to Braun. He’s going to need to grow on that end, but there is one thing that will help him early on on that end. It’s his hustle and athleticism. This guy just keeps running and jumping, and he is always trying to make a play. When I first saw the above clip, I thought Watson was about to have the most incredible putback dunk that I had ever seen. Truthfully, I’m still not convinced that he couldn’t have put that dunk in anyway. At 6’8” with a 7’ wingspan, Watson’s height and length get him to balls like this. On offense, it’ll equal more second-chance points, and, on defense, it will lead to more steals, blocks and tipped passes. Coincidentally, Denver needs all of those things.

The amount of impressive blocks and steals and just overall defensive plays that Watson made at UCLA made picking just one of them rather difficult. However, this play was so impressive just due to the context of it. Watson has good height and length, but he’s now trying to stop a guy that’s 6’11” and 230 pounds with a 7’2.5” wingspan of his own. Does he panic? No. He stays within himself and rises up to send the ball back the other way. Watson is going to take some time to develop on offense, although there are some flashes here and there. On defense, this kid has all the tools to become an absolute menace for opposing offenses.

Ismael Kamagate

What’s the first clip in the Ismael Kamagate highlight package? It’s gotta be a big dunk or a block right? You’d be wrong. Instead, it’s a buzzer-beater jumper to send the game into double overtime. That’s right. His team drew up a play for Ismael to catch the ball out beyond the 3-point line before he took a dribble inside the arc and knocked down the clutch shot. For a player that I didn’t have a ton of knowledge on coming into the draft, that was not at all what I was expecting to see when I started looking at some of his film.

There were plenty of opportunities for me to show off Ismael as an offensive player. He already looks like a strong player in the pick-and-roll as well as a general lob threat. Coming off of the bench, he can help give that second unit the type of player they’ve been looking for in the backup five role. However, I wanted to look at his work on the defensive end, where he can boost up some of the players in front of him. If you’re not the best on-ball defender, you can have some confidence in the guy behind you. Ismael’s length makes him a deterrent around the rim that forces players to put up shots a little earlier. When they do, he can still get to it for a block. On this play, his teammate gets beat off of the dribble, but Kamagate just sticks with the play. Once the opponent is forced to settle for the floater, Ismael pins it off the backboard, and his team has a fast break the other way. Kamagate rounds out a draft they may not have most analysts pleased because it wasn’t the players they wanted, but the Nuggets front office had a clear plan of attack with all three players they ended up with.

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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