The Denver Nuggets already demonstrated in 2019-2020 that they don’t need to have a great defense to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the league. Those of Michael Malone finished ranked 16th on that side of the court but pushed by their enormous offensive talent (5th in 2019-2020), they managed to reach the Western Finals. With many shocks along the way? Sure, but finalists of the mighty West after all.
The feeling is that if that was the reality of the team last season, the extremes have only moved away for 2020-2021. And it is that on the one hand they lost several of their best defensive players such as Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Torrey Craig. While on the other, there will be many more minutes in the Regular Phase for a pure scorer like Michael Porter Jr, while JaMychal Green represents a superior threat on offense than Plumlee. And that’s not to mention Facundo Campazzo, who although he doesn’t project himself as a scorer by himself, will surely score easy points for his teammates.
With all those indicators, the logic would say that the Nuggets could even take a step back in defense during the following season, but that at the same time they could enjoy an all-out offense. In fact, they were already really close to it in 2020-2021, when they finished fifth, but with values very close to three other teams. The only one who escaped was the Dallas Mavericks, with the best offensive rating in history, but it is worth remembering that the Texans will start the season without a key man like Kristaps Porzingis and that they also lost another of their great shooters like Seth Curry. It wouldn’t be unusual for Carlisle’s to have more earthy numbers, at least for the first few months.
|Portland Trail Blazers||113,2|
With figures of the caliber of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray as first offensive options, Denver should have no problem maintaining its main virtues and strengths from the previous season: great movement of the ball, low level of losses, efficiency in the painting, offensive rebounds (Although the loss of Plumlee will be felt there). But also, if indeed we see a Michael Porter Jr. much more leading than in the last Regular Phase (he only averaged 16.4 minutes), Malone’s men will be adding one more weapon to that group.
Like the team, Porter has many flaws on defense, but no one can question his scoring input. His numbers raised to 36 minutes are those of a star on that side of the court: 20.4 points and 2.6 attack rebounds, with a very high efficiency of 50.9% from the field, 42.2% in triples and 83.3% free. And we didn’t just stick with projected number theory: when he had more minutes at Disney, he showed that he could sustain that production.
With the decline of Millsap and the departure of Grant, we will surely see Porter playing much more as a power forward for sections of 2020-2021, something that already gave very extraordinary (offensive) results last season. The sample is small, but in the 95 possessions in which Denver used MPJ as four, pairing him on the court with Murray and Jokic, the Nuggets scored 138.9 points per 100 possessions! An unsustainable figure, but one that shows the potential of such a training.
The arrival of Campazzo should also help in attack. The offensive impact of the Cordoba was notorious at a very high level such as that of the Euroleague: using Overbasket statistics from the last two seasons, we find that Real Madrid scored 103.6 points per 100 possessions with Campazzo on court, while that figure dropped to 101.3 points when he rested. That 2.3 point difference may seem insignificant, but throughout an entire season, it obviously isn’t.
Campazzo will also be important in strengthening one of Denver’s weak points in attack: the offense in transition.. Betting primarily on offenses stationed with Jokic, the Nuggets played at the second lowest pace of 2019-2020, while finished 22nd in points on fast break. Again: the Cordovan can not only hurt in that aspect with his own penetrations, but mainly feed his teammates in the race, with his sensational passing ability and creativity. Expect an interesting connection from Facu to Barton, the most productive player of Malone’s backlash.
One last point in favor of the potential of this Denver in attack: how well Jamal Murray has performed when he played shooting guard. With Campazzo and Morris being part of the rotation, we will surely see the Canadian followed by running to the two position. How did the Nuggets fare when they put up those quintets in 2019-2020? They scored no less than 117.9 points per 100 possessions, in a sample by no means less (616 possessions). Those numbers came basically with the Morris-Murray duo, but in theory they should work similarly with the Argentine point guard earning his chances in the duo.
The defense will be a topic for another time, but if we talk about points and offensive talent, there is no doubt: Denver has everything to live a brilliant 2020-2021.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or its organizations.