Denver Nuggets 2018-19 season review: Torrey Craig
5.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, 44.2 percent shooting
After playing on a two-way contract during the 2017-18 season, Craig received a two-year deal last summer and provided defense and rebounding to Denver throughout the season. The 28-year-old forward was limited to 39 games in his rookie campaign, but with a full-time NBA roster spot in hand, Craig was able to play 20 minutes per game across 75 contests, which included 37 starts.
While Craig’s traditional statistics are modest, he continued to make strides throughout his second season in the league. Craig’s averages across the board (scoring, rebounding, assists, etc.) all improved this past season as he received more playing time. The second-year forward also connected on 32.4 percent from beyond the arc (on 2.5 attempts per game), which was an improvement over 29.3 percent from the previous season.
However, it’s no secret that Craig broke into the NBA as a result of his defense. At 6’7” with a sizeable wingspan, Craig is able to guard most opposing forwards and has the mobility to keep up with most guards on the perimeter.
Craig had his breakout moment in the first round of the playoffs, when his defense against DeMar DeRozan led to his insertion in the starting lineup. With Denver down 2-1 in the series against the San Antonio Spurs, Craig stepped up on the offensive end and knocked down six 3-pointers in a 37-minute performance to help tie the series. "I’m Just a competitor, going out there and trying to compete to the best of my ability every night,” Craig said following the season. “Doing anything I can to try and help this team."
In the second round against the Portland Trail Blazers, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone opted to make Craig the primary defender on Damian Lillard, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Craig held Lillard to 32.7 percent shooting from the field throughout the series and was a key reason that Portland’s All-Star point guard struggled in the seven games between the teams.
"He provides great defense, he rebounds and does all the little things,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “His activeness and what he does for us is huge.”
In Denver’s tough Game 2 loss to Portland, Craig suffered a nasal contusion after colliding with teammate Monte Morris during a rebounding scramble. Craig returned in the third quarter with his usual intensity and physicality on the defensive end, which stood out to his head coach.
“I think Torrey Craig is the unsung hero from the game,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “That guy has got toughness. I’ll go to war with that kid any day.”
With the majority of Denver’s rotation under contract for next season, Craig will continue to battle for minutes on the wing. With the length and versatility he provides, the Nuggets will continue to rely on him for defensive intensity on a nightly basis.