Denver Nuggets Orlando Bubble Practice Day 9: Three Takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets are just over 48 hours away from playing against an NBA opponent for the first time in over four months. It might be just a scrimmage against the Wizards, but it is a chance for observers of the Nuggets to see where the team is ahead of the NBA’s restart.

Here are the takeaways from Day 9 of practice:

Bol continues to shine:

If there has been one player who has taken advantage of the limited player personnel in Orlando, it’s been Bol Bol. The Nuggets rookie, who has yet to make his NBA debut, has been drawing rave reviews during the team’s training camp in the bubble. Jamal Murray joined the chorus of praise following Monday’s practice.

“Bol is talented,” Murray said in a zoom conference call. “He’s 7-foot-2 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan and he’s a mismatch anywhere on the court.”

Murray believes as Bol continues to condition his body, the Nuggets could be looking at another draft steal.

“He obviously needs to hit the weight room, but 7-foot-2 is hard to stop for anybody. He’s an easy target to pass to and he can shoot. He can put the ball on the floor and he blocks shots and hustles…Once he’s able to read and react [in the Nuggets’ offense], he’s going to be a hell of a player because he can make up so much ground offensively and defensively. It will be fun to see him in some live action.”

Although Bol has yet to play in an NBA game, he has also impressed in a limited stint in the G League. The 20-year-old averaged 12 points, 5.7 rebounds, and blocked 2.3 shots per game in eight appearances for the Windy City Bulls. He shot a sizzling 57.7 percent from the floor and hit 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts. His offensive versatility has been helpful for the Nuggets as they’ve been able to utilize him all in various positions, ranging from shooting guard to center.

Bol could be in line to face NBA-level talent when the Nuggets scrimmage against the Wizards on Wednesday (1:30 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Jamal ready to go:

Murray is a fierce competitor, who is relentless in practices and self-analyzing his game. For example, he spent over an hour after a playoff loss last season working on his jump shot immediately after that defeat. With four months away from the game, Jamal acknowledged he’s been working on areas of his game where he can improve.

“Being more efficient in the two-point area -- getting to the rim, not taking as many floaters and just getting all the way to the rim,” Murray said in detailing areas he wants to get better at. “I bragged about it the other day, but [weighing] 216 as a point guard is pretty good for me. So I’m trying to use that and be more physical…That’s one area where I’m trying to be more consistent at and being more aggressive will help me with my mentality during the game. It gets the guys going when I’m being more aggressive and going downhill as opposed to going east to west.”   

Murray started to display that improvement just before the NBA went on its hiatus. The guard was averaging 21.9 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting in the 15 games leading into the league’s suspension and also showed growth as a passer as he averaged 5.5 assists per game. Murray is averaging 18.8 points per game and 4.8 assists per game on the season. 

Turnovers and rebounding a big focus ahead of Wednesday

With the scrimmage against the Wizards quickly approaching, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has said in the past he plans on treating the contest similar to a preseason game. The key is to ensure his players stay healthy while picking up positive habits. One thing he is particularly focused on is giveaways and the glass. 

“There are so many things to clean up,” Malone said Monday. “[We’re giving away] too many turnovers, not defending the three-point line very well and not rebound well enough.”

Although the list of available players hasn’t been released for Wednesday game, Malone did acknowledge that lack of perimeter players has impacted the team’s preparation. That is likely playing a role with turnovers. However, with the Nuggets having a sizable contingent of big men on hand, rebounding should be an advantage for the team.

Still, the main focus will be on conditioning as opposed to results during the team’s three scrimmages.

“Can we get through that game healthy, while continuing to work on our continuity or chemistry on the court,” Malone said. “Wins and losses are not paramount, you always want to win and develop winning habits, but with the lineups and lack of bodies that we have, it’s going to be more about working on conditioning, chemistry, and execution.”

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