Facundo Campazzo for All-Rookie Team: Three reasons why he deserves to be in

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Facundo Campazzo joined the Denver Nuggets with a sterling international reputation. The question was fit.

Campazzo was a proven winner on the global stage, leading Spanish basketball powerhouse Real Madrid to two Euroleague victories – largely considered the second hardest basketball competition in the world. He was also a silver medalist in the FIBA World Cup and a gold medalist in the 2012 FIBA South American Championship and 2014 South American Games. Yet, how would that all translate into the NBA?

In a league where there are 6-foot-10 players like Ben Simmons at point, Campazzo was arriving in the NBA as a 5-foot-9, 30-year-old rookie. After years of considering a move to the NBA, he joined a Nuggets team that was loaded at point guard. At the time his move was announced, Denver had a star guard in Jamal Murray, a top backup in Monte Morris, a highly-touted rookie in R.J. Hampton, and two players who could fill in with PJ Dozier and Markus Howard.

Still, Campazzo would exceed all expectations. He would instantly be revered both by the Nuggets fan base and his teammates for his relentlessness on defense. Once he developed a comfort level, he also showcased the passing skill that made him a YouTube sensation. A lot of his acclimation to the NBA is a credit to his basketball intelligence and his sheer will as a winner. With Hampton being part of the deal that landed Aaron Gordon, Campazzo became especially critical when the Nuggets were hit with injuries at guard. There is no question that the Argentine point guard should be strongly considered for one of the two NBA All-Rookie teams.

Here are three reasons why Campazzo deserves to be named among the top rookies of the league:

All-NBA level defense

Campazzo finished third among NBA rookies in steals, grabbing 1.2 per game. In his 19 starts, that number expands to 1.7, which would have tied him in the top four of the league if stretched across the season.

To sum it up, Facu is a pest for opposing players.

At the start of the season, bigger players would beat him on defense by trying to post him up or using their speed to get by him. Campazzo would adapt quickly though. He went from mainly guarding the opposing team’s backup guard to taking on some of the best perimeter players in the game. It wasn’t abnormal to see Campazzo go from guarding 6-foot-2 Damian Lillard one night to the 6-foot-8 Paul George the next. The guard would make up for his lack of size by studying players' tendencies and positioning. Players couldn’t post him as much because he would take them out of their comfort zones.

Then there is the all-out aggression. It wasn’t uncommon to see whoever Campazzo guarded complaining to the officials about his in-your-face style of play, but their complaints would fall to deaf ears due to the Argentine sticking within the rules.

In a league where many players take a possession or sometimes a game off on defense, that was never the case for Campazzo.

“I think Facu is first-team defense…I feel like he’ll lock down anyone he’s assigned to,” JaMychal Green said after the Nuggets win against the Rockets on April 16.

Big moments in the clutch

Following the All-Star break, Campazzo became a staple in the Nuggets’ closing lineup. That signaled Michael Malone’s trust in the rookie.

There were countless times this season where Campazzo seemingly delivered out of nowhere in big spots. Who can forget his steal on Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine in the dying seconds to force overtime and ultimately a win on March 19? He also hit a clutch three against the Clippers with 1:10 remaining to help secure a May 1 win.

It doesn’t matter if Campazzo is 0 of 8 or has played 10 minutes of action, in the fourth quarter the guard appears to step up his game without fail.

Playmaking

The nightly highlight shows likely owe Campazzo a thank you card at the end of the season. That’s how good some of his passes have been.

Here are some examples of his incredible playmaking:

Campazzo finished third in total assists for rookies this season at 232 and as a starter, he averaged 5.6 assists to just 1.6 turnovers per game. He also averaged 9.6 points and almost four boards (3.6) in 31.6 minutes per game. For a player who was always the shortest on the court, he had five games where he had at least five rebounds.

This was a strong debut season for Campazzo, one he can certainly build upon as he continues to gain familiarity with the NBA.

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