Denver Nuggets Mailbag: Team chemistry, wing rotation, Bol Bol update

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

A new year is here and with that comes the return of the mailbag!

The Denver Nuggets just wrapped up their longest road trip of the season and now turn their attention to a three-game homestand over the next week, including a marquee matchup against the LA Clippers.

In recent weeks, Nikola Jokić has continued to step up his play to MVP levels (including a career-best scoring night against the Atlanta Hawks), the team’s offense has regained its flow and Michael Porter Jr. enjoyed some breakout moments.

With that being said, let’s answer some of the burning questions that fans sent in this week on Facebook and through Weibo. For those unfamiliar with the platform, Weibo is a Chinese microblogging website that as of late 2018 had 445 million active users.

All opinions and ideas expressed below are our own and do not reflect any views of the Denver Nuggets’ front office and coaching staff.

What makes the Denver Nuggets chemistry so good? Everyone on this team gets along so well! – Stanton Rapp (Facebook)

There are several key factors that play a role in team chemistry and when it comes to the Nuggets, age of the core players, duration of their tenure with the team and a selfless mentality have all been important.

The majority of Denver’s core players are 25-or-younger, headlined of course by Nikola Jokić (24) and Jamal Murray (22). Extending even further from that, other key players such as Jerami Grant, Monte Morris and Michael Porter Jr. are also 25 or younger, which has allowed the team to grow and develop together both on-and-off the court.

Speaking of development, the Nuggets have maintained a similar cast of players over the past couple of seasons, which allows players to spend time together and share enough moments together to build that chemistry and cohesion. As the players have grown, the team has transitioned from a rebuilding phase into a contending phase, which has been a result of the play on the court, but also the connection the players share off the floor.

Finally, the Nuggets have a unique makeup of players that share a similar mindset of selflessness and a team-first mentality.

"I think team chemistry is huge. When you find a team like us, no one really has an ego,” Morris said during the 2019 offseason. “Everybody can step up and feel like they are a part of it. Every guy knows his role and we're not stepping outside our boundaries. We want to do everything to win and that's how we pride ourselves in Denver."

Rotation with wings: will Will Barton spend more time with the second unit and give the wings with bigger size more time on the court? - 莫归家 (Weibo)

This addresses a recent development in Michael Malone’s rotation in that Barton III has spent more time alongside second-unit players, presumably to spark those lineups offensively, provide Barton III with more ball-handling opportunities and to allow for a greater mix of lineups and skill sets.

A lineup that has seen more playing time together in recent games is the grouping of Morris, Barton III, Porter. Jr., Grant and Mason Plumlee. While that lineup hasn’t fared particularly well in this stretch, it allows Barton III to act as more of a driving force offensively with the ball in his hands, while it also allows some of the second-unit players to get minutes alongside other starters.

Porter Jr. and Grant have been the first two substitutions off the bench recently, which allows them to play alongside Jokić for stretches before playing with their usual second-unit teammates late in the first quarter and during the beginning stages of the second quarter.

When Porter Jr. is playing alongside Grant and Jokić, Denver has plenty of size in the frontcourt, which can certainly be a strength in attacking mismatches and crashing the offensive glass. Lineups with Barton III alongside four second-unit players have also included Juancho Hernangomez and Torrey Craig at times, with those lineups doing well in a very limited sample size. This is certainly a rotation-trend to focus on moving forward.

Is there an update on Bol? - 匹夫无罪 (Weibo)

Bol Bol continues to develop his game in the G League with the Windy City Bulls. In the eight games he has played in this season (averaging 19.2 minutes per contest), Bol has averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.

Translated to per-36 minutes and those averages jump to 22.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game, highlighting how impactful Bol has been in his playing time. When it comes to his skill set, Bol hasn’t been tasked with spacing the floor very often, but he has connected on 36.4 percent of his 3-pointers this season and has showcased a soft touch both in-and-outside of the arc.

However, Bol’s athleticism has been on full display on both ends of the floor. His ability to get to the rim and shoot over smaller defenders on offense has been key to his production, while his length and verticality is a big factor when defending the rim.

Given his unique skill set, expect plenty of more eye-opening highlights from Bol as he continues to strengthen his frame and sharpen his skills in the G League.

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