Denver Nuggets Mailbag: Jokić’s scoring, second-unit rotation

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@Eric_Spyros

Welcome to another installment of the Denver Nuggets Mailbag! The Nuggets have played 13 games on the season and just kicked off a key four-game homestand last night with a big win against the Houston Rockets.

Games against the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards are on the horizon for Denver, which sits at 10-3, good for second in the Western Conference. Even with a strong record to begin the season, there are still areas to work on for this Nuggets team. On some nights, the defense is what carries the team to victory, while on other nights, the ball is moving and shots are falling on the offensive end of the floor.

With that being said, let’s dive into some of the questions we received this week!

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

When Malik Beasley returned from his two-game absence as a result of an illness this past Sunday in Memphis, it was a surprise to some when he didn’t see playing time until the fourth quarter, when the game was already decided and in garbage time.

Beasley got off to a strong start in the opening games of the season. In October, he averaged 9.8 points per game and shot 45.5 percent from beyond the arc in 20.7 minutes per contest. However, all of his numbers have dropped in the five November games he has played, as he has connected on just 25 percent of his 3-point attempts. Since then, his playing time has decreased to 9.9 minutes per game this month.

In the past three games, head coach Michael Malone has utilized Juancho Hernangomez off the bench, including him in lineups alongside Michael Porter Jr., Torrey Craig and/or Jerami Grant, essentially making one of Hernangomez or Porter Jr. the shooting guard (though position specifications continue to fade in the modern NBA).

With Hernangomez thriving in his bench role over the past two games, that rotation trend could continue moving forward. While Beasley’s 3-point shooting brings a lot of value to the offense in the form of spacing the floor, both Hernangomez and Porter Jr. are capable 3-point shooters that will command respect from defenders. Of course, we haven’t even mentioned Torrey Craig, who continues to fight for playing time through his rugged defense and length on the perimeter.

With the season still in the early stages, look for Malone to continue tinkering with his rotation depending on who has the hot hand and what the matchups call for. For a team as deep as Denver, there is no need to set a 10-man rotation from the get-go and stick to it throughout the grind of the regular season. Each second-unit wing player brings something different to the table, which gives Malone plenty of options to match-up with the other contenders in the NBA.

Whether or not this question is tongue-in-cheek, it does get to a question that many Nuggets fans and NBA analysts have had in recent seasons: Why doesn’t Nikola Jokić look to score more?

Jokić has only attempted 30 shots in one game in his career and it was his 43-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the first round this past April. The Serbian big man did increase his shot attempts in the playoffs as he became even more of a focal point for the offense, but even in that situation he attempted under 19 shots a contest.

Jokić’s game isn’t built on constantly shooting over 20-25 times per game. Quite frankly, very few players in the league build their game on attempting that many shot attempts on a nightly basis, as it can hurt the flow of the team’s offense. Jokić is at his best when he mixes his scoring aggressiveness with his ability to find open teammates on the perimeter or around the rim.

Where Jokić’s scoring can help his teammates is from the post. If Denver’s All-Star big man is able to score a few times against his defender from the post, the defense will likely turn to double-teaming him, thereby opening up a shooter or teammate cutting to the basket. Although Jokić hasn’t found that ideal balance so far this season, there is still plenty of time for him to get in a rhythm and fuel this Nuggets offense back to the elite heights it has been in previous seasons.

When are you guys gonna stop winning?... I can't handle all this winning – Scott Bennett (Facebook)

Nuggets fans should get used to seeing plenty of success after last year’s 54-win campaign that saw Denver reach Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. With the entire 2019 playoff rotation returning this season alongside a few new faces on the court in Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr., continuity is on the Nuggets’ side.

It’s also important to note that while player development isn’t always linear (i.e. every young player doesn’t get better each and every season during his initial years in the league), Denver’s young players have been able to grow and develop together in the same offensive system. This has led the team to truly buy into their roles in the rotation and has appeared to strengthen team chemistry.

With Denver’s defense looking improved once again this season, the Nuggets will once again be suited for plenty of regular-season success that should carry over in April and May. Hope you are ready for what should be a long season Scott!

When are the new jerseys dropping?? And where can I purchase it at?? – Albert Hernandez (Facebook)

Albert, you are certainly not the only person to ask about this. Ever since fans were able to get a look at the new City Edition jerseys, everyone wants a jersey of their own!

You can click here to sign up for exclusive access to purchase the new jerseys on Nov. 27 at the Nuggets’ team store at Pepsi Center!

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