What Facundo Campazzo brings to the Denver Nuggets
One of Denver’s two additions over the initial weekend of the free agency period is a much flashier contributor than the other. While JaMychal Green fills a role as an under-the-radar defender and floor-spacer, point guard Facundo Campazzo will routinely dish out highlight-worthy assists.
The deal to bring over one of Europe’s best guards to the Mile High City adds an elite playmaker to Denver’s roster, albeit with some question marks on the defensive end of the floor.
Campazzo is a 5’11” point guard that has been a member of Real Madrid since the 2014-15 season. Over the course of those six years, the 29-year-old has grown his game and his role on the team, peaking with averages of 9.9 points and 7.1 assists per game during the 2019-20 season.
For those who are unfamiliar with Campazzo’s style of play, think Milos Teodosic, only with a bit more athleticism. Teodosic, of course, joined the NBA as a member of the LA Clippers before the 2017-18 season, where he would go on to average 9.5 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Let’s take a look at what Campazzo will add to Denver’s offense during the upcoming season.
Elite vision and playmaking highlight offensive skillset
If you are a fan of elite passing, you will certainly enjoy watching Campazzo alongside Nikola Jokić. One quick look at Campazzo’s highlights from the EuroLeague will provide all one needs to see the value the 29-year-old brings.
Campazzo makes Jokić-like reads and passes that will immediately fill highlight reels. There is no pass the Argentine is afraid to attempt, whether that is behind his back, through an opponent’s legs, or a high-risk alley-oop lob.
For the Nuggets, adding Campazzo allows them to follow a trend that has developed in the NBA in recent seasons by throwing out lineups that include several quality playmakers at multiple positions. One can easily see Campazzo playing alongside Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, or Will Barton for stretches. When Denver’s other guards and wings share the court with Campazzo, they can focus on running off-ball actions for open threes or shots around the rim, as the 29-year-old will find them with his elite court vision.
Although the vast majority of Campazzo’s offensive contributions come from his playmaking, he has also shown the ability to hit shots from deep, albeit at an inconsistent rate. Over the course of his career in Europe, Campazzo has shot 33.7 percent from beyond the arc.
However, that number has fluctuated throughout the years, reaching a peak of 39.5 percent in the 2019-20 Liga ACB campaign while dipping to 31.5 percent in the 2015-16 season. Through 10 games of the 2020-21 EuroLeague season, Campazzo had only connected on 27.5 percent of his attempts from downtown.
Although the shooting isn’t always a given, Campazzo has shown a willingness and ability to hit pull-up three-pointers if his defender goes under a screen. If the battle-tested point guard can hit at a 34-35 percent clip from deep, that should be enough to force defenses to guard him off-ball and not duck under screens.
Regardless, Campazzo will be on the court to set-up teammates and set them up at a high level. Denver already has one premier playmaker in Jokić, but you can never have too much elite playmaking on the court, thus the addition of Campazzo.
Tenacity and awareness work to overcome defensive limitations
At 5’11” and 195 pounds, Campazzo’s defense suffers as a result of his physical limitations. However, make no mistake about it, the 29-year-old competes on that end of the floor and uses his court awareness to make plays.
Although steal numbers are typically not a good reflection of a player’s defensive contributions, Campazzo has averaged 1.5 steals per game throughout his career, often a result of his awareness and tenacity to fight against the physical limitations.
However, one must wonder how the Argentine will adjust to the athleticism in the NBA on a nightly basis. Although Real Madrid is one of, if not the best team outside of the NBA that plays serious competition, the NBA is a different level. Teodosic struggled mightily on the defensive end of the floor in his two seasons with the Clippers, although Campazzo has a bit more athleticism on his side in that comparison.
If Campazzo can be surrounded by a few above-average defenders such as Gary Harris, JaMychal Green and Paul Millsap, the Nuggets should be able to support him on that end of the floor. Campazzo’s role will be interesting to keep an eye on, as he can provide a big boost for the offense but might not be able to play extended minutes because NBA teams focus on attacking matchups they believe can be exploited.
One thing is for sure, after the addition of Campazzo, there will be no shortage of highlight-reel passes and elite court vision in the Nuggets’ rotation, which should translate to a truly elite offensive season for Denver.