What Vlatko Čančar brings to the Denver Nuggets

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@Eric_Spyros

With the Denver Nuggets officially announcing that they have signed Vlatko Čančar to an NBA contract, the 22-year-old forward will join the team for the 2019-20 season. After being drafted 49th overall in the 2017 draft, Čančar has spent the past two seasons developing his game overseas.

The Nuggets received two 2017 second-round picks as a result of a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which saw Denver send big man Joffrey Lauvergne to the OKC. Those two selections turned into Čančar and Monte Morris (51st overall), who were drafted two picks apart. While Morris has developed into one of the best backup point guards in the league, Čančar will now look to provide depth at forward in the upcoming campaign.

Over the past two years, Čančar has been playing with San Pablo Burgos in Liga ACB (the top basketball division in Spain), where he saw his role grow substantially. During his first season with the team, Čančar appeared in 12 games and averaged 19.5 minutes per contest. During the 2018-19 season, those numbers jumped up to 33 games played and nearly 23 minutes per game.

As expected, the Slovenian’s numbers increased as he received more opportunities. Last year, Čančar averaged 10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game while he connected on 46.4 percent of his shots. Those figures were all improvements over his rookie-season averages of 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game on 43.8 percent shooting from the field.

READ MORE: Čančar gets Liga ACB’s Young Players’ Best Five Squad recognition

When it comes to his game and skill set, Čančar provides a little bit of everything as a forward. Listed at 6’11”, Čančar brings unique size to the forward position, which gives him an advantage on the boards and helps him shoot over players.

Over his past two stints in Summer League, Čančar has shown his ability to handle the ball, knock down outside shots and battle inside the paint. Although he struggled with his shot in this past Summer League (Čančar shot just 36 percent from the field), he impacted the game in a variety of ways through scoring (8.8 points per game), rebounding (4.3 per game) and passing (2.3 assists per game).

Although Čančar shot just 33.6 percent from beyond the arc with San Pablo Burgos, he has a natural shooting stroke. That, coupled with his elite free-throw shooting (84.7 percent), should allow him to shoot around league-average from deep. While Čančar’s release makes it difficult to shoot off the dribble, he should provide adequate floor-spacing, especially from the power forward position.

The other skills that the former second-round pick brings to the table is ball-handling and an impressive basketball IQ, which lets him read a defense and cut towards the basket at just the right time. In transition, Čančar is able to bring the ball up the floor and make the proper first read to get the offense flowing, which should fit in extremely well with the Nuggets, who don’t always prioritize a lead ball-handler off of live rebounds.

Vlatko's blog: Playing in the NBA in 2019 would be a big deal

Defensively, Čančar’s size will allow him to hold-up when guarding bigger forwards and undersize centers. While the 22-year-old doesn’t bring elite mobility to the defensive end, Čančar is able to use his basketball IQ and awareness to position himself in the right spots to contest shots and contribute on the defensive glass.

Given Denver’s options on the defensive end, Gary Harris, Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap, Čančar won’t be relied on to guard the opponent’s best offensive player when he is on the floor, which will allow him to focus on providing solid team and help defense.

Ultimately, Čančar provides the Nuggets with another big body at the forward positions to use throughout the regular season as teams continue to focus on limiting the minutes and usage on their top players. Čančar will certainly have his work cut out for him if he hopes to secure consistent playing time, as the Nuggets currently have Will Barton, Millsap, Grant, Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez and Michael Porter Jr. on the roster, all of whom are expected to compete for minutes at forward positions.

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