Aaron Gordon was asked after Wednesday’s Nuggets practice what his individual goals were for the final seven games of the regular season.

He didn’t have any.

“Everything is team-oriented at this point,” Gordon said.

Gordon’s comment is representative of where the Nuggets’ focus is with the playoffs on the horizon. Denver is on a “search for greatness,” as Malone put it, during the current stretch run and has its entire focus trained on building team-wide habits that are going to help the Nuggets accomplish their championship goals. Right now, it’s all about the collective group. The time for individual development is over.

“I would love for us to continue to communicate, probably a few less lapses on defense, and then just a lot more variety of our offense coming down the stretch,” said Gordon, outlining those team-wide habits Denver wants to sharpen. “Just so we give teams a lot to scout going into the playoffs.”

“Opening up the playbook down the stretch,” Gordon continued. “Giving teams a lot to scout just so we have a lot of different options going into the playoffs and teams can’t just key in on one or two set plays.”

It’s an important note from Gordon as the Western Conference playoff picture becomes more clear by the day. Potential playoff opponents will be sending their scouts to watch the Nuggets live, and Denver should want to put as much on tape for them as possible. You don’t want to give away the secret sauce you’re waiting to unveil in the playoffs, but you also don’t want opposing teams to know that you’re over-reliant on your pet plays.

In the playoffs, Gordon’s going to be spotlighted on the offensive end of the floor. The Nuggets’ starting lineup is so stacked and flush with offensive options, that defenses are going to make Gordon beat them. It’s a defensive strategy that the Warriors deployed in last year’s first round of the playoffs and one opponents will go to again this year. The Nuggets have recently seen that gameplan enacted against them too.

Gordon should be prepared to be left alone beyond the 3-point line. He’s shooting 35% from 3 this season — it’s a slight improvement from the 33.5% he shot from distance last year — but has seen his long-range percentage plummet over the last two months. Gordon shot 39.7% from 3 prior to the All-Star break. Since then, he’s a dismal 7-37 (18.9%) from beyond the arc. He’s the clear weak link from a shooting perspective alongside Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The optimistic view is that Gordon’s shooting slide is a result of the injuries he’s picked up over the last several months. Gordon has dealt with both a rib contusion and a right shoulder sprain, the latter of which he suffered in late December, this season. The rib contusion occurred in early February.

But Gordon revealed Wednesday that he’s finally feeling closer to 100%.

“I feel like I’m healing. I feel like I’m healed, actually,” said Gordon. “My ribs are healed. My shoulder is getting there. I feel like I can be myself and play my game uninhibited.”

Gordon feeling like himself again is a key development as the playoffs draw closer. The Nuggets will need him to be an interior presence and someone who can use his muscle inside, especially if Denver plans to slot him at backup center at points during the postseason. Zeke Nnaji’s emergence over the last four games may take some pressure off Gordon to eventually fill that role, but I think it’s still an option the Nuggets will consider based on Nnaji’s performance.

These last seven games present an opportunity for Gordon to work out his shooting kinks and for Denver to explore and potentially expand its offense. Everything the Nuggets do over the rest of the regular season is to prepare for what awaits them in the playoffs.


Harrison Wind is the Denver Nuggets beat reporter for DNVR Nuggets. Hear him every day on the DNVR Nuggets Podcast. Follow Harrison on Twitter - @HarrisonWind