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"It's kind of like Bubba Gump Shrimp": Nuggets' guards take center stage in preseason opener

Harrison Wind Avatar
December 12, 2020

Jamal Murray can drop 50 points on any given night. Monte Morris is more a throwback point guard who thrives in the pick-and-roll. Facu Campazzo’s offensive elegance and defensive fervor can change the pace and energy of a game in a split-second. PJ Dozier is a mix of all three, but at 6-foot-6 his length is unique to Denver’s deep and multi-faceted backcourt.

“It’s kind of like Bubba Gump Shrimp. We’ve got lots of different types of shrimp,” Michael Malone said this week. “We have lots of types of guards.”

It’s true. The Nuggets have plenty of options at point guard. How Malone divvies up minutes at that position behind Murray is one of the top storylines to track throughout Denver’s preseason slate beginning tonight on the road against the Warriors.

Here’s what else I’m watching for.

Who stands out at backup point guard?

Dozier has been the Nuggets’ training camp MVP so far, according to Malone. with praise like that it’s hard not envisioning him as an entrenched member of Denver’s rotation on opening night.

I wrote earlier this week about how the Nuggets could envision Dozier as their Torrey Craig replacement this season and defensive ace whose minutes could fluctuate night to night based on who Denver’s opponent is. That role could still very much be Dozier’s, but a steady dose of his minutes will likely come in the backcourt next to Morris and Campazzo as well. The Nuggets have experimented with those pairings throughout training camp practices and will surely debut them in the preseason.

Dozier’ intangibles are so enticing. He’s 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan and is a gifted anticipatory defender. He’s savvy with a naturally smooth pick-and-roll cadence that was evident from the first minutes he played in a Nuggets uniform last season. A strong preseason could vault him up the rotation a spot or two.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Campazzo shines tonight and throughout the preseason. He played in 22 games this season for Real Madrid before arriving in Denver. His last game in Spain came less than a month ago on Nov. 22 and he might be the only Nuggets player in true game shape right now. Campazzo on Steph Curry is the matchup to watch tonight.

Michael Porter Jr.’s defense

I reported within our Porter Player Preview that the forward arrived back in Denver after the shortened offseason a more committed defender both on and off the floor. Porter has become more of a “student of the game” as one source put it when it comes to studying film and opponent tendencies. The reviews of Porter’s defense throughout Nuggets training camp practices have been encouraging too. We’ll likely get our first bit of insight into whether or not Porter’s an improved defender tonight.

The Nuggets’ ceiling this season may ultimately be defined by how big of a leap Porter makes, and while the 22-year-old’s offensive role will be much larger this season his defense will have to take a substantial jump too. Porter is the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to the competition for Denver’s starting small forward job. Showing Malone he’s a more committed and astute defender is the first step towards locking that job down.

Where does Bol Bol fit?

After Porter, Bol is at the top of my preseason curiosity power rankings. What position does he play? How big of a step has he taken from the player we saw in the bubble? Does he actually have a logical pathway towards rotation minutes?

We could get some answers tonight since the Nuggets only have three preseason games to sort out their rotation. While Malone’s two goals entering Denver’s opener are simple in nature — to improve and to stay healthy — there’s only a limited amount of time for the Nuggets to evaluate what combinations and lineups show some chemistry together and which ones don’t.

Who Bol plays with and how early his first minutes come in tonight’s preseason opener will be a good gauge on just how realistic of a shot he has at opening the regular season in the Nuggets’ rotation.


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