Jalen Pickett made his rotation debut against the Clippers and played well. But did he do enough to lock down the Nuggets’ full-time backup point guard spot? Also, DNVR Nuggets looks ahead to the upcoming 5-game road trip and diagnoses Michael Porter Jr.’s shooting slump.
Did Jalen Pickett do enough against the Clippers to lock down the backup point guard spot with Jamal Murray out?
Adam Mares: No.
Collin Gillespie also had an impressive debut a week ago when his number was called. But Pickett made a strong first impression and the inherent positives of giving him an extended look seemed obvious. He defended at a high level against strong, physically imposing players. It looked like the Nuggets will be able to switch defensively with him on the court. And I think his skillset, albeit a unique one, will help give the bench a half court identity. Some ups and downs are surely ahead, but I think he did enough to earn a slightly longer leash from Michael Malone.
Harrison Wind: No, but it was a positive night for him.
I was impressed with Pickett’s game against the Clippers. He was mostly poised and played under control. His two turnovers weren’t great — one was a travel, the other was a bad pass that was picked off — but he looked the part. I still think he’s going to be on a short leash though. Pickett has the backup PG spot for now but could lose it with one or two bad games. It’s going to take a little time for the rest of Denver’s bench (and some of its starters) to learn how to play off of Pickett since his game is so unique. He flashed enough against the Clippers to keep me intrigued, and his ability to create open looks for his teammates could prove to be the ingredient that the Nuggets’ second unit has been missing.
Brendan Vogt: It was a good debut.
The defense looked slightly less panicked with him on the floor as opposed to Gillespie. Still, like CG, Pickett looked considerably more comfortable alongside Jokic than without him. And Malone shortened the rotation, which made the whole thing more palatable. The jury is still out on the third string point guard minutes. But I’m leaning Pickett after the debut.
What do you make of Michael Porter Jr.’s shooting “slump?”
I understand the desire to pin it on the ankle or missing training camp or some other ailment but I just think he’s in a slump. Even the best shooters go through slumps just as they go through hot streaks. I think Porter’s slump will end abruptly and without rhyme or reason. Hopefully it happens on the first leg of this road trip. The Nuggets are going to need his scoring to keep their early season momentum going. And with Jamal Murray’s return on the horizon, Porter would benefit from a few games where he gets rolling as an elevated option in the offense.
Wind: The ankle must still be bothering him.
Every time that Porter has been in a shooting slump throughout his career it’s been becasue of an injury, and I think the ankle injury that he suffered in training camp is still bothering him a little. Porter says he suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the preseason. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it hasn’t fully healed yet and it’s affecting Porter’s balance on his shot. I think it’s the central reason why he’s shooting just 35.4% from 3-point range and 10-32 (31.2%) from 3 over his last four games. I do like that Porter’s still contributing in other areas of the game even though his shot isn’t falling. He’s averaging a career-high 7.9 rebounds per game so far this season.
Vogt: His confidence is hurting.
Porter is missing shots he usually makes and deferring on shots he used to always take. But that can change quickly. He will heat up again, and once he does, he’ll get back to elite three-point shooting. The conventional wisdom is that shooters fire their way out of a slump. It’s not that simple for Porter, who has spent his career molding himself into an ideal tertiary option. In the meantime, his floor is much higher than the doubters expected. He just needs to keep playing hard.
Predict Denver’s record on its upcoming 5-game road trip (Pelicans, Cavs, Pistons, Magic, Rockets)
I think the Nuggets win the two most important ones; the in-season tournament games against the Pelicans and Rockets. And I think they drop a few that you’d expect them to win, probably against the Magic and Cavs.
I’ve got Denver going 4-1 with the one loss being to the Rockets, again. It’s the final game of the 5-game trip, and Nikola Jokic will be homesick by then. Also, Houston has been the surprise of the NBA so far. They’re playing good basketball. But I do predict that Denver won’t blow out any of their opponents across their four wins. The Nuggets are 3-1 without Jamal Murray, who’s probably not playing during this road trip, and three of those games (Warriors, Rockets, Clippers) were all decided by three points. We’re probably set to watch some more ugly but winning basketball.
Jokic loves playing the Pelicans, and just having him on the floor should be enough against the Pistons and Magic. The Cavs and Rockets games are the tricky ones. Especially when you factor in the travel. But Denver owes Houston and Jeff Green a get-back game. I think they deliver. I think they win four.