1. Probably the most under rated aspect of Jamal Murray’s game is his IQ as a cutter. Nikola Jokic gets credited with his elite vision on plays like the one below but the entire possession is setup by Murray understanding where the help will be coming from and how the defense will react when he cuts back towards the strong side.
This is an element of the Jokic-Murray two-man game. It’s not a PnR or a dribble handoff (DHO) but it is Jokic and Murray both reading each other and reading the court in perfect harmony to create a wide open dunk for a teammate.
2. With the addition of Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets keep adding and/or repurposing plays into the playbook. The common theme among most of those plays is some kind of screen-the-screener action that begins with Murray setting a back screen for Gordon. Just watch how easily the Nuggets are generating points or switches that compromise the defense off of that basic back screen action and how the team is capable of immediately identifying the counter to whatever adjustment the defense makes.
3. Like the examples above, these two plays place the defense into a checkmate. Switch and you’re allowing Jokic to isolate from the elbow. Don’t switch and you’re chasing Murray around a series of screens. Help from the corners and you’re leaving Michael Porter Jr. or Will Barton wide open.
4. And once the Nuggets have run through their plays, why not try playing Jokic in the guard spot and Murray in the center spot. No other team in the NBA has the luxury of swapping all five players into any role within the same set of plays.
5. I’ve talked about this action more than any other play in Denver’s playbook because it is one of the most common actions and one of the most intricate. The clips below demonstrate a whole new set of reads involving Gordon.
6. Porter has gotten a lot more comfortable in the Nuggets’ offense over the last six weeks and is starting to find cutting angles and shot opportunities within the flow of a possession. The clip below shows two slip cuts for shots at the rim.
7. This is one of my favorite cuts in basketball. Porter sets a sort of flare screen on the opposite wing but only as a decoy to hide as his man commits to help double team Jokic in the post. As soon as the defense commits, Porter slips to the basket for the easy shot at the rim.
8. Even when Porter’s cuts are deliberate and obvious, he is still a 6’10 target for Nikola “Peyton Manning” Jokic to throw over the top.
9. Will Barton has a lot of chemistry with Jokic, as evident in the two clips below where Barton patiently sets up his defender before sprinting backdoor for the layup.
10. This clip demonstrates two of the skills that make Gordon such a great addition to the Nuggets’ half court offense. The first is his flare screen into the “Lonzo” cut that I highlighted with Porter up above. The second is his touch pass to Jokic for the layup that requires both exceptional vision and touch.
11. However, Gordon’s passing is a bit uneven. While the clip above demonstrates his ability to make complex reads and passes, he still occasionally misses basic reads like the one below.
12. By my count, the Nuggets have run some form of Jokic-Gordon PnR just three times over their four games together and have created points off of all three possessions. This might end up being one of those actions that Michael Malone leaves in his back pocket for end of game situations.
13. Gordon has really great hand-eye coordination.
14. Perhaps the most impressive trait that Gordon has shown in his first four games is a willingness to be a part of Denver’s system. Over 77% of his 2FGs have been assisted, nearly double his career average. Possessions like the one below show the commitment to fitting into Denver’s proven style of balanced and unselfish basketball.