Aaron Gordon – A-
It was surprising to see Gordon listed as available for this game. Four starters were taking the night off between injuries and a demanding schedule. In that scenario, one might have imagined Gordon would follow suit. He’s laboring his way to the all-star break. Still, there he was when the game tipped off.
If AG needed a rest, you couldn’t tell by watching him Wednesday night. He played a schedule loss like the opener of a playoff series. He was a bull in a china shop — the very form of will. It wasn’t all pretty. He took one too many fadeaway jumpers and often drove with more ferocity than strategy. Still, he was effective, and he gave his all defensively. Ultimately, he did his job of setting the tone for Denver. They lost this game, but they never rolled over. Gordon battled to the very end.
Bruce Brown – C+
Brown never lacks tenacity. But he played a sloppy game alongside a misshapen starting unit. He recorded more turnovers than assists and struggled from the field. He fell in love with his exaggerated floater and began forcing it well outside the preferred range. Hard to hold it against him as a primary ball handler with a unit that should never start together.
Christian Braun – B-
Braun plays a much smaller role than Brown, even in spot-starts. So his imaginary rubric is different. But he filled that contained role well, considering the circumstances. He opened the game with a steal and beat everyone down the floor, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, for a dunk. He hit a clutch 3 in the fourth to keep Denver in the game. He played confidently.
Zeke Nnaji – C
Nnaji could not get his three-point shot to fall. It would have done wonders, given the floor’s geometry, but he hit just one of five attempts on the night. Though the timing was all wrong, he was at least hustling when it came to rebounding. He was so close, yet so far away from some big-time plays. Zeke has a way of doing that.
Vlatko Čančar – C+
Vlatko cleaned up his act by night’s end, but he opened the game in an uncharacteristic fluster. Typically rock solid and mistake-averse, Čaki struggled to read the floor in his opening minutes.
Jeff Green – C
You’re probably losing the game when Jeff Green shoots 4 of 14 from the field. He shot 2 of 9 from a distance. A couple of those could have changed the nature of crunch time. Alas. It’s a make-or-miss league, they tell me.
Ish Smith – C+
Ish turned in a bonafide A+ opening stint. He scored 8 first-quarter points on 4 of 4 shooting. He cooled off considerably and, frankly, struggled for the rest of the game. But he injected some life off the bench initially.
Davon Reed – D+
Reed could not put the ball through the hoop. At his best in the NBA, he’s a sneaky good shotmaker, but that didn’t flash at all this time. He got in the rebounding fight, which salvages an otherwise failing grade.
DeAndre Jordan – D+
DeAndre Jordan had to play in this game. Four starters were missing. It was all hands on deck. Denver may still have been better off if he hadn’t. Jordan wasn’t just in the game. He was guarding Giannis. That went about as well as it sounds.
Bones Hyland – C
Bones got hot in his first stint. He manufactured some tough points against Jrue Holiday, the ultimate guard-stopper. And he briefly provided a flicker of hope that Denver might actually win. He even helped force a turnover with a well-timed stunt. But he would only enjoy that success early on. The Bucks’ size forced him into awkward scoring attempts between the rim and perimeter. That floater is a work in progress.