Aaron Gordon – B
Gordon opted to make the trip and play in Phoenix despite the rest of his co-starters taking the night off. The hope might’ve been to get himself going and build confidence going into the playoffs. AG reprised an old role, becoming the center of attention on an ill-equipped squad. The results were a mixed bag — he struggled to guard KD out of the gate. Durant did his early damage as a spot-up shooter and in transition. Gordon rotated and contested the jumpers, but Durant never saw him. The transition opportunity resulted from Gordon’s wayward Ill-advised pull-up three as well.
Still, AG was active in the opening minutes. He found success attacking the rim and fought hard to clean up his messes in the paint. His worst stretch came during the third quarter, while the lead ballooned to 20, and he took decreasingly intelligent shots. His suppressed penchant for fadeaways reared its head as the game nearly crossed the threshold into un-seriousness. The free-throw bug bit him again, too. Still, his focus returned as Denver clawed their way back into the game. It was ultimately an applaudable effort.
Bruce Brown – C+
Brown’s determination was bound to factor into this game. It did in both directions — had Denver won, we might laud the necessary tenacity in attacking the rim. With them having lost, a handful of ill-advised possessions stick out most. The real takeaway is that this is Brown’s principled approach to basketball. He wants to go at and through you. With the dust settled, it’s fair to say the Bruce was a little too loose Friday night.
Christian Braun – A-
Braun caught the spot start and turned in an impressive effort. Durant torched the Nuggets, but the youngsters, including Braun, at least made him work for it. He flashed great defense and boiling intensity — shaking his head after notching one of the few KD stops of the night. He took it right at the former MVP on the other end as well, driving into Durant and creating space for a layup in the fourth. His confidence continues to build.
DeAndre Jordan – B-
Jordan caught the spot start this time, not Thomas Bryant, who never appeared in the game. All things considered, Jordan did his job. He didn’t provide much offense, but he pulled down 12 rebounds, picked up three steals, and blocked a shot in 21:12 on the floor.
Reggie Jackson – C
Jackson poured in 13 points in the first half, then went scoreless after halftime. He shot 1 of 9 from three-point range and logged three turnovers. He did contribute early but wasn’t much involved in the second-half comeback effort.
Peyton Watson – B
We got our first real look at Peyton Watson in NBA action, and he flashed the potential Calvin Booth took a flier on in the draft. He joined Braun in pestering Durant in the second half. To reiterate, Durant torched the Nuggets, but it’s hard to complain about the effort of the youth. Watson has the build of a modern wing and an affinity for defense. He offered a glimpse into the future with quality minutes against his friend and now foe, KD.
Zeke Nnaji – B
Zeke was in the middle of some disruptive defense from the Nuggets. His game is not best described as graceful — his hands aren’t great, and his movements are occasionally clumsy. Still, it looks considerably better than the minutes featuring Bryant or Jordan at the backup five. He’s active on the glass, and his switchability is a welcome trait. It’s good to see him playing consistently before the playoffs begin.
Vlatko Čančar – C
Vlatko was in the rotation and looked predictably rusty. His three-point shot was off, and he turned it over in point-forward mode.
Ish Smith – C-
Ish shot 1 of 10 from the field and turned it over twice in 15 minutes.