Three Big Takeaways in Demolition of Knicks

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /
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Denver Nuggets: Nnaji Has Earned All the Minutes He Can Get

Forward Zeke Nnaji is showing Coach Malone that he deserves more minutes. I like the contributions from the J-Green duo, particularly Uncle Jeff, but this guy has potential to be a future starter, and maybe a star. Nnaji’s defense is improving, which is why Malone is getting him on the floor.

He played 34 minutes against the Knicks and scored 21 points. Both are career highs. He shot 5-9 from 3-point range, which has been a Nuggets weak spot this season. Along with his scoring, he put up 8 rebounds and had a couple of steals. Maybe the best stat? No turnovers.

Nnaji’s output was similar to the numbers he put up in only 20 minutes when Jokic was serving his one-game suspension: 19 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block and no turnovers.

Then Nnaji got hurt.

In the Knicks game, Jokic shined because Nnaji and the perimeter game loosened up the defenders swarming Big Honey inside. Whenever the Knicks tried bringing extra bodies to guard him inside, Jokic turned into an unstoppable distribution hub. And this only works if Nnaji and others are knocking shots down.

Nnaji saw a lot of clear looks because of Jokic’s exquisite passing. However, at 6-foot-9, Nnaji can also shoot over defenders when he’s not wide open.

There’s a reason the Nuggets selected Nnaji in 2020’s first round after just one year at University of Arizona. He’s still the Nuggets youngest player at 20 years old, even younger than Bones Hyland.

The injuries to Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray are in no way a net positive for the Nuggets. Yet if the minutes Nnaji gets by default allow him to develop with in-game experience while filling into an NBA physique, the Nuggets might be handsomely rewarded.