Among the many issues facing coach Michael Malone and the Denver Nuggets this season, the issue of how to fix the bench unit is one of the most pressing. At the forefront of that conversation is longtime Euro-league star Facundo Campazzo.
Campazzo signed a two-year deal in the summer of 2020, and was brought in to be a high-floor, third string point guard for the team. After injuries to both Monte Morris and Jamal Murray however, Campazzo has been forced to be the point guard for both the bench and starting units during different stretches.
Unfortunately, Campazzo has been hit-or-miss in his time with the Denver Nuggets. Primarily, his 3-point shooting has been up and down throughout his tenure. Campazzo often goes on extended 3-point flurries before inevitably reverting back to ice-cold shooting.
His inconsistent shooting numbers would be tolerable if he was a threat to score in the paint, but Campazzo falls short in this category as well. For his career with the Nuggets, Campazzo is only attempting around 12 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet from the basket, and only 14 percent of his shots are attempted from 3-10 feet from the basket, compared to his 66 percent of attempts taken from 3-point range, per Basketball-Reference. Campazzo simply isn’t a legitimate threat to teams to score in the paint.
So if he doesn’t score, what does he provide to the team?
Campazzo is a pure point guard, one who understands team basketball and looks to initiate the offense and get others involved. When surrounded by shooters or high basketball-IQ players, Campazzo has shown that he can be an impactful guard off the bench.
Additionally, Campazzo has a nonstop motor and plays every game with playoff intensity. That constant energy often leads to game-changing steals and turnovers on defense, and can be channeled at the end of games to help the Denver Nuggets.
Despite Campazzo’s infectious energy on the court, he is an especially small guard. Listed at 5-foot-10 inches, Campazzo is often targeted by bigger guards and wings in late-game situations, and routinely fails to contest shots due to his size.
How should Michael Malone utilize Campazzo?
It’s been a rough stretch for Facundo Campazzo with the Denver Nuggets this year. The child-like energy and enthusiasm has worn off among many fans, and it’s time to figure out how to effectively utilize Campazzo.
To me, Campazzo can be a useful player on the bench while Jamal Murray continues rehab on his knee. However, the bench unit must be tailored to Campazzo’s skill-set to maximize his effectiveness. Combining floor spacing, along with a true center that has rim-rolling ability would be ideal for Denver.
Luckily, they might just have the pieces for that.
PG: Facundo Campazzo
SG: Bryn Forbes
This is the bench unit that Michael Malone opted to go with in the Nuggets’ win over the Detroit Pistons, and early returns looked promising. Obviously, the group needs more time to gel, and the chance to play against an opposing bench unit of actual NBA players, but the group seemingly fits well together on paper.
With this bench group, Campazzo has the space he needs to operate with Forbes, Reed, and Nnaji all proving to be reliable catch-and-shoot threats. There is certainly room for flexibility in the forward spots, but reliable shooting will help Campazzo maximize his talents.
Newly acquired DeMarcus Cousins provides a pick-and-roll partner to pair with Campazzo, as well as someone who can punish other bigs in the paint. While he’s certainly not a lob threat, Cousins should be useful to the bench unit when paired with Campazzo.
Along with Facu’s strengths as a ball handler, Bones Hyland can be used as a secondary creator for the bench, and Cousins is capable of finding open shooters from the paint. There’s not a natural second ball-handler, but Campazzo is at his best with the ball in his hands, and this lineup gives him plenty of opportunity to create for others.
The Denver Nuggets are simply biding their time until Jamal Murray returns, a move that will likely send Monte Morris back to the bench. Until then, Campazzo will almost certainly continue to see minutes, and must be utilized correctly to have an impact on the court.
This upcoming stretch of games until the All-Star break will be a critical time for the Denver Nuggets, and Campazzo must play a role in that stretch for the team. Hopefully, a change in the bench lineup is just what Campazzo needs to get things going again.