Nuggets' Collin Gillespie is proving he's a legit hidden gem

Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets
Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets / Justin Tafoya/GettyImages

Two-way point guard Collin Gillespie has put together an incredible season for the Grand Rapids Gold, the G League affiliate team of the Denver Nuggets. After Gillespie fractured his left leg before the start of last season, the Nuggets stuck with the talented floor general while he made a steady recovery.

Gillespie got his first taste of professional basketball since the 2022 NBA Summer League when he checked in at the end of Denver’s opening night win over the Lakers. The former Villanova star competed in his first game with Grand Rapids this past December. 

Gillespie won G League Player of the Month for his December efforts, averaging video game numbers across six total contests. The 6-foot-1 point guard averaged 21.7 points, 11.8 assists, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals and led the Gold to a 4-2 record in those games.

Given his modest size, Gillespie’s rebounding numbers jump out in a big way. Pound for pound (or inch for inch), Gillespie has developed into one of the best rebounders in the G League upon his return to basketball. 10 games into his Grand Rapids career, Gillespie has already blossomed into a G League superstar.

A top-20 rebounder among all players at all positions, Gillespie has certainly turned heads with his brilliance on the glass.

For the entire season, Gillespie has posted jaw-dropping averages of 20.9 points, 11.0 assists, and 9.0 rebounds. Denver’s hidden gem showed why he is averaging a near triple-double in his recent Jan. 24 explosion against the Raptors 905. He dropped 36 points, 12 assists, and 11 boards in a close victory. Gillespie has also collected 1.8 steals per game, showcasing the defensive acumen he boasted throughout his college career.

After the All-Star break, the Nuggets might have to deploy Gillepsie’s all-court abilities more often as Denver’s starters begin to preserve themselves for their title defense. He could even earn himself a spot on Denver’s postseason roster. After all, Gillespie has made quite the case for a standard NBA contract with his breakout G League campaign.

Gillespie has largely played garbage time minutes for the Nuggets across his 14 appearances this season. However, the redshirt rookie logged four straight games with double-digit minutes in early November when Jamal Murray tweaked his hamstring. In that four-game stretch, Gillespie averaged five points and one steal on 37.5% shooting from three in 16.3 minutes per game as the Nuggets went 3-1.

The NBA recently selected Gillespie to play in the G League Up Next Game at All-Star Weekend. However, the league did not invite either Gillespie or Denver rookie Peyton Watson to the Rising Stars game, much to the disappointment of Nuggets fans.

Gillespie has displayed great maturity during his short time in the NBA. He spoke with Denver media last October after a preseason loss, discussing his mentality on the court and in clutch situations.

"Get the best shot possible on the offensive end … Just try to find spaces where my teammates can get shots. If something was open, take it for myself. Defensively, we just had to lock in and try to get stops."

Collin Gillespie

Gillespie has also learned a lot from the great Nikola Jokic. After spending a season on the sidelines watching the Joker and taking in his advice, the G League standout should continue to gain experience and insight from the two-time MVP and other Nuggets veterans.

Gillespie spoke about Jokic’s leadership and how it has helped him during his first two years in the league.

"He’s a really, really great leader. Just in terms of helping the younger guys. I’m learning so much from him … Finally being able to play is exciting because he’ll pull me aside and just be like ‘I see it this way,’ and I’m just like ‘wow, I didn’t see it that way.’ Just learning and growing from him is really cool."

Collin Gillespie on Jokic's mentorship

With a chip on his shoulder and his confidence at an all-time high, Gillespie will look to seize any opportunity he can in the new year.