Which players will make Nuggets’ 2024 playoff bench rotation? Michael Malone aims to be flexible.

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  • If their success in 2023 set any sort of precedent, then the Nuggets are probably about to shorten their bench for the NBA playoffs.

    Michael Malone kept his rotation eight-deep for the majority of Denver’s run to the championship. His bench trio consisted of Bruce Brown, Christian Braun and Jeff Green — three players with a chasm of career experience separating them. Braun was a rookie; Green was with his 11th franchise.

    A similar mix of experience and youth can be expected this season. Brown and Green are gone. Braun has upped his game in the second half of the season after a lull, regaining Malone’s trust and establishing himself as something closer to the sixth man he was always meant to be in his sophomore year of NBA ball. Reggie Jackson’s minutes are higher, but that’s largely a product of Jamal Murray’s injury-littered season.

    Regardless, there were a couple of notable omissions March 25 when Malone commented that “aside from (Braun) and Reggie off the bench, I don’t know who is going to play in the playoffs. I really don’t.” Peyton Watson has looked like the Nuggets’ best two-way bench player at times this season, if not consistently. The 21-year-old is averaging a block per game in only 18 minutes, emerging as a high-ceiling wing defender whose athleticism can swing the momentum of an entire game. Measured in both playing time and scoring, he is ostensibly the eighth man who wasn’t initially mentioned as a playoff eighth man.

    Malone had more to say on the matter Tuesday, though, when he was asked about his playoff reserve options again.

    “I think Peyton Watson’s done a really good job as of late,” Malone said. “Tonight obviously, 3-of-6 from the field, three rebounds, two blocks. That’s a really good night for Peyton Watson. I thought he played really well in the Cleveland game on both ends of the floor. And obviously, it would really be helpful to his development if he can get substantial playoff minutes. Because you can’t replicate that anywhere: regular season, whatever it is.”

    Watson said his priority is to finish the regular season strong and not jump ahead to the playoffs yet. But when asked by The Denver Post whether he expects to be in the rotation, he said, “I haven’t had any conversations with the coaches about it, but I’m not worried about it. I think I’ll be more than fine.”

    “Continue to do what I do, continue to get experience and game reps even though it’s late in the season,” Watson continued. “When other guys slow down, I want to speed up.”

    Typically, Malone likes to have either Murray or Nikola Jokic on the floor at all times, but if the ninth-year coach wants to stagger Murray with the second unit, he might have to navigate his point guard situation carefully. In 288 minutes of playing time, lineups featuring both Murray and Jackson are barely breaking even in net rating while posting a meager 1.41 assist-to-turnover ratio. That’s a worse …read more

    Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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