The Denver Nuggets are undefeated on the young season after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 17. Their offense was sub-par, but their defense shut down the Clippers throughout much of the game. They held the Clippers to 8-of-28 from three and contained most of their premier scorers much of the night.
However, the Clippers did expose Denver’s biggest weakness by utilizing their massive center Boban Marjanovic. Marjanovic is a 7-foot-2 Serbian juggernaut who doesn’t even have to leave the ground to viciously dunk a basketball. All the Clippers had to do was throw the ball up high in his general direction. Once he had a handle, it was almost an automatic dunk. Thankfully, Marjanovic does not possess elite level stamina so he did not play a ton of minutes. While on the bench, the Nuggets were able to close the game out while he was on the bench.
Fast forward to Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns. Talent-wise, the Nuggets are the better team and they should beat the Suns pretty easily. However, the Suns possessed the first pick in this year’s draft, and they selected Arizona’s massive center Deandre Ayton.
Ayton is physical specimen who will be dominant in this league for years to come. Much like Marjanovic, Ayton is a seven-footer who does not need to do much to get the basketball in the hoop when around the basket. However, Ayton is a lot more athletic than Marjanovic and possess the stamina required to play 30+ minutes and be effective. This will make stopping Ayton even more difficult than Marjanovic.
If Marjanovic gave Denver fits, one could only guess that the Suns are going to try and use Ayton to exploit those same weaknesses. Denver needs to game-plan around stopping Ayton and making sure he does not get comfortable deep in the post. Here’s how they should go about trying to contain Ayton in their home opener.
Constantly bump him to knock him off their normal spots
Good defense revolves around not allowing players to get to their sweet spot. Obviously premier offensive players have numerous scoring spots, but every player has one or two sweet spots. If the defender is able to stop that, they gain a bit of an advantage.
Ayton’s sweet spot is around the rim and deep in the paint. If he gets the ball anywhere within five feet of the rim, he will either score, get fouled or both. Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee are going to have to do their best to keep Ayton from planting himself inside the paint. If they can bump him out and force him to catch 8-12 feet away from the rim, that’ll significantly affect his field goal percentage.
Stopping Ayton from being completely ineffective will be difficult. However, Ayton is still a rookie and based on his first game he did not face much adversity on the offensive end. If the Nuggets can at least make his life difficult, he may break due to the normal immaturity of a rookie. That will be a key factor in the game and would significantly increase the Nugget’s chances of winning their opener.
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