With the Denver Nuggets being short-handed against the Portland Trail Blazers due to a litany of injuries, headlined by Jamal Murray (torn ACL) and Will Barton (right hamstring strain), Channing Frye thinks he may have the solution to contain Nikola Jokic.
In the latest episode of “Talkin’ Blazers with Channing Frye,” the former Blazer suggested a few ways in which Portland can try and neutralize Jokic, which will be easier said than done.
Jokic led the NBA in touches with 101 per game, the most by any player since the stat began being tracked at the start of the 2013-’14 season, and was second in passes per game with 74.9 per game.
It’s no secret the Nuggets offense runs through Jokic.
“What I would do is have a guard pick-up Jokic full-court,” Frye said. “Jokic, you can’t play guard. We’re not going to put that on Nurk. Just don’t, right?”
Having someone like Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, or Norman Powell pressure Jokic up the court would be a different look. Especially if the defender begins to faceguard him in the front-court.
Maybe, the Blazers go box-and-one like the Raptors did Stephen Curry during the 2019 NBA Finals.
Jokic is Denver's one and only engine. Without him, they go nowhere. Only an innovative defensive scheme will help the Blazers against him.
“You gotta pick Jokic up full-court and make someone else make the decisions for that team,” Frye said. “Anybody but Jokic, because he’s that good.”
Outside of Jokic, nobody on the Nuggets playoff roster is viewed as a reliable playmaker.
Limiting his touches will be tough because the whole team will be looking to pass to him to get something going.
Jokic averaged 2.75 seconds per touch and 1.36 dribbles per touch. Coinciding with the fact that he and the Nuggets offense don’t look to stop the ball, but rather keep it moving.
If Portland can somehow stay extremely active defensively and do what seems to be impossible, they’ll put themselves in a great position throughout the series.
Make him score
Even though Jokic was 12th in the league in scoring at 26.4 points per game, it’s how he scores that could be the difference if Portland makes him uncomfortable.
Forcing him in isolation situations is where the Blazers may find some success. Jokic only averaged 1.7 iso plays per game.
The toughest part of executing such a gameplan is the way Denver’s offense is due to the movement and their reliance on dribble handoffs.
It’s not in Jokic’s DNA to go iso, and the only way Portland could force him into such a situation is if they played great team defense on the four other players.
“If you let Jokic shoot or play him one-on-one, if he gives you 50, he gives you 50, but he has to make 25 shots. That’s 25 less shots for the rest of that team, who are role players.”
The Nuggets went 7-4 during the regular-season when Jokic had at least 25 field-goal attempts.
Another revelation of forcing Jokic to score is also making him dribble. This season, 54.7% of his shots came on zero dribbles.
Frye suggests forcing Jokic to become offensively minded will make players like Michael Porter Jr. want to become selfish and look for their own shots.
These are a ton of suggestions by Frye, that are good in theory, but of course difficult to execute in practice. But him suggesting different tactics defensively is exactly what it'll take to limit Jokic.