Inside Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji’s “giant leap” this summer

The communicate of Nuggets coaching camp in San Diego wasn’t the two-time MVP, Nikola Jokic, and even the 2 max avid gamers getting back from their prolonged absences.

Of direction, onlookers had been curious how Jamal Murray pivoted on his surgically-repaired knee and the way cellular Michael Porter Jr. regarded. But essentially the most positive chatter stemmed from the play of third-year professional Zeke Nnaji, whose devoted summer of labor helped release him into a contest for mins as a backup large guy.

With Porter wholesome, the mins in query will come off the bench. And relying on the remainder of the preseason, they’ll both cross to Nnaji or veteran loose agent signee DeAndre Jordan.

Nuggets trainer Michael Malone didn’t mince phrases when requested pointedly concerning the two of them.

“Everything’s a competition,” Malone stated following his workforce’s preseason opener in opposition to Oklahoma City, the place Nnaji had a team-high 15 issues in 17 mins. A 3rd-year forward vs. a 15-year veteran, Malone bolstered a idea he’s leaned on dozens of instances during the years.

“It’s never personal,” he stated.

Nnaji spent each and every weekday during the summer lifting and taking pictures. He’d be within the weight room through 9 a.m., lifting for a minimum of an hour, earlier than he wobbled onto the courtroom.

“Leg days are the worst because you come out, and you’re shaking, and then you gotta go on the court and shoot for a couple hours,” stated Nnaji, who was once hindered through knee problems final season. “I’ve been walking out like Bambi.”

There’d be his morning consultation of labor, adopted through every other night consultation of taking pictures. Throughout the day he’d paintings with coaches on completing within, defensive drills and his taking pictures method – all spaces he’s been praised for because the workforce opened camp two weeks in the past.

There was once a time final season when his 46% 3-point taking pictures proportion was once top-of-the-line within the NBA. Although there was once a slight hitch in his shot, it didn’t seem his taking pictures shape wanted a lot tweaking. But at the advice of the training team of workers, he targeted his release and subtle his liberate.

“It’s not something we’re going to force on you, but I agree,” Nnaji stated of the dialog with the Nuggets’ training team of workers.

But why refine one thing that’s been just right?

“Being a perfectionist, I know it’s never going to be perfect,” Nnaji stated. “… I look at it like an exponential curve. If three is the line, it never gets to three, but it keeps getting closer and closer the higher you get up. … I’m trying to be the closest one to three.”

Denver Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji dunks on Michael Porter Jr., during the team's training camp at the UCSD campus in La Jolla, California on Friday, September 30, 2022. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
Denver Nuggets forward Zeke Nnaji dunks on Michael Porter Jr., all through the workforce’s coaching camp on the UCSD campus in La Jolla, California on Friday, September 30, 2022. (Photo through AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Now follow that to his offseason angle, and you’ll be able to begin to know how Nnaji is stressed.

He was once already a talented spot-up shooter. The thought was once to make him extra deadly at the transfer. Now, he stated his taking pictures mechanics keep the similar regardless of the placement.

Nnaji’s willpower within the weight room no longer most effective added 4 inches to his vertical bounce, it additionally granted him particular acclaim amongst teammates. A before-and-after image posted within the workforce’s weight room through energy trainer Felipe Eichenberger has drawn consideration.

Nnaji, who added 10 kilos of muscle this offseason, showed he’s stuck important flak for it.

The advantages are evident. Against Oklahoma City, Nnaji was once extra explosive at the glass, assured from past the arc and way more impactful than he was once. He stated his on-court consciousness has progressed, as has his defensive conversation. While it’s no longer his activity to come to a decision a winner within the ongoing race to again up Nikola Jokic, Nnaji has finished the whole thing in his energy to justify a larger workload.

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