Once again, Tim Connelly – the Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations – found another versatile and impactful wing seemingly out of thin air in Davon Reed, who has proven he belongs in the NBA during his short time with Denver.
The Nuggets have been without Jamal Murray all year long, but also added Michael Porter Jr. and P.J. Dozier to their injury report over time. Porter has no timeframe for his return from lumbar spine surgery and could miss the rest of the season. Dozier tore his ACL and will miss the rest of this season as well as a portion of next season.
In addition to both Dozier and Porter, the Nuggets have a plethora of other injuries on the roster. Aaron Gordon has missed two games after playing through some soreness in his left hamstring. Monte Morris was added to the injury report prior to Denver’s road win over the Golden State Warriors with left knee soreness and missed the game. Markus Howard will be out for the foreseeable future with a left knee strain as well. And all of these injuries came after Denver dealt with missed games from Bones Hyland, Zeke Nnaji, JaMychal Green, and even Nikola Jokic.
With so many injuries, the Nuggets desperately needed a do-it-all wing who could not only soak up minutes, but give them something they’ve severely lacked since the injury bug hit; defense.
They found that player in Reed.
“For a young man who is on his second 10-day contract with us, he looks like he belongs,” Malone reiterated. “I’ve said it since Summer League; Davon Reed is a NBA player.”
So far this season, Reed is averaging a modest five points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals in just over 17 minutes per game, but that does not begin to quantify the impact he provides when on the floor. Reed’s defense in the final minute of regulation secured Denver’s win in Los Angeles against the Clippers and he has shown an ability to defend guards and wings alike at a high level. His motor seems eternal, his decision making is fantastic, and he knows how to support his teammates when off the ball. In addition to his defensive prowess, Reed is shooting 7 of 16 from 3-point range which equates to 43.8 percent while contributing 11 assists and 11 steals against just three turnovers in addition to keeping the ball moving on offense.
It is hard to hope for anything else from him at this point. Reed has filled the role he has been given better than expected thus far.
If you ask Reed himself, the catalyst for his ascension to the Nuggets has been the confidence bestowed upon him by Malone, who has constantly sang Reed’s praises regardless if he was prompted by questions about Reed or not.
“It has been transformative for my career,” Reed stated when reflecting on the impact Malone has had on his basketball career and the opportunities he has had and continues to receive.
That is why, according to Reed, it was Malone who pushed him and his agent to enter training camp with the Nuggets and bide his time with Denver’s new G-League team – the Grand Rapids Gold – with hopes of eventually finding a place for him on the Nuggets roster.
“Coach Malone really was the one to push me and my agent to come to camp and be a part of the Grand Rapids Gold first and then wait my turn and be ready to play for the Nuggets,” Reed explained. “He has had tremendous confidence in me since I’ve met him and I have not known him for long so for him to believe in me and see my game as a fitting piece for this team and this organization has been tremendous and career-changing.”
Malone believes in the defensive versatility and energy that Reed provides which is why, in Reed’s nine games with the Nuggets, he has started in two of them and is playing 17.1 minutes per contest.
Reed is not just a player who is thrown into the game to take up space. Denver is relying on Reed to give them a boost defensively while also finding moments to impact the game on offense. He has a real role on a Nuggets team that has deep playoff run aspirations.
“I am thankful for coach Malone and the staff and the organization for believing in me to even having me in those situations,” Reed stated. “Like I said, the work has been put in and I am just ready to deliver and like I said, anything I can do for my team to help us win – promote winning – I am for.”
That confidence received from Malone has paid immediate dividends. Suddenly, confidence has become one of Malone’s favorite attributes that Reed possesses and he believes it is the key to unlocking the rest of his game.
“I just like Davon Reed’s confidence,” Malone explained. “He looks very very comfortable and confident out there and I think that is key.
“You have to believe you belong and he certainly does.”
So far, there is no reason to think Malone missed his mark with that comment.
“I have had some ups and downs in my career and people have given up on me. I have had early injuries,” Reed said. “So to have coach Malone believing in me and keep reiterating that; hopefully we can start to get everybody on the same page believing it as well because I believe in it, he believes in it and I believe the Nuggets believe it as well.”
The final step for Reed is convincing the Nuggets organization that he is worth believing in, but that goal might be a bit more shortsighted than he realizes. The 10-day injury hardship exception that Reed was signed to expired after Denver’s win over the Warriors, but according to the reporting of Mike Singer of The Denver Post, the Nuggets are looking at multiple avenues to keep Reed in a Nuggets uniform.
Now, the difficulty is finding a way to keep Reed with the Nuggets, but there are multiple paths ahead to accomplish that goal.
Denver can sign Reed to another 10-day injury hardship exception, but it would continue to push them closer and closer to the luxury tax which is a factor. Denver wants to stave off the repeater tax for as long as they can and, with how expensive their roster will be next season and beyond, avoiding the tax this season seems likely to be a priority.
If Denver wanted an alternative route, they could look to cut one of Markus Howard or Petr Cornelie in order to open up one of the two-way contract slots. With Howard out with a knee sprain for the foreseeable future, it seems likely that he would be at risk of being the player cut if this is the path the Nuggets chose to take.
Lastly, the Nuggets could cut someone on the 15-man roster to make a full-time roster spot available. While possible, this outcome seems the most unlikely because it would require cutting a player, for example Bol Bol, without any compensation while also pushing the total team salary dangerously close to the luxury tax.
Simply stated, the Nuggets already believe in Reed regardless of what route they take to keep him in the Mile High City.
But none of this is on Reed’s mind. He knows that he will earn his spot in the NBA by playing basketball at a high level and that is all he is focused on. He will approach each game the same way with the same priority.
“To be honest, the 10-day contract is never on my mind. That is never something I am thinking about,” Reed explained. “I am out here to play basketball with my team for however long I am here. When I am out there I am locked in and focused on the game plan and I just want to win. Anything I can do to promote winning I am all for.”