Now you see him; now you don’t.

When you’re playing the Denver Nuggets, there are a multitude of things you have to worry about when you have the ball. Is Kenneth Faried going to appear out of nowhere and throw your shot in an unintended direction? Is JaVale McGee going to use his go-go gadget arms to either make a highlight or a hilarious highlight? Is Andre Iguodala going to dig down in help and take the ball from you?

When Corey Brewer is on the court for the Nuggets, you need to add a question to the things that an offense has to worry about: Where did Brewer go?

There are few players in the NBA as opportunistic on a change of possession as Corey Brewer. In a league full of specialists (from defensive wings to 3-point specialists to rebounding junkies), the Nuggets’ six-year veteran might be the NBA’s first transition specialist.

With the NBA becoming a faster league (when measuring out pace) on average over the last seven seasons, teams have been finding a way to capture the magic of those Mike D’Antoni Seven Seconds Or Less teams in Phoenix. They’ve sped up the pace, talked about having up-tempo DNA and tried to find quick ways to get open transition shots. And no team has consistently played at a higher pace since George Karl took over the Nuggets than Denver.

Since the 2005-06 season (Karl’s first full season coaching the Nuggets), Denver has been in the top five in possessions per game in every season. No other team in the league can say that. Karl’s teams have an advantage with the altitude in Denver, and they attempt to use it to their advantage.

On a recent podcast with Bill Simmons, Golden State Warriors players David Lee and Stephen Curry mentioned how hard it is to play in Denver. They cited that early in the game and in the third quarter, it’s hard to keep your breath. Since the Nuggets players are playing in that environment 41 games per year, it makes sense that they’d play at a higher pace in order to take advantage of their home court and theoretically be in better shape when playing at lower altitudes.

The key to playing a fast pace isn’t just pushing the ball up the floor on made baskets or long rebounds; it’s maximizing when to throw the ball ahead for opportunistic scores. That’s where Brewer comes in for the Nuggets. He’s the best player in the league at leaking out on the break without flat-out cherry picking and leaving his team at a defensive disadvantage.

There are two reasons why Brewer is so good at scoring on leakouts in transition: technique and speed.

The technique aspect of it is fascinating. He’s so good at making a direct step in the opposite direction without cheating on defense. He challenges opposing players, waits by his man and then uses the second that it usually takes the offensive team to realize it’s now on defense to take off in the other direction with exceptional footwork.

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