By Taylor Armosino
When Danilo Gallinari went down with a torn ACL last week, many talking heads proclaimed that Denver’s playoff ceiling was now lower than previously expected. However, the Nuggets haven’t lost a step because their vaunted perimeter depth has stepped up in Gallinari’s absence. Corey Brewer has been a key part of that depth, and has been all season. At 6’9, Brewer gives the Nuggets the flexibility to play him at multiple positions because of how he can match up defensively. A high energy player, the fifth year wing from Florida fits very well into what Denver wants to do. He provides quality defense, great athleticism and transition prowess. He’s also a lethal shooter from the corner three spot. According to NBA.com, Brewer shoots a very efficient 42.5% from the left corner. A dark horse candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award, Brewer has been productive all season and has stepped his game up another notch in Gallinari’s absence.
Gallinari’s injury prompted coach George Karl to plug Wilson Chandler in as a starter, but Brewer has seen increased minutes coming off the bench as well. In the three games without Gallinari, including the Dallas game where he went down, Brewer’s minutes have spiked from his seasonal average of 24.4 a game to 32.7. Brewer, Evan Fournier and Anthony Randolph have all seen a boost in minutes and all three have produced in helping Denver continue its winning ways. In 22 minutes where the three players have shared the court, Denver has outscored opponents by 40 points per 100 possessions. Brewer has by far played the most minutes of the three and he’s made a huge impact coming off the bench.
With more minutes have come more aggression on offense and more shots taken. The Denver wing has shot 19.3 times a game in the last three games, up from his seasonal average of 10.9. He’s scored 23, 22 and 25 points in his last three games, helping to compensate for Gallinari’s offensive production. With Brewer on the court, Denver is destroying teams. In these three games, the Nuggets are outscoring teams by 30 points per 100 possessions, including only 90.8 points allowed per 100 – a mark that would lead the NBA by a significant margin.
Moving forward, Brewer will continue to see heavy minutes. The postseason is right around the corner and George Karl’s rotation is sure to tighten up a bit as each game becomes more and more important. Brewer’s positional versatility will serve invaluable to Denver in the playoffs, as he can spell starters Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler. He also can play alongside those two, as the Nuggets do like to play small ball and are quite effective at it. In 306 minutes this season, the Nuggets have outscored teams by 17.6 points per 100 possessions when Brewer, Iguodala and Chandler share the floor. This comes as no surprise as the three players compliment each other quite well. All three players are good perimeter defenders as well as athletic horrors when running out in transition.
Only time will tell if Gallinari’s absence will hurt Denver significantly in the playoffs. It hasn’t so far in the regular season, as Denver has won all three games in his absence by an average margin of 9.7 points a game. Corey Brewer has been a huge part of the Nuggets success all season and his role is only expanding. He’ll likely see a healthy dose of postseason minutes and the team will be reliant on Brewer to continue to provide production both offensively and defensively off the bench. Losing a player of Gallinari’s status hurts any team, but the increased production of Corey Brewer has helped to significantly soften that blow.