Nuggets’ PJ Dozier making name for himself: “My South Carolina army knife”

Nuggets’ PJ Dozier making name for himself: “My South Carolina army knife”

PJ Dozier doesn’t say much, but he’s always watching.

When he found himself roaming the baseline in the first half of Wednesday’s season opener, he wasn’t out of place. Instead, acting as the small-ball power forward while JaMychal Green nursed a calf injury, he was mimicking the play of veteran power forward Paul Millsap.

“I’m a very observant player,” Dozier said. “I watch Paul, I watch the positions he’s in, especially when he’s on the court with Nikola (Jokic). Those two find each other a lot.”

Dozier didn’t get the assist from Jokic, but his positioning gave him a direct line to the basket off a bounce pass from Gary Harris. It turned into an and-1 opportunity.

Earlier in the game, he took Kings forward Marvin Bagley Jr. off the bounce for a smooth reverse layup. Both buckets came with Dozier, theoretically, playing out of position.

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For Nuggets coach Michael Malone, that’s by design. Dozier, who made a name for himself as a defensive fixture in last year’s postseason, was a standout in training camp. In a loaded backcourt, stuffed with stars, playmakers and fast-twitch athletes, Dozier stood out due to his consistency and willingness to play anywhere on the court.

“He’s my South Carolina army knife,” Malone said in reference to Dozier’s home state. “PJ’s versatile, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s a ball-handling, facilitating, play-making basketball player. Today’s NBA, (it’s) more and more position-less basketball, if you will.”

In 14 minutes off the bench, Dozier had seven points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the opener. As helpful as the rangy, 6-foot-6 combo guard was, offensive impact means nothing if you’re a liability on defense. That’s where Dozier has endeared himself to Malone. By capably playing anywhere from point guard to power forward, he’s seemingly solidified a place in the rotation.

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“Never played that position at this level, so it was an experience for me,” Dozier said of his NBA-level power forward debut.

It’s pretty simple to him. The more useful you are to your team, the higher the likelihood Malone will call your name. More than that, Dozier’s been with three franchises since making his NBA debut during the 2017-’18 season. Versatility means value.

On defense, he speaks Malone’s language.

“It’s a pride thing,” he said. “You’re going to guard the person in front of you and you’re going to make sure you have your brother’s back whenever they need it. When you have that mindset, a lot of times you find yourself in the right position.”

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