Strike 1: Collin Gillespie is too short.

Nothing he can do about that of course, but the undertall (listed generously at 6-foot-1) Denver Nuggets rookie point guard could still play a big role in helping the team he barely plays for win another NBA title if he could only get the chance.

The Nuggets are pretty set at point guard, as everyone already knows. What they need is rest for those guys. They need starter Jamal Murray and backup Reggie Jackson to have fresh legs come the postseason. But they’re also in a dogfight for the top seed in the NBA’s Western Conference, which means sitting guys out and having them miss any game due to “load management” issues is pretty much out of the question. That badly needed rest for the veterans needs to come in games they already started, but don’t necessarily have to finish.

Basically, in order for the guys who are deep on the Denver bench to see playing time – giving the starters some rest – those Nuggets starters have to help by blowing out teams, thereby leaving mop up minutes for the younger guys.

Gillespie hasn’t played in an NBA game in roughly five weeks, even while he repped Denver as a G-League All-Star in mid-February. For guys like Gillespie, Jalen Pickett, Hunter Tyson and Jay Huff to see the floor, the starters and regular bench guys have to do a much better job of putting away bad teams far earlier in games.

You can understand Nuggets coach Michael Malone being hesitant to go deep into his stock of reserve players when the disinterested starters had a hard time holding onto the largest halftime lead (78-44) in franchise history Saturday night against the Utah Jazz. That 34-point halftime lead was just a 14-point advantage going into the fourth quarter. So, once again, the starters had to log additional fourth quarter minutes, and sadly, while Gillespie was inactive for the game, the other guys deep on the deep bench got to stay parked deep on the bench.

Gillespie has seen action in 19 games so far in his rookie season, and when given time, he has performed well. Certainly well enough to allow Malone to give much needed rest to Jackson, the 33-year-old/12-year veteran backup point guard, for example. After bursting out and filling in for injured Murray early in the season, “Mr. November” looked like an answer to one of Denver’s bench questions. But Father Time doesn’t turn it over too often, and Jackson hasn’t looked the same the past couple of months. He clearly needs fewer minutes leading into the postseason, but that can only happen if Malone can be okay with giving more fourth quarter playing time to players like Gillespie and Pickett.

Same goes for all the Denver regulars. It would be great if they didn’t always have to play deep into the fourth quarter. That’s the right way to do load management.

As for Gillespie, the Villanova product is on a two-way contract after coming back from a horrific leg injury suffered in the summer of 2022. The two-time Big East Player of the Year and Bob Cousy Award (top point guard in the nation) winner went undrafted, largely due to the pesky height thing. Nonetheless, he’s been sensational for Denver’s G-League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he’s averaging better than 20 points and 10 assists per. No telling when he might see playing time for the Nuggets again this season, but if and when he does, it will mean that Murray and Jackson are getting those much needed minutes off, which could be a huge help come playoff time.