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Nuggets’ Davon Reed: I’m better than a “fringe” NBA player

SALT LAKE CITY — After Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s post-game news conference concluded Wednesday night, but before he could leave the room, he was asked to answer just one more question.

Utah forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who’d routinely torched the Nuggets in past meetings, was held to 15 points on 5 for 16 from the field. Call it a silver-lining as Denver dropped to 0-4 against Utah this season, but they’d kept it close with Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon both on the bench.

“That’s Davon, isn’t it?” a reporter asked, referring to Bogdanovic’s quiet night.

“I’ll tell you, man,” Malone replied. “That kid is good.”

That “kid” was Davon Reed, who played 30 minutes in Denver’s 108-104 loss to the Jazz and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Even though he wasn’t Bogdanovic’s primary cover, Reed’s rangy frame helped quell Utah’s most dangerous scorer, especially without Donovan Mitchell available.

Reed’s defensive versatility is what initially caught Malone’s eye during training camp. But since landing a two-way contract, he’s proven a much deeper skillset. He knocked down three 3-pointers in Wednesday’s loss, buried an open jumper, then rolled hard to the hoop on another finish inside.

Gordon’s absence due to a hamstring issue opened up playing time on this night, and Reed showed he deserves a longer look. While the Nuggets weigh their options ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline, Reed is doing his best to showcase that the team already has a defensive-oriented wing on the roster and doesn’t need another.

Asked what he’s proven since he’s been in Denver, Reed wasn’t bashful.

“One, that I just belong here,” he said. “I don’t think it should be any more question of ‘Am I a fringe NBA guy or not?’ And just showing that I can defend multiple positions, I can make open shots and, given the opportunity, I can make plays for my team as well.”

Reed made clear his intention is not to outright prove those things to anyone and believed it would become more apparent given an opportunity. The Nuggets are a deep team, and certain nights warrant certain matchups. Reed’s done nothing but support his teammates when he’s been glued to the bench. But Malone couldn’t deny one of the few bright spots to come out of the loss.

“Every time that kid gets a chance to play, he goes out there and plays at a high level,” he said.

He helped the Nuggets enjoy a 57-35 bench advantage that nearly gave them the game. And by playing all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, he gained invaluable experience that wouldn’t have happened were it not for Denver’s laundry list of injuries.

Reed’s already earned the respect of fellow newcomer Bryn Forbes, who called him a “lockdown defender” and said he loves playing with him.

Forbes, who played all but 12 seconds of the fourth quarter, represented the other encouraging component of the defeat. He’d been inconsistent in the seven games since he was traded from San Antonio and shot just 1-of-7 in Tuesday’s loss to Minnesota.

“No one’s harder on Bryn Forbes than Bryn Forbes,” said Malone.

But Forbes broke out for 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including four 3-pointers. He was so hot, the Nuggets ran numerous plays for him in an effort to keep him cooking. Whether it was from the 3-point line, mid-range or at the rim, Forbes proved an ability to score at all three levels.

“I work hard enough on my game that I expect every shot to go in,” he said. “I think sometimes I can be unrealistic.”

Though the Nuggets fell, Denver flexed its deep pool of talent yet again. And if there was any more trust established between Malone and his reserves, perhaps Wednesday wasn’t all for naught.