The Denver Nuggets just finished a 33-49 campaign, missing the playoffs for the third straight year. The team rated dead-last in attendance and is again a non-factor in April. But with one of the best under-21 cores in the league, a savvy front office and trade assets aplenty, there is a renewed sense of hope for the Mile High City's pro basketball squad. Dan Fatigato (@hashtagnuggets) and Ryan Haig (@shadowinnothing) take the temperature of the team via the accommodating and free collaboration platform, Slack.
First question: outside of the two rookies who was the most pleasant surprise for the Nuggets this season?
I would say the change in culture that coach Mike Malone brought. During those depressing Brian Shaw years the Can was bleak. There was nothing to cheer for, Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried would win us a few games here and there but the team was empty. Shaw was the worst mistake the front office ever made, there's no doubt in my mind his coaching style drove Lawson to some of his more controversial decisions. That being said, Malone has done an outstanding job at not only coaching this young roster to a promising future, but bringing that spirit back to Denver. The Mile High is and always will be a football city and the Nugs were dead last in attendance this year. However, there's team spirit and hype for the Nuggets once again and I thank Coach Malone for that.
I knew getting rid of Shaw would improve the team, but Malone has gone above and beyond here.
Interesting point on the coaching difference. I think Malone's presence has helped guys like Gary Harris and Will Barton immensely. I doubt they would have had the years they did if Shaw were still the coach. Injuries helped free up minutes for those guys but they were put in positions to succeed. Novel concept, let's get the 1st round draft pick (Harris) some court time with other developing youngsters while carving out a sixth man role for a scorer like Barton. The only guy that really seemed to regress this year under Malone's watch was Jusuf Nurkic. How do you see the rest of his Nuggets tenure playing out?
Nurkic that is.
The young guys have thrived under Malone. Shaw wanted the vets to carry the team to a title but the cold hard truth is the team wasn't nearly that good. Shaw would only put Harris in for 4-6 minutes per game last year and he would make some dumb 3-point shots. I loved Barton from the moment we got him, super lanky limbs that are perfect for a basketball body you know? Melvin Hunt did a good job rotating the players pretty evenly for minutes when he was in charge which didn't really lead to a set-in-stone battle strategy, but he put the spark back in the players’ hearts no doubt. Hunt didn't use Barton like The Thrill has been used this year, but man has he brought something to the Mile High.
Nurkic's low play time is understandable, his injury was pretty bad last year and they tried to bring him back too early which did way more bad than good for him. The Bosnian Beast really showed himself after the All Star break and I love it when he and Jokic are on the floor together, it's like our own little Iron Curtain.
All fandom aside, this team is about to be great. They put together a glorious base for the future of the entire franchise and the Nuggets are coming for the rest of the league. Like I said about the culture, Mudiay commented, ’'We took a lot of bumps, but it was good for us as far as growing. The ultimate goal is to put banners up here in the Pepsi Center.''
I haven't been this excited for any Nugget to say that since Carmelo was here. This is especially awesome on account of last year, when the quote from the Nuggets was "ONE...TWO...THREE...SIX MORE WEEKS!"
So they have a solid base, now the difficult part is finding talent. We might already have that in Mudiay, but for the sake of not putting all of our eggs in one basket, this upcoming draft is critical to the future of the Nugs.
Wow, yes I had forgotten about that pathetic chant last year that had all NBA fans and pundits laughing at the Nuggets. Maybe I blocked it from memory. I love your enthusiasm for the Nuggets going forward, but part of me still thinks Tim Connelly has to make one or two more big moves to turn them into a true contender. The young guys will continue to develop, but adding a star to the mix will do wonders. You mentioned the Nurkic-Jokic combo: it seems to me that pairing would have worked in 1999, but will get killed by smaller lineups in 2016. Malone waited until the very end of the year to experiment with it which makes me think he has the same reservations.
Jokic would have to play the four in that scenario and he's much better at center, since he can stretch the floor and make opposing centers work on defense.
At the end of the day, it's a good problem to have: two quality young centers. But will Jusuf pout if he's coming off the bench?
True, I hadn't given much thought to the small ball lineups that could get by those two quickly. I watched about 70 games this year and can't name one occasion off the top of my mind where either one of them was fast enough to guard the 1-4 spot on a pick and roll or whatever came their way from the other team. The combo is doing a more than decent job on the offensive side of the court though. Jokic just set the NBA record for highest AST% for a rookie center in the 3-point era and Nurkic has shown with his aggressiveness that he can do it up under the rim no matter who he's facing. Although, isn't that classic Denver hoops? Run-and-gun offense with a small defensive presence?
But, again, good problem to have. This is what a recent NBC article pointed out: "In Nurkic, Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris, the Nuggets are the only team with four players currently age 21 or younger who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes either this season or last. The Timberwolves – Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Towns – are the only other team with even three."
And yes, that’s definitely traditional Nuggets basketball. Malone has been fighting that stereotype though since he arrived, as he is more of a defense-oriented coach.
So it will be intriguing to see where they go with their overall style.
I do think Mudiay represents the Nuggets' best chance at a star franchise player since Melo. What I like best about him is you know he's going to work at his game.
I'm looking forward to seeing if he can fix the little hitch in his jumper and become a better free throw shooter. He's the type of player that should be getting 8-12 points at the line semi-regularly.
Another interesting thing from that Fox article you sent me is the revelation that Malone is probably sending Mudiay to Summer League - you think that makes sense?
Great problem to have. Since we shipped Mosgov to Cleveland we really didn’t have anything at the center position until this season. The Shaw era was definitely a quick fix to get us to the Finals after the Karl firing, Malone is taking the far better approach of actually rebuilding a team from the young core up. Speaking of Mudiay working hard...
I love Mudiay man but his jump shot was UGLY at the start of this year. You can still see it in his legs when he jumps, he bends his knees midair and that's no good. He's really done a lot of work on it over this one season which is a really good sign. I mean, I don't have a problem with seeing Mudiay in the Summer league. Last year it got him a lot of early work with Harris and he was averaging six assists or so. Summer league to me is to showcase the rookie and sophomore players which Mudiay still falls under. Gives the young guys some more practice playing with each other.
Also the NBA just came out with the Top 10 plays of the NBA season, and my boy Mudiay is up there at #3. I seriously have no idea how many times I’ve watched that shot, man, I love it.
I love that mantra, "I will not be out-worked.” Great sign for a 20-year old.
I know when I was 20 it was more like "I won't be out-partied.”
I am 20 and that's my motto.
What about other young guys - Joffrey Lauvergne, Axel Toupane, JaKarr Sampson. Any faith in them long term? And I guess we should talk about Faried.
Manimal is a crowd-pleaser but not very efficient.
I like all of them but wish Sampson didn't start so much. Not a good image to have our starting forward recently cut from Philly of all teams. Lauvergne and Toupane have a pretty cool story about their dads playing ball in France and they've been friends forever. Where's our SportsCenter heartwarming story about that? Honestly though, they're all expendable. I'll be a little upset if Joffrey left, but I have faith in Tim Connelly's judgment to know when it's time to let him go.
Love Faried, Denver-drafted and bred. Plus he has done a lot for Gay rights, something I feel very strongly about, being the first NBA player to come out as a gay rights supporter. However, none of that matters come game time. Faried can dunk nasty and still leads our team in rebounds, but I won't be surprised if we trade him come draft day. Heartbroken, but not surprised. I honestly thought we would've dealt him before the trade deadline because the Nuggets front office made it clear they were going to shop the whole team that was left over after Karl and Shaw. Today, that means Faried, Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari. They're all wonderful players and I've had a blast watching them represent my team, but there's no reason for the Nuggets not to explore their trade options with the three of them and our pile of draft picks.
That's a really interesting article about Faried and Athlete Ally. I never caught any of that. Hopefully he is just the first of many NBA players to support gay rights. It seems there's a groundswell now forming around the North Carolina discrimination bill and potentially moving the All Star game out of Charlotte next year. The NBA is doing well on that front.
They had a good story on ESPN during the playoff series between the Nugs and the Dubs, it was about Faried's two moms.
On the court, though, you're right. He is expendable and may be moved if the right deal comes along. But he is still young. I wouldn't put it past Malone to squeeze more of Faried's potential out. If he can stay healthy.
I think Gallo could be on the way out as well. I like his game a lot. But do you ever feel confident he's making it through 82 games?
Young teams do need veterans around that can lead on the court and in the locker room. Gallo and Chandler are valuable in that respect.
The guys on the radio the other day claimed Gallo is always getting injured because Europeans don't have milk and dairy in their diet like Americans do. Not 100% true I guess but I found it pretty funny. I honestly thought he was going to make it this year but that injury brought a pain I'm all too familiar with. The Nugs are doing good keeping enough vets around to show the rookie core the way; Jameer Nelson, Mike Miller, and Darrell Arthur included.
But http://www.tankathon.com/power_rankings has us ranked third in the NBA for this upcoming draft. Realistically what could we get for Gallo/Faried + 15 and/or 19th pick?
Carmelo? LOL just kidding. They'd need to target someone like Melo that is stagnating with their current team and whose team has motivation to move him. You might have to throw in two of the first round picks, which wouldn't be bad for the right value since the Nugs have so many guys under contract and don't really need three more rookies on the roster
Jimmy Butler is enticing, and the Bulls probably need to do a full shake-up and get an infusion of young talent. Gasol and Noah are likely gone, so Faried/Gallo could fit into their front court picture, and they also likely won't get the Kings 1st round pick (again) so they could be hungry for picks. Still not convinced that the Nuggets could offer enough for Jimmy, but it's interesting to think about, especially after the Bulls traded two picks (which became Nurkic and Harris) to Denver a couple years ago for Doug McDermott
Also, there was a fake trade proposed on the Dunc'd On Podcast during their Mock Trade Deadline episode back in February that I thought was very compelling. A Gallo/Faried/Picks package for Kevin Love. If Love continues to dominate in the playoffs playing more at the 5 position, that scenario is likely moot. But if he fades to the background again and the Cavs flame out in uninspiring fashion, an offseason Love trade is in play.
I would never come down from the high of seeing Butler in a Nuggets jersey. Once they started trade rumors about him I was fantasizing about him in Denver all day, like a crazed fan should. Do you know who his favorite football team is? The Broncos. Do you know who his best friend is? Demaryius Thomas. I always get excited hearing any rumor of any star coming to Denver, but man I went crazy with that Jimmy B news. Kevin Love would be great too, the only thing about him is I feel Cleveland really wants to keep him. I could be wrong because that whole franchise seems a huge cluster this year (if not every year). I think I know the trade proposal you mentioned, most of the early season trade rumors and mock-ups assumed the Nuggets would throw Barton/Jokic/Nurkic into the trade as if the Nuggets wanted to finish their rebuilding process by kicking off a shot-in-the-dark process.
But honestly if it meant getting us Jimmy freaking Butler, throw in Gallo/Faried, 2-3 picks(even if it's our best one), and one of our bench bigs. Talent is what the Nugs need and getting All-Star Butler next to Mudiay in the backcourt would be like a gift from the basketball gods.
And gifts from the gods don't come every year. Reading your post made me coo-coo for Butler again but it would be glorious wouldn't it?
It would be. As a Bulls fan (grew up in Chicago) I've watched Jimmy's entire career. He's awesome and continues to get better. I know there have been some weird stories about him turning teammates off in the locker room this year, so a change of scenery - coming to a team that will greet him as the superstar he knows he is - might be the best thing for him. Regardless, whether they swing a big trade for a star, spend in free agency, trade up in the draft or just draft another Euro player to stash for a year, this offseason will be fascinating.
Very true, this offseason is very pivotal for our Nugs. Play our cards right and we’re playoff contenders. Make a bad trade or call and we’re in the rebuilding stage at least another year.
I have faith in Connelly, he's showing that he knows what he's doing lately. Even if we don't get Butler (please please please give us Butler) this Nugs team is going places. Just got to find that talent elsewhere.
Have you seen that “Meet The Hoopers” commercial where Kevin Garnett says something like, “Hmm, State Farm seems like a good deal. You know what else is a good deal? Saving $2 on these nuggets!" And K.Love shouts, "Oh I LOVE Nuggets!" There it is: Love confirmed to Denver?!?! Lol
I have seen that commercial. Never put two and two together...hmm. I think that's a good note to go out on - can't wait to watch K Love in powder blue next season! Heard it here first!