The Nuggets season begins on Wednesday, October 18th and while there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this teams return to the playoffs, there’s still a lot of questions before they “Dig In” next week. It’s been four years since Denver saw postseason action. A lot has changed since then: Karl=fired. Shaw=fired. Gallo=lost to free agency. Lawson=lost to lack of focus and one too many DUI’s. McGee=Won a title with GS…..wait, that dude won a title? Ok, ok…bottom line is it’s been a while. But the four year rebuild or reboot or whatever you want to call it looks to be finally paying off.
Denver signed their best free agent EVER in Paul Millsap and they’ve grown their second round pick, Nikola Jokic into a soon to be megastar. But if the Nuggets want to compete against the likes of Golden State, Houston, OKC and a new and improved Timberwolves team they will need to solidify a few key positions. First things first; who’s ready to be THE point guard. Emanuel Mudiay has had an interesting two seasons with Denver. He was the guy set to replace the hopeful franchise PG in Ty Lawson but De
nver drafted Jamal Murray with the 7th pick in the 2016 draft. It’s clear to me that Murray should be a starter but Denver loves Harris (They just signed him to a 4 yr, $84 million contract) so he won’t be starting there. His best shot at starting this year is at the point. But is he ready to take on that role? I love both of these guys but overall, Murray has a higher ceiling and Mudiay just hasn’t shown the strides in two seasons to make me believe he will be more than a backup. Then there’s Jameer Nelson. His starting days might be over but where does he fit in between Murray and Mudiay? Is he ok with being a third option? Look for Nelson to be packaged in a Faried deal soon……..which leads me to the next big question mark on this roster:
The Manimal has been a solid player for Denver over the years but perhaps his time is officially running out. With Tre Lyles on board, the pressure on Faried is bigger than ever. Once the Nuggets signed Millsap, it was beyond obvious that Faried’s starting PF job was gone but he could still find some meaningful minutes coming off the bench. But Malone seems to like Lyles and is willing to give both guys an equal shot. “I knew it was going to be competitive,” Malone told the Denver Post, “That, to me, is an outstanding situation to look at because you can make great arguments for both guys.” Good for Denver, bad for the Manimal. I loved his energy and fire but the Nuggets need sound, consistent play now. Tre Lyles can shoot and pass much better than Faried and this is a team that thrives on ball movement, facilitated by ALL players. Is there room for both? Sure….but Faried wants to play. “I’ll just put this out there. I. Am. A. Starter,” he said a few weeks ago during Denver’s media day. Well, he’s clearly not going to be barring a serious injury….so what’s the Manimal willing to do? My guess…make some noise in the locker room until he’s gone. We shall stay tuned.
My season prediction: 47 wins and a 6th spot in the western conference playoffs. Starters: Murray, Harris, Chandler, Millsap and Jokic. Here we go…time to dig in.