Due to a long planned overseas trip that I'll be embarking on this week, I won't be able to attend Monday's media day. But rest assured, fellow Stiffs, as Denver Stiffs will be well represented as our colleague Nate Timmons will be there when new head coach Brian Shaw and new general manager Tim Connelly greet the media at 10:45am on Monday in the Pepsi Center media room.
And while I suspect Nate will ask some pointed questions, if I were able to be there here's what I'd be asking:
What kind of offensive system will this team run?
In the wake of former head coach George Karl's departure and the hiring of Shaw, this seems to be the biggest question on most Nuggets' fans minds this off-season. Given the (poor) track record of previous Phil Jackson disciples like Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Frank Hamblen and Kurt Rambis who attempted to run Jackson's triangle offense with lesser talented teams than Jackson had in Chicago and Los Angeles, many fans are concerned that Shaw will want to deploy the triangle scheme and abandon the run-and-gun style that has delivered 50-win seasons with regularity here in Denver in recent seasons. But, as Shaw and others have been quick to point out, that run-and-gun style netted just two playoff series victories in 10 years. Shaw has indicated that he'll continue to play up-tempo but that the Nuggets need to be better prepared for the playoffs, when the game slows into a half-court style. Will that preparation include the triangle or a different system that we're unaware of?
Is the starting lineup set?
With Danilo Gallinari presumed not to be returning until November or possibly December, the going assumption here in Denver is the Nuggets starting five will consist of point guard Ty Lawson, shooting guard Randy Foye, center JaVale McGee, power forward Kenneth Faried and small forward Wilson Chandler. But is that set in stone? What if Timofey Mozgov pushes McGee at center? Or J.J. Hickson pushes Faried at power forward?
Will Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson play together?
When the Nuggets signed the diminutive Robinson this off-season it raised a lot of eyebrows among Nuggets fans. Not because Robinson is overpaid (at $2 million per year, he's a steal). Not because Robinson isn't any good (he nearly single-handedly led the Chicago Bulls past the favored Brooklyn Nets in last season's playoffs). But because at 5'9", it's hard to imagine Robinson playing alongside the 5'11" Lawson ... even though Robinson is more of a shooting guard than a point guard. But with the taller Foye and Andre Miller also available, perhaps the Nuggets will simply have more versatility than they're being given credit for at the guard spot. Regardless, it would be good to know what the guard combinations might look like.
(As a side question, will Shaw deploy the two-point guard lineup as Karl did so often?)
How will the forward minutes be distributed?
Just two years ago, the Nuggets had (an unheard of) four centers on their roster when McGee and Mozgov were joined by Kosta Koufos and Chris Andersen. Since then, the Nuggets have cut their center total down to two but have added two more power forwards in their absence with Hickson and Darrell Arthur. Including Hickson and Arthur, the Nuggets have four power forwards as Faried and Anthony Randolph also play the position. Throw in not-so-small small forwards Chandler and Gallinari and the Nuggets have six forwards on the roster that will be competing for minutes. That's half of a 12-man roster comprised of forwards, which will make finding minutes for all these guys a challenge for Coach Shaw.
Who will be the odd man out?
As mentioned above, the Nuggets have committed to six forwards (Gallo, Chandler, Faried, Hickson, Arthur and Randolph), four guards (Lawson, Foye, Miller and Robinson) and two centers (McGee and Mozgov). That's 12 players right there. So who are we forgetting that rounds out the permitted 13 active players on an NBA roster? One has to assume second year guard/forward Evan Fournier's active roster spot is secure. But what about Jordan Hamilton? Or Quincy Miller? While all three youngsters should make the 15-man roster, one will be the odd man out on opening night and two will be the odd men out when Gallo returns from his injury.
What has Lawson been doing since his arrest?
Just over a month ago, the Nuggets starting point guard (and presumed leader) was arrested in a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend. And whether this was an isolated incident or one of many and Lawson just happened to get caught, it seems as though the young guard is at a crossroads in both his personal and professional life. And thus, it's perfectly fair to ask about what Lawson has been up to since the arrest. Has he been working out? Working on his game? Seeking counseling? The Nuggets (and their fans) have a multi-million dollar investment in their point guard and it's time for that investment to pay off.
How will the coaching duties be distributed?
Shaw has assembled a semi-new coaching staff. Remaining from Karl's bench are Melvin Hunt and Patrick Mutombo. Gone are John Welch, Chad Iske and Tim Grgurich. And incoming are Lester Conner and Chris Farr. Who among these coaches will be handling offense, defense, big men, little men, middle men, player development, etc?
What has JaVale McGee been doing to improve his game?
In the summer of 2012, McGee worked out with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston for three weeks. And whether it was Karl limiting McGee's contributions on the court of McGee's own inability to grasp what Olajuwon taught him, the 2012-13 NBA season wasn't the breakout season Nuggets fans were hoping for from the young McGee. It would be interesting to hear what McGee did this past summer to improve a game that is in much need of improvement.
(As a side question to this, it would be nice to know what Mozgov has been up to as much more will be asked of him at center with the departure of Koufos.)
Who worked the hardest this off-season?
Last summer, most of the Nuggets players (even, shockingly, Miller who was previously notorious for using the pre-season and beginning of the regular season just to get into shape) were actively participating in shootarounds and workouts at Pepsi Center with Nuggets coaches and training staff. Whether that happened or not this past summer I can't answer, but I'd like to know what players worked the hardest to get ready for the 2013-14 season.
Who will be the biggest surprise?
Leapfrogging off the previous question, I'd like to know what player might be the biggest (pleasant) surprise this season - i.e. who is going to make the biggest leap from good to great?