There has been much to discuss with the Nuggets over the past few weeks. After a couple national pieces on the Nuggets last week, Dontae Delgado mentioned in our GoogleHangout that we should do some type of roundtable on the team. There was also an ESPN article posted this week that has a lot of people talking about the state of the Nuggets. There is a lot of good debate out there among the fans, and hopefully our questions below will add to the conversations about the team.
What should the Nuggets vision for the future be?
Nate Timmons: Yesterday, Nov. 17th, after reading that ESPN piece on the Nuggets, I really started thinking about team building. The funny part? There is no blueprint to success. You can win titles in a variety of ways, with all sorts of characters, and with pretty much any system that blends well with your team. But in all title scenarios, one thing is true: you have to have elite talent. So, the answer is a simple one for the Nuggets. Survey where they stand in the NBA landscape, decide if there is a title window or not, and move your team in the best direction of being able to compete for a title window. In my view, the Nuggets have until the trade deadline to start moving in one direction or the other - this season could prove they need to decide sooner than the deadline though.
Colin Neilson: The Nuggets vision for the future should be a championship, no question. They'd tried for decades to utilize the running, uptempo style with little success. Bringing in Brian Shaw was what I consider to be the first step in an organizational shift towards the recognizance that fun, run-and-gun ball simply will not bring a Larry O'Brien trophy to this franchise. I commend Josh Kroenke and Tim Connelly for starting to move in that direction, and I'm willing to bear some short-term pain in hopes that this new path will lead towards deeper and more competitive playoff runs.
Mike Olson: Defense. Defense and more defense. But possibly not the defensive sets they're currently running, which slow the pace of games. I think they'd be better served running a defensive set that allows them to get out and run. Denver's previous attempts at taking advantage of altitude and running were always based around the offense. While a frenetic defensive style (as practiced by the Nuggets under George Karl and also by some recent championship contending Miami Heat teams) is not the "in" thing right now. Focusing on some sort of up-tempo defensive set would allow Denver to play better ball on the road, and still take advantage of the altitude in Denver.
Chris Meirose: This was my question, and even I don't have a definitive answer at this juncture. On the season, the team is distinct in no way other than consistently losing. Losing isn't always bad if there is somewhere you are trying to go with it and you are making progress. I see neither at this point. Some of it is unmet and perhaps unrealistic expectations. But much of it is just not getting the job done. For me, I think the vision would have to start with two things. First, nobody will outwork me. Second, defense shows up every game. While all the parts might not fit correctly, and sometimes points can be hard to come by, I can alway manage my effort, and I can always play fundamentally sound defense. With that as a foundation, I can build from there.
Kevin Nesgoda: It would be time to start thinking about the future and stock piling some assets up. The Nuggets are looking at a lottery pick as of right now (currently 7th). Is it really worth it to start going the Milwaukee Bucks route and toil in mediocrity for the next 8-10 years, being the 7th or 8th seed that is constantly swept in the first round?
Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur and Alonzo Gee are all expiring contracts, while Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye are on the last guaranteed year of their deals with team options to pick up their contracts in 2015-16. Arron Afflalo also has a player option for 2015-16.
All these contracts are extremely moveable and the players could definitely contribute something meaningful to a title contender. Each of these guys should be able to pull a first round pick (yeah, it'll be end of the draft, but this draft is loaded) or a high second round pick. Could either package some of those assets up in the draft and try to move up into the top 3 (Mudiay, Okafor, Towns or Oubre) or package a few of those picks for an A level talent superstar.
So, my answer for right now, while the next few drafts are deep (sorry, haven't started scouting the 2018 prospects yet) is to begin the rebuild process now, and not wait because there is a shot at a 7th or 8th seed this year and next.
Dontae Delgado: At this point, the Nuggets need to begin thinking about the future. Danilo Gallinari was the closest thing to a superstar the team had, which is paramount to win championships. Now he seems to have lost his potential due to health, age or some combination of both. Kenneth Faried is what he is: high energy, but flawed on the defensive end. The skills of the players are either at their peak (Wilson Chandler, Arron Afflalo) or not developing into the game-changers they were thought to be (JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Danilio Gallinari). Two things are likely to happen: 1) They end up in the lower part of the lottery or 2) They develop into the Atlanta Hawks West. I'm not for either, longterm. A more structured plan is needed.
What should the team do about Brian Shaw?
Timmons: The Nuggets were patient, and rightfully so, with George Karl. He was the second longest tenured coach in the franchise's history, behind Doug Moe. Between the two coaches? The Nuggets employed seven different head coaches and had four interim coaches, too. Denver's brass knows how Shaw and the players are progressing or not progressing. They also know they are implementing an entirely new system. And with that in mind, if I were calling the shots, I give Shaw the season and heavily evaluate him very early in the off-season. I want to see how the team responds to Shaw this season and how he responds throughout. Look, the Nuggets have played bad, but there absolutely are recovery issues of players and cold shooting right now. I think it's fair to all to play out the season, and go from there (unless something major happens).
Neilson: The team should keep Brian Shaw through the rest of this season, period. It is frankly absurd to be calling for Shaw's ouster just 10 games into the season. While I've had my own moments of doubt through an inexplicably horrendous start, Shaw at the very least deserves a full season with a finally (mostly) healthy roster. To cull Shaw just as he is starting to be able to work with all the ingredients in the cookbook would send a bad message to both the players and future coaching hires, especially when considering that Shaw really still hasn't had a completely fair shake with this roster. At the end of the season, we can re-evaluate what progress Shaw's made, and go from there, but to part ways with him sooner than that would be a shortsighted, reactionary move.
Olson: Coach Shaw deserves enough time to try and integrate his plans with the players around him, but he might want to be clearer with the players and public about what those plans are. While we all argue about whether it's the players or coaches who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the recent slide, in truth it's probably a fair bit of both. If Shaw is still struggling at the All-Star break, the team may want to take a different direction, but it's still very early at this point.
Meirose: This question and #3 have to be taken in nearly simultaneously [Part II coming shortly]. It needs to be determined whether the problem lies in Shaw or the players. My inclination is it primarily resides on Shaw. I prefer a clean and quick break if that is indeed the determination. The Nuggets are not currently moving forward, and are in fact losing direction and focus by the game. Anything that prolongs this, worsens the problem and makes it that much more difficult to correct when the needed move is made. Shaw may well be a victim of timing as much as anything in this story. Seattle fans and teams before that could point you towards there being a post-George Karl period of malaise on teams he previously coached, and Shaw may well have gotten the worst of that in Denver. But change is needed, and Shaw is readily the easiest and fastest place to enact a change.
Nesgoda: Let Shaw finish out this season, cut him loose and bring in a coach that can actually grow with and mold young talent, much like Boston has done with Brad Stevens. The Nuggets should throw however much money is necessary to pull Kevin Ollie, Gregg Marshall, Shaka Smart or Archie Miller. I love the idea of having a coach that consistently wins with inferior talent, gets every man to believe in the name on the front of the jersey is the most important, and knows the game so well they see trends 15 possessions ahead.
Delgado: I'm sorry to say it, but if he continues his rotation decisions and refusal to adopt (what seems like) the obvious offensive philosophy, he's got to go. Now, I'm not looking to see him go. He's still an intelligent mind and people forget that he was a very experienced assistant for years. He deserves a longer chance than what's being spoken concerning him, but he's got to make the necessary changes. Now.
That concludes Part I of our roundtable. We'll have Part II posted later today.