Who are the players the Nuggets should keep and build around?
Nate Timmons: I'm a sports-romantic. I love the idea of having long-term Nuggets like Ty Lawson (a Nugget for life?!) and Danilo Gallinari. The problem though is that players rarely stick with the teams that draft them. That's just not the NBA anymore, and perhaps never was - except in rare cases. It's too early to say if the team should build around rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, but I like that direction more than trudging forward. I was in the camp for holding onto the talent the Nuggets have and trying to acquire a star at the right time, but that time seems to be running out.
I definitely wouldn't be opposed to the team going with a youth movement and stockpiling draft picks in the coming years to build through the draft. The problem though is that Denver might not be able to get too much in return for their current crop of players. But with the right packaged deals, they might be able to set themselves up for a nice future. The draft is dicey, at best, but it's the team's greatest chance to find a difference maker. Don't get me wrong, I really like a lot of the talent the Nuggets have right now, but the window for a title chance is looking bleak.
Colin Neilson: From my perspective, the Nuggets have decided to keep and build around Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. This still-young nucleus will continue to grow and get better, and each of the three is capable of being a top 15 player at his position. With full acknowledgement that none of the three is likely ever to become a "superstar", their abilities will continue to blossom and provide a solid foundation on which the franchise can continue to build. I do believe that every other player on the roster is expendable, however, and would not be surprised to see Tim Connelly, an active GM throughout the season, try and turn some of our depth into an upgrade at a position of need (namely, a guard/forward).
Mike Olson: Denver has a young and athletic core, and if predicated on my thoughts around defense [in Part I], should keep the players on the team who seem to play well around multiple defensive concepts. That would take several popular players out of the mix for the Nuggets, including Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, and J.J. Hickson. Though each of those players plays better in a gambling defensive scheme, they still do not practice sound core defense. With defenders like Gary Harris, Alonzo Gee, Danilo Gallinari (when healthy), Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo on the roster, the Nuggets can afford to take some time further developing the skills of Timofey Mozgov, Jusuf Nurkic, and others to a more defense-oriented squad.
Chris Meirose: The constant dilemma in the NBA is that who you should keep and who you can afford to keep are not always one in the same. Lawson is one you likely must and should keep. If and when the cap moves based on the TV negotiation, his contract will be reasonable assuming he can remain healthy. Faried isn't going anywhere with their recent commitment to him. And Faried really strikes me as that guy were you to trade him now, you'd look back for many years regretting it. McGee and Gallo both probably have contracts and liabilities currently that make them tough to trade for value coming back. If both are at full strength, I certainly would keep Gallo as he's a game changer when healthy. I would certainly keep Foye, as his contract is incredibly favorable to the team at this point, and while he might not be the solution, he isn't likely the problem at this point either. With his contract, I'd keep Afflalo too. Nurkic and Harris would be my final guys in this top category where I'm inclined to keep them as both are just at the beginning of their careers and are on rookie scales.
From there, I begin to see what I can make happen. Obviously, some (most) of the other players on the roster will be staying, but now I know what I can tinker with. I'm likely not in a hurry to make sweeping changes, but something certainly needs to be done.
Kevin Nesgoda: I don't think anyone should be safe. Unfortunately I can't put my finger on a single name on the roster and say if you build around "this guy" a championship will be delivered to the city of Denver. If Houston or Cleveland want to offer an amazing deal for Ty Lawson, pull the trigger. If the Raptors have a great package for Kenneth Faried, you pull the trigger. Can't be afraid of making the team better long term.
Dontae Delgado: If I look longterm: Ty Lawson being one, he's the engine that continues to show his value night-in and night-out. The rookies as well, Harris and Nurkic have good futures. Outside of that, Timofey Mozgov is the only other veteran that should not be a tradable asset. This is not a knock on Gallo, Faried, Afflalo, or Chandler. If we go with the long term route as I answered in Part I, then you can't hold on to anyone that once was considered a core player (excluding Lawson). If we're looking in the present: They have some great rotation pieces and role players, but again no true star. They need to upgrade at a few places, on the wings (Gallo or Chandler should be going) and in the frontcourt (Faried, Hickson, McGee specifically). I like their backcourt, and their defenders (Mozzy, Arthur, Gee). They just need some health and in particular a better centerpiece.
Is there someone (GM, coach, etc.) who can fix this?
Timmons: From what I gather, Tim Connelly has brought in a lot of folks to help build the Nuggets. We have lots of scouts and international scouts, analytics guys, and lots of player developmental personnel. This sounds basic, but the staff is beefed up more than that at any time that I can recall. This is a good thing. The Nuggets seem like they're on the right path in regards to the draft, but there have been questionable trades and free agent signings.
I think building the right kind of locker room is very important, and I think the front office is realizing that, too. Brian Shaw has been saddled with some difficult personalities, but the Nuggets might be moving in a better direction now, than they were the previous season. It's a bit alarming that the Nuggets have gotten off to a rocky start and that the team may have thought they were better than they are. Bringing in Arron Afflalo was a win-now move, and the Nuggets don't appear ready to win-now. Giving up young assets like Evan Fournier cannot be the path these Nuggets take. They must re-evaluate the direction of this team and how to build the proper culture. I don't know if things need to be fixed, but we must have patience with a new vision.
Neilson: I'm not sure what there is to "fix" frankly. Does Tim Connelly deserve scrutiny over some of the roster moves he's made (like signing J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye and Nate Robinson)? Sure. Does he also deserve credit for drafting Erick Green, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic? Absolutely. The point is that when Josh Kroenke decided to part ways with both George Karl and Masai Ujiri, the franchise embarked on a journey longer than just two seasons. For a team like the Nuggets, it's even more important to play the long game and carefully evaluate moves. Teams like the Lakers, Knicks and Heat are able to mortgage the long-term future to win now because of their ability to attract star players, but the Nuggets cannot. Drafting is critically important to the success of this franchise, because I cannot abide tanking - injury-riddled seasons aside, but that's another post - and I will not watch or support a team in a season where that's happening. At this point, calling for a fix is premature, and Nuggets fans would do best to sit on their hands for the rest of this season instead of wildly flailing them and calling for heads to roll.
Olson: Sometimes it truly does take a village, and the only way to fix what currently ails the Nuggets is a organization-wide mantra towards a little adage from the Shawshank Redemption: patience and time. Neither of those items seem to be in abundant supply for the team or fans alike. Each and every member of the organization, from Josh Kroenke to the training staff, should be hyperattenuated to making sure they are making their best efforts when times are this tough. The last thing a mid-market team like the Nuggets can afford in these tough times are to lose the support of a loyal fan base, further complicating any needed rebuilding efforts.
Meirose: I wish it was as simple to solve as to say "hire this person" to fix the problems. The right coach could move a long way in that direction, but I don't honestly, at this point, know who that person would be. What I do know is that who they choose will be critical to all the subsequent steps of recovery. There is too much talent for things to remain this way.
Nesgoda: I cannot believe I am going to put this into print now because this is my ideal combination of coach/GM in Seattle when the Sonics eventually return. Again, offer the world to Kevin Ollie and do what it takes to get Mike Zarren away from the Boston Celtics. The guy is a GM superstar in the making and will for sure build a championship team. You're welcome.
Delgado: We've heard ESPN's scathing article concerning the alleged "incompetence" of GM Tim Connelly, but I'm not ready to place the blame or solution on the shoulders of one person. There are fixes needed at multiple levels, players, coaches, and front office. I will say if there is one way to completely restructure the Nuggets, you would have to start with replacing the GM and his lack of deal-making or unwavering support of Brian Shaw. Plucking someone from a stable organization like the Spurs (Scott Layden) or the Rockets/Heat/Mavericks.