The season is in full swing in the NBA, and our Denver Nuggets have more or less played as expected overall. However, whether it's been on the hometown team or elsewhere, certain players and coaches have surprised everyone with their play or decisions thus far. We're starting to see who really has taken their game to the next level and who truly are the contenders and pretenders.
If you could do the 2015 draft over, who would be the top three picks?
Russell Hamilton (@rscotham): I think it’s clear that the top pick (despite the very vocal protestations of the former TyLawsome) of Karl-Anthony Towns was the correct pick. If we’re going solely on the first month+ of the season, then the Lakers would have to take Kristaps Porzingis. I would hate that, though, because the idea of him playing with that team under that coach makes me want to vomit. The third pick is where it gets interesting. None of the highly touted rookies in the top third of the draft have really stood out more than the others - outside the two already named. With that being said, I get the feeling that D'Angelo Russell would have been exactly who the Sixers would have picked had the Lakers picked differently, so I’ll go with him.
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): Don’t be fooled by the East Coast-bias coverage of Kristaps Porzingis. He’s good, but Towns is elite. He’s able to do so many things on the floor, offensively and defensively. He was the clear choice as the best player, and Minnesota made the right decision. With Towns off the board, in this redraft I would have the Lakers select Russell. He hasn’t played as many minutes as fellow rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, but I still believe in his talent. Russell has a good perimeter shot, and he has good court vision. It’s really important for a team to have a great point guard, something I believe is more important than a franchise big man in the modern NBA. I wouldn’t have signed Lou Williams, but that’s a different question. For the 76ers, the Latvian big man would be my selection over Jahlil Okafor. Porzingis would be able to stretch the floor, allowing Nerlens Noel to play the center position. Noel is a great defensive big man, but he can’t stretch the floor. Porzingis and Noel would be a fun frontcourt, a description I don’t use to describe the frontcourt in Philadelphia.
Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): Towns still goes number one. I think he is going to be a top 5 player in the league in a few years and the type of player that you can build a championship contender around. Kristaps goes second. He also has the chance to be a cornerstone piece. Third is tricky. No one has really stood out to me so it would almost be situational, depending on what your team needed. Since it was Philadelphia picking and they need everything, I’d probably go with Justise Winslow because they need talent on the wing and he seems like a very good two-way player. I also think Jahlil Okafor is not going to be a very good player. He has great post moves but is one of the worst defenders I’ve seen.
Who has been the best Nugget so far this year?
Hamilton: Most important, or best? Danilo Gallinari has been the most important player, as when he plays at a high level, the team tends to win. Best? Gallo is still in the conversation, but I think the nod goes to the Nuggets sixth man, Will Barton, simply based on consistency. I certainly wouldn’t argue with anyone naming Gallo, though.
Lewis: Gallinari. He’s the team leader, and has the primary responsibility to score. He’s been guilty of playing swivel defense (plant feet, swivel head) at times, but he’s being asked to play a lot of minutes and take a lot of shots. It’s pretty clearly been Gallo in my opinion.
Mares: It’s tough because no one has really been consistent enough to win this running away. Gallo is the team’s best player but he has games where you hardly notice him. Barton has been the spark but there is no way I’d call him the team’s best player. Darrell Arthur has also been huge for the team. But since you asked who is best, I’ll just say Gallo.
Byron Scott recently decided to bench D’Angelo Russell, what would it take for you to support Coach Michael Malone benching Emmanuel Mudiay?
Hamilton: Well, to begin with, I don’t think it’s a possibility. I feel that Malone/Tim Connelly/Josh Kroenke are all in on letting Mudiay learn through taking his lumps this season. But to answer your hypothetical, I think we’ve already seen enough bad play from Mudiay to warrant a benching. He’s now beginning to struggle not just with things we expected (shooting, handle), but also with simple passes. That doesn’t even address the train wreck he is at the defensive end (as are most rookies, to be fair). That being said, I am 100% behind the plan with Mudiay. A lot of times when you’re learning, you will reach a point where you end up taking a step back before taking a leap forward. I get the feeling that we’re currently right smack dab in the middle of Emmanuel’s step back.
Lewis: An injury. The only reason Mudiay shouldn’t be getting 24-30 minutes a night is either injury or just a really off night. I’m not bothered by the recent late-game benchings Mudiay has received, but I am a little concerned. Mudiay is going to need to get opportunities to grow this season. It’ll be a challenge because the season is much more physically demanding than anything he’s experienced to this point in his basketball life. If you recall, he didn’t play NCAA basketball, and he didn’t play a full season in China. Mentally and physically he’s going to wear down, so it’s really important to be patient with him, no matter how bad things get. The future is still bright.
Mares: Nothing. Malone has done a great job of allowing Mudiay to play through struggles. He’s recently moved him to the bench to close out the game and I am perfectly fine with that. Mudiay needs reps and he is getting plenty. Keep him in the starting lineup and if he is playing well, let him close out the game. If not, leave it to the vets.