The Nuggets are going streaking! Okay, so far it's only one game but it sure is nice to finally get the entire team (minus Wilson Chandler) healthy and active right before the longest homestand of the season. If the Nuggets are going to turn the season around and go on a winning streak, now is the time. Jusuf Nurkic is back and playing like the Bosnian Beast we remember, blocking shots and manhandling guys like Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Pekovic. Emmanuel Mudiay is also active and should return to the court this weekend. There is reason for optimism in Nuggets Nation. Let's get to the roundtable.
Q: Emmanuel Mudiay is back! Do you expect him to look better, worse, or the same as he did before the injury?
Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): I think he’ll look better. For one, he should have fresh legs. The NBA season is a grind and most rookies don't have the stamina to play all 82 games at a high level. So a couple of weeks off should rejuvenate his body. But more importantly, the break will have hopefully provided Mudiay with a chance to study the game from courtside, regain confidence, and regain enthusiasm. So I think he’ll look better and hopefully improve every month from here on out.
Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): More or less the same, though I do anticipate the turnovers to drop. I agree with Adam in that having a chance to study the game will give Mudiay a boost but I think some of his most notable issues such as finishing at the rim, leaving his feet before he knows where he’s going and shooting ability are things that take being out there and playing to improve, especially finishing at the rim.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): I think he’ll look better. As Adam said, the time off from the grind will help keep him fresher down the stretch, and getting a chance to observe the game instead of having to filter everything in real time while trying to make plays should be a boon as well. For much of the season Mudiay has seemed to be caught in a balancing act: how many risks to take vs. how much to protect the team against mistakes. He hasn’t seemed to get that balance right yet, but with a different perspective for the last month I’m extremely hopeful that he can walk that line better over the remainder of the season.
Q: Trade season is starting to heat up. Do you think the Nuggets will be active at or before the trade deadline?
Mares: I don’t. They may make a small move that could have a big impact down the road but I would be surprised if they moved a major piece. I think the front office is looking to let this season play out and reassess in the offseason. Gallo is the best trade piece on the roster but I just don’t see the organization parting ways with him, especially after he’s expressed such a desire to stay in Denver.
Mikash: Well, one has to wonder what the release of Papanikolaou means, and I for one am not buying that it’s strictly a financial move. Perhaps a trade is in the works but it would have to be a high caliber player in order to get two guys back. I doubt they are going to trade Gallo so maybe Faried could be on the move. I have said it before, I just don’t know how he fits into the long term plans of this team, though trading him would be a big blow to the casual Nuggets fan.
Gross: I expect the Nuggets to get a lot of calls, especially on Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. Both men could be very helpful to a contender with the right needs. Of course, both are also of great use to us and on reasonable extensions. I don’t think the Nuggets will pull the trigger on Gallo, but Faried might go if Denver is overwhelmed on an offer. With 20+ million dollars in cap room already next year, the Nuggets don’t need to move anyone for salary reasons and haven’t settled their young roster yet. I think a flashy move is a long-shot.
Q: After Friday’s game at Memphis, the Nuggets have eight straight home games without a single back-to-back. What will their record be in those eight games?
Mares: The 8-game homestand is a mixed bag. It’s great because it’s 2 weeks of being in Denver and no back-to-backs. It’s bad because all 8 games are against tough competition. The Nuggets begin the homestand against the Hornets on the 10th, the night the Denver Sidekicks take over Pepsi Center and create the home atmosphere we’ve all been waiting for. So that’s a win. But overall, I think the team will go 4-4 in that stretch. A disappointing record but understandable given the opponents they’re up against.
Mikash: Give me Charlotte, Memphis and a surprise win against...let’s say Miami. It’s somewhat a who’s who of the Eastern Conference coming to The Can over the next two weeks so I’m not too optimistic. Still, this is the same team that took the Warriors to overtime so you never know. I do think having Nurkic back makes a huge difference and perhaps they could have a winning record in this stint, but the realist in me says 3-5.
Gross: The homestand is good from a continuity standpoint. It’s hard to get practices in over those 4-games-in-5-days stretches, so the Nuggets will benefit from both the lack of travel and the extra time between games. Fusing a roster that has never actually played together all year will be extremely beneficial as the players should be able to get on the same page with Michael Malone, and with each other. I’m thinking 5-3 is possible, simply because no one will know how to play the Nuggets with Nurkic for a few games. This is the Nuggets, though, and losing home games is something they’re good at this year, so let’s say 4-4.