Is Jamal Murray going to be a star in this league?
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): As in, “Will everyone know his name and think of him as a key team member?” I’d say I definitely believe that, yes. In that sense J.R. Smith is a star, even if not one on team member Lebron James’ level. I’m hoping he’s not going to be a Michael Redd “good player on a bad team” level of star, but Murray has the blue-chip college darling status to go with the ability to score in bunches in a league that now appreciate three-point bombers. His name will be known. It will be, “come see So-And-So and Jamal Murray take on the Los Angeles Lakers.” Now is Murray gonna wind up as Batman instead of Robin in that headline billing? That’s a different question.
Dennis Koehler (@DKoehler43): Well, I find myself hopping on the hype train probably sooner than anyone in general. And this may be the case with Jamal Murray as well. Here’s a 19-year-old scorer coming out of college that already hit the imaginary rookie wall when he missed his first 17 shots in the NBA before finally getting his first bucket. Since then, he’s been great and I like what we found with the 7th pick once again. I was a big Buddy Hield fan last year but Murray looks like he will be better in every aspect. He got that scorer’s mentality and can score from anywhere on the floor. Yet, I’m struggling to find a real comparison in today’s NBA. I see a little bit of Klay Thompson with not-so-great defense. That’s what I’d say his ceiling is as well. And I’d be totally fine with that. He looks like a hard worker, a gym rat that wants to get better every day. Hard work beats talent if talent fails to work hard. Always wanted to say that.
Zach Mikash(@ZachMikash): He's certainly got all the right ingredients for a star player: immense shooting ability, solid playmaker, great confidence etc. I think he's going to be a guy who you'll see in some all star games for sure. Will he be the type of star player who can put a team on his shoulders and carry them to the Finals? Maybe, he's got a high enough ceiling for that but health and development have to go just right for that to happen and it's anyone's guess as to if they will.
With the Denver Nuggets potentially getting everyone healthy soon, what should the rotation be and who are the odd men out?
Gross: This is an impossible question, which is probably why it’s giving Malone migraines. Are the Nuggets trying to win now, or build for the future? Are they willing to sacrifice current wins to get minutes for young players or should young players sit if they can’t force their way into a healthy lineup? And how would they force it anyway when Malone forgets he has a bench for a quarter and a half every game? If the Nuggets want to make a playoff push then I’ll go Emmanuel Mudiay / Gary Harris / Danilo Gallinari / Kenneth Faried / Nikola Jokic for the starters, with Jameer Nelson / Murray / Will Barton/ Wilson Chandler / Jusuf Nurkic as the bench. That leaves Darrell Arthur with spot minutes, Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley buried deep, and Malone with a headache (especially if some of the bench players raise a fuss). Luckily the Nuggets won’t stay healthy for long, so it won’t be a big concern.
Koehler: To make your key players feel most comfortable out there, you gotta give them minutes. Right now, it looks like the whole team is on a minute restriction and that is due to a super-loaded roster, stacked at every position. I know it may be a tough pill to swallow but Malone has to tighten up his rotation and find a way to play 8-10 guys on a regular basis. Jokic last night was a great example. He’s played 24 minutes and had 17 and 14 while shooting 7-for-11 - that’s numbers you should be putting up in starter’s minutes. Malone was handed one of the toughest roster situations in the whole league and he needs to find the best possible way to succeed. Quickly, and badly.
Mikash: Mike Miller, Alonzo Gee and Beasley are on the outs right now, and Hernangomez is likely to be there with them once DA is fully 100%. It's figuring out that last guy who needs to sit to get to a ten man rotation that's really hard. Nelson has played too well and has opened up too much for Mudiay. Barton has too much talent and scoring punch to take away from a team that struggles on offense too often. That same line of thought applies to Murray. Harris, Chandler and Gallinari are all capable of playing big minutes. It's a tough call. My gut says Murray, being the rookie, is the odd man out but I'm not sure coach can do that with how well the Blue Arrow has played.
December 15th will kick off the unofficial start to trade season, who’s one player (or combination of players) that you think Denver should target?
Gross: Denver has to decide what team they want to be. Trade for someone like LaMarcus Aldridge and the window changes to be much sooner. You almost have to trade for a John Wall at that point to move up the Mudiay timeline. I might go the other way and look at someone hitting their prime instead of past their peak. For this exercise let’s go with Derrick Favors, a FA after the 17-18 season and a younger version of LMA. Utah is almost certainly going to have to choose between Gordon Hayward and Favors in order to retain the rest of their team (like newly-extended Rudy Gobert and soon-to-be UFA George Hill), so if they believe they can keep Hayward then I think Favors is out. He’s a good defensive 4 who would pair nicely with Jokic to keep stout lineups from hurting Denver too much while retaining the rebounding and paint force, and was looking like a star in the making before this bone bruise. Malone would love him, and he’s not the headcase that DeMarcus Cousins is. Trades with rivals aren’t common, but both teams have decisions to make and it’s possible they come to the same conclusion.
Koehler: As pointed out above, we need to shrink the rotation badly. And the best possible way to do this is to pull the trigger. So I’m all for exploring all possible scenarios in two weeks. Cousins wants out, but I’m not sure if I’d swing a trade for him. I’d like to have Jokic claiming his starting center spot back and look for a real threat at the four. A guy that brings changes and is a reliable scoring option. I’m not quite sure if we have the assets to bring in a real super star but let’s start with tier-2 or 3 type of players like Favors as Gordon already suggested.
Mikash: Specifically one guy I’d like to see the Nuggets go after is Paul Milsap. There were some rumors that the Nuggets were chasing him this offseason so maybe they re-visit that. Would the Atlanta Hawks take Faried and Barton for Milsap? I'd like to think so. Denver would get an upgrade at the power forward position and clear the way for Murray to get 20-25 minutes a game with that trade. It's not the greatest in terms of value and an honest conversation with Milsap about the Nuggets chances to re-sign him would have to take place, but overall I think that's a deal that improves the team. The only question is would Atlanta want to move Milsap given that they look like they are headed back to the playoffs once again.
Nelson has been excellent in a backup PG role and Mudiay has said playing next to Jameer has been a big help, should the Nuggets try to play more two PG lineups?
Gross: If you are considering Murray as a hybrid guard then yes - play Murray next to Mudiay and Nelson a lot. That way there are always options, and players with the ball in their hands who can make good decisions. It’s another reason I like Jokic out there with Mudiay: it gives him someone who can make good passing decisions if he hands the ball off. I’m fine with some minutes of Jameer and Mudiay together, but I don’t want Mudiay playing the SG in that scenario. Jameer can be his backup PG even if they’re on the floor together, but Mudiay needs to be the point. Mudiay should choose to be off-ball on certain possessions rather than deferring to Jameer out of hand. It’s part of that learning curve.
Koehler: I’m still not really sold on Jameer even though I have to admit he’s been great lately. But this line-up provides liabilities on the defensive end and that’s not what you’re looking for when your 34-year-old back-up PG is playing 41, 28 or 38 minutes. I’d suggest him to be Mudiay’s back-up whenever he struggles with shooting or turnovers again and just play Murray as much as possible at the two-guard. Murray is a ball handler as well to take pressure off Mudiay.
Mikash: I think they actually play Nelson and Mudiay together quite a bit as it is. Like Gordon said, if you're counting Murray as a combo guard in this equation then I feel that the answer is yes, play two point guards and a lot of it. Otherwise, I think the back court rotation is just where it needs to be given the injuries and with it looking like Mudiay has made strides with his turnover issue (something he gives a lot of credit to playing next to Jameer) I would be hesitant to change things either way.