Describe the Nuggets’ season so far in one word (no expletives):
Benjamin Sterne (@benjaminsterne): Poo.
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): Mediocre.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Janus-faced.
Evan Fiala (@eefiala): Underwhelming.
At this point, what direction do you want the Nuggets to take - tank, go all-in for the 8 seed, or something else?
Sterne: Go for 8th seed with current core. I think it would do the nuggets some good to be competing in the playoffs. We need to desperately fix our defensive issues, and maybe make a small trade involving one of our vets (cough cough.. gallo) - but do not trade any of the core! They are still young, I am admittedly a blind optimist, but I still think our under-performing youngins’ Nurkic and Mudiay can still blossom into something wonderful soon enough.
Lewis: Trade Gallinari, Nelson, and go for the 8th seed. The Nuggets organization is a loser franchise as of late, and they should be trying to win as many games as they can. If they can get a veteran backup point guard that can play defense, they should go and do that so Mudiay can be moved to the bench. If they don't make any personnel moves, I don't see any other outcome then the team continuing along their 30 percent winning percentage for a disappointing finish to the season.
Gross: Time for me to climb on the tank train, I guess. The Nuggets should have ZERO chance at the playoffs this season, except that the 8th seed is aimed at mid-30s wins at the moment. Last year the Nuggets would be on pace to finish 8 games out and would have decided to cash in their chips already. Making the playoffs hurt the Suns, the Pelicans and the Trailblazers in the last 3 seasons by allowing them to overestimate the quality of their current team and aim for the wrong changes. The Suns are back at the top of the lottery, and the Pelicans and Trailblazers are both flopping around at the same point in the standings as Denver. The Nuggets need to harshly evaluate their own roster construction and continue to make improvements for the long-term. This is a really good draft to be able to add another core piece for the future, and Denver should not let rose-colored glasses allow them to keep the franchise in this position by aiming at a low playoff bar. If the goal is to compete long-term, then they need more firepower. Fire up the tank.
Fiala: Blow it up. It’s clear this isn’t a winning roster, and it won’t be one in the future with the current veterans. I say test the market for Gallo, Faried, Chandler, Barton and Jameer and try and get something in return, but make tanking a priority UNLESS they can actually land a superstar player (not likely). This is a good enough draft where Denver could realistically end up with another key player. It’s a long-term move, but at this point I think it’s necessary.
Atlanta announced the Hawks would no longer be fielding offers for Paul Millsap (for now). Should the Nuggets keep pursuing Millsap or move on?
Sterne: I don’t think so. Millsap would have been a great fit here, but if Atlanta wants to keep him then let’s just move on. I don’t think it is worth overpaying for Millsap and making an offer Atlanta ‘cannot refuse’. Although he does fit well, when our main core is hitting their primes, Millsap will be an old shell of his former self by then.
Lewis: Move on. The Hawks (correctly) decided to move Korver and keep Millsap while chasing a playoff seed. They could have homecourt in the playoffs, all while developing their young talent in DeAndre Bembry and Taurean Prince. The Nuggets would have likely had to overpay for Millsap, and that would do more harm than help.
Gross: Yup, move on. It was an interesting option last week, and Millsap would fit this team very well, but Denver doesn’t have its ducks in a row and they aren’t in a position to cash in a lot of assets for a player who is not going to be overly wowed by a 37-win playoff season. I love the player but I don’t see his future with Denver being more than a long-shot. Denver will have to go another way.
Fiala: Move on. The Nuggets had the smallest of windows to acquire him and while he would have been a great fit on paper, I don’t think his presence alone would have been enough to turn this team around. There are too many other issues this team needs to figure out.
What is the biggest challenge the Nuggets will face the rest of the season?
Sterne: It depends on what the Nuggets are aiming to do. Assuming they want to make the playoffs this season, I would say the biggest challenge is improving their defence. Our offense statistically is really good, but our defence is absolutely tuuuurrble. If we cannot succeed in this challenge, there is no way we can make the playoffs, and once again we’ll all have to sit through yet another playoffs series in the shadows of sadness and pity.
Lewis: Deciding whether to keep Michael Malone after this season. An unfortunate truth in the NBA is that coaches are much easier to replace than players. If Malone is unable to develop the young talent on the roster, connect with the players, and install a scheme that is successful, then he may need to be replaced. There is value to having consistency at the top, but if it's not the right person for the job, that consistency is a hinderance rather than a blessing.
Gross: Deciding on the future. A tank and continued rebuild won’t sell tickets. A boring and mediocre 8th seed won’t sell tickets. Josh Kroenke said this at the start of Brian Shaw’s final season: “there’s a process to winning at the highest level and you can’t skip steps. We’re trying to build this to a place it’s never been. I understand the uneasiness from fans, but I think my fathers ownership history of trying to build a winner should provide a backstop for them to lean on…” Two and a half years later the fans are still uneasy, a new coach is at the help, and the Nuggets are treading water. Go young and shoot for long-term glory, or cash in for a more stable veteran team that Connelly can supplement through the draft. But this hybrid approach of wanting it both ways isn’t working. The Nuggets have to commit to something and follow through. Enough vacillating.
Fiala: Establishing an identity. I don’t think anyone knows the direction this team is headed, and if they keep playing the waiting game it will be too late for them to make any significant moves. Denver needs to control its own destiny and not let the market decide what kind of team this will be. Choose a path, whether it be restructuring the roster, going all-in for the playoffs or tanking, and go for it 100%.