Richard Jefferson is in and Jameer Nelson is out, good move?
Ashley Douglas (@AshleyNBAHoops): Overall, I think Nelson’s time in the NBA is probably drawing to a close. However, it’s tough to say if this is a good move or not. I am not a proponent of having Nelson start, but I don’t think Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay are quite ready to take the Denver Nuggets to a playoff position. I think some veteran experience in that role off the bench would’ve been helpful for at least one more season. That said, the Nuggets do need some more options at small forward so the help will be good. I just hope Juancho Herangomez can get up to speed quickly because I don’t think Wilson Chandler or Jefferson are starting caliber players.
Jeremy Poley (@JeremyPoley): Jefferson in is a net positive. The Nuggets have all of the personality of Victorian England these days. Getting one of the most-liked guys in the NBA who brings experience, playoff savvy, and high character fills a void. Getting rid of Nelson is a problem. He HAD experience and playoff savvy (albeit less than RJ). And he solidified us at our youngest, most unstable position. We're past the point of no return. Arthur just lost Merlin. Luke just lost Obi-Wan. We're in a worse position for success this season. But now Connelly gets to watch Mudiay's trade value rise. No one is going to remember this move in two years but magically Mudiay will become relevant via trade or performance.
Zach Mikash(@ZachMikash): I characterize it right now as a risky move, a very risky move, but until we know whether or not the risk paid off its tough to say if its a good move or a bad one. The positives right now are the Nuggets have shored up their small forward depth, immediately replace Jameer’s leadership and give Mudiay a shot of confidence knowing that Nelson isn’t waiting in the wings if he screws up. That being said, there’s been little to indicate either Mudiay or Murray is going to be head and shoulders above what they were last season. The Nuggets missed the playoffs by two games last season, every game counts. If the goal is to make the playoffs then there’s no time to go through Mudiay and Murray’s growing pains as they develop. They’re going to need to step up now and be better than what Jameer would have given the Nuggets. Jury is still out on whether either guy can do that this season.
What happened in the fourth quarter last night against the Utah Jazz?
Douglas: A lot of things, but the biggest mistake came from Coach Malone. I’m just not sure if he has game instincts to know when to call timeouts, when to play certain rotations, and how to recognize when certain rotations are and aren’t working well together. The answer can’t always simply be, well the Nuggets need to close out games. Yes they do, but like I said last week, that starts with the coaching team. Also, not playing through Jokic is the biggest mistake Denver could possibly make right now.
Poley: On offense: Rubio thunked our perimeter shooting, Jokic's reliable 14 footers fell short, and the ball wasn’t being moved through Jokic. On defense: Plumlee was put in to counter Gobert, but that left Jokic clueless as a 4 and our paint was a sieve. Like last year, no front court defense left our perimeter defense scrambling and Utah hit their shots.
Mikash: A lot of things. Alec Burks became a superstar, Joe Johnson became an unstoppable defensive four and the entire Nuggets team became the Washington Generals. Tying this back into the previous question, that run in the fourth quarter is the exact reason you have a guy like Nelson around. He could have came in, settled things down and helped pull the Nuggets out of that run. Denver needs to find their go to guy in situations like that, and if, whether by design or poor execution, that guy is not going to be Jokic then Denver needs to figure out who it is going to be really fast.
Juancho Hernangomez got just 6 minutes, are you concerned he’s not going to be in the rotation?
Douglas: I’m not concerned because the rotations change so frequently it’s impossible to know what the rotation will be from one minute to the next. That said, I believe Juancho has some great potential and the only way to develop that potential is to give him minutes. He’s shown he is responsible with the playing time, and while he’s still going to make young player mistakes, it can’t be any worse than what we saw from Mudiay and Murray last night. It’s important to understand that these young guys are still developing so any time they can get to hone their skills is important.
Poley: I am concerned. Not hugely, because eventually failure forces change. Of course, I'd prefer to avoid the failure altogether. I'm worried that Malone thinks he has the frontcourt minutes locked up with Jokic, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee. That will leave Juancho's only minutes coming at SF. Every minute last night at SF was played by Chandler or Barton. For what it's worth, Barton earned them. And sometimes Barton won't get minutes and Juancho will have most of them. But Juancho still needs at least a few minutes at PF. Then again, Kenneth Faried is amazing with Jokic and needs minutes at PF too... so now we're back to this again...
Mikash: I’m decently concerned. It felt a bit like Faried and Juancho operated last night in minutes that will now go to Jefferson. While I like the pick up of RJ, I’m in no way in favor of him getting minutes over Juancho. That being said, just like I said in the Jameer question, the Nuggets don’t really have the luxury of dropping games in the name of development if their goal is to make the playoffs so if they do end up going with Jefferson over Juancho I’ll understand it...still won’t like it though.
How confident are you the Nuggets can bounce back on Saturday against the Sacramento Kings?
Douglas: I’m usually the optimist, but honestly I just don’t see the in-game decisions getting us closer to a win. In fact, it’s oddly the opposite. The Nuggets didn’t follow through in the 4th quarter last night, but also the rotations that were clicking were replaced by Mudiay and Plumlee and an abysmal 27-3 run. If this was the first time this type of situation happened I would be less pessimistic, but this has grown to be a pattern and I’m not sure that it’s going to get better soon.
Poley: The Jazz are one of the top five best defenses in the league. I predicted them taking the seventh seed in the West this year right behind Denver at sixth - so a tough game against them isn't at all shocking. What is shocking is how hard the Kings played against the Houston Rocakts last night. The Nuggets should beat the Kings, but maybe a scrappy, close fight is deserved on the heels of this blown game to the Jazz.
Mikash: Very confident. There were a lot of good things the Nuggets did in the first three quarters of last night’s game. Get back home and add in the excitement of having the Nuggets legends back in town and I think they’ll respond just fine. The Kings are integrating a bunch of new players with an otherwise young team so they’re going to make plenty of mistakes on their own, Nuggets should bounce back.