This afternoon, Denver Nuggets fans found out that Paul Millsap will have wrist surgery for a torn ligament that could sideline him for three months. Mood?
So now what?
- First things first: who gets the nod as the starter next to Nikola Jokic for the next 2-3 months? (note: Mason Plumlee is not a legit answer and will get you banned from this roundtable)
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): The easy answer is Faried. He is vocal about preferring a starting role, and he plays well next to Jokic as anyone, while having the advantage of familiarity that other options may not have. He also can’t shoot, which limits his bench playability next to other noted non-shooters like Plumlee.
I think I’ll go with Wilson Chandler, though. Chandler has struggled this year as a starting small forward and seems more comfortable with a power forward role. That would open up minutes with the starters for Juancho Hernangomez as well, and now that he’s back from his bout with mono he needs to start logging consistent minutes. Having him as a floor spacer with Jokic can only help. If it’s anyone other than Chandler or Faried, though, I’ll be shocked.
Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): There is no doubt in my mind that this should be Kenneth Faried. He has proven to be an excellent running-mate with NIkola Jokic on offense and it’s not like they have a better defensive option. Starting Manimal will help the team get into an offensive rhythm early, something that will be needed as Denver segues away from a two-way team and back toward a team that will rely more heavily on their offense than their defense.
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): I think it should be Faried. This helps keep the rotation basically the same, because Faried hadn’t been playing. We already know that Faried-Jokic can be effective on offense, it’s just defense that was an issue and will continue to be. Faried should benefit from playing alongside Harris and Murray, and can help clean up Chandler’s misses. I would like to see Trey Lyles get more minutes off the bench, I don’t believe he’s ready for starters-level minutes.
- How do you see the front court rotation shaking out?
Gross: I expect Juancho to draw more minutes at the 3, which frees up Trey Lyles to get minutes at the 4 behind Chandler. Faried will get a few more minutes (hopefully not next to Plumlee). Darrell Arthur and Tyler Lydon will remain spectators.
Mares: I think it will mirror the end of last season quite a bit. Faried starts and plays 20 minutes per game. Plumlee moves back to primarily playing center with a few minutes of the “Honey-Plum” (Jokic-Plumlee) lineup sprinkled in. Lastly, Denver will go smaller off of the bench with Juancho and Lyles playing defensively challenged but offensively explosive smallball lineups.
Lewis: If the basketball gods are real, Wilson Chandler will get more minutes at power forward now. That will allow Juancho Hernangomez to get more rotation minutes, and Barton can play minutes at small forward as well. Faried can start, Lyles and Chandler can rotate into the backup minutes (Chandler with Plumlee, Lyles with Jokic), and then Chandler can close games.
- Should the word “tank” enter Denver’s vernacular again?
Gross: I didn’t think Denver could legitimately lose enough with Jokic as a centerpiece to tank last year, and that remains true this year. If Jokic was gone for three months I might say yes, but with Millsap out I don’t think Denver can lose enough to make the effort worth it. You gotta play it out - that’s the position you’ve chosen as a team, playoffs or bust.
Mares: No. They are too good to tank. They still have one of the best players in the NBA in NIkola Jokic and they’ve already gone long enough without establishing a winning culture. They can still make the playoffs with the roster they have, even if their odds of getting in took a big hit.
Lewis: One of my top 100 favorite words? No. I think it’s silly to consider tanking with someone as awesome as Jokic on the roster. Millsap should be back around the All-Star break, just in time for the Nuggets to make a roster move to load up for the playoffs. This should help Will Barton make a strong case for Sixth Man of the Year.
- Will the Nuggets still make the playoffs?
Gross: I’m going with yes, partly because removing Millsap from the equation simplifies Denver’s rotations as well as the adjustment to having to fit Millsap in to last year’s offensive balance. What they will lose in terms of upside and defensive acumen as they get later in the season they should partly make up for in immediate offensive improvement, and that might be enough to still squeak into the playoffs. Prepare yourselves, Warriors.
Mares: This hurts me to write but I’m going to say no. They still go the way their point guards go and that won’t change with the loss of Millsap. The only thing that changes is their defense will be worse off and that means the margin for error on offense gets thinner. Denver will remain competitive but this puts them behind Portland, Oklahoma City, and Memphis and even with New Orleans. That makes them one of the teams on the outside looking in. But there’s still hope! Just not as much as 24 hours ago.
Lewis: I think they could get the 8-seed, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them miss it by one or two games. This is still a talented team, but they needed their defense to carry them while their young point guards find their sea legs. Their offense could take a leap, but the net rating probably won’t improve. At least Tim Connelly got enough power forwards to keep the team afloat in case the Black Plague strikes the team in the next few months.
Will the Nuggets still make the playoffs despite this injury to Millsap?
This poll is closed