1: On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that the Nuggets make the playoffs?
Each week, the Denver Stiffs staff gathers around a Google Doc table and answers questions on a variety of subjects, but mostly about the Denver Nuggets. Here is this week’s edition, with the questions coming from Daniel Lewis.
1: On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that the Nuggets make the playoffs?
Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): About a 3. Portland has been on a nice run since adding Jusuf Nurkic and Dallas has looked even better since adding Nerlens Noel. But the main reason I can’t go higher than a 3 is because on March 9th, 64 games into the season, I still don’t know if this Nuggets team can be consistent. Some nights they look like world beaters. Other nights they look like they don’t care. So I just can’t have too much confidence in this team’s upside when they routinely fall well before even their most modest expectations.
Ashley Douglas (@AshleyNBAHoops): Ever the optimist, I’m going to say a 6-7. However, this comes with lots of “ifs” and disclaimers. Last night’s game was an utter disaster. The Nuggets have shown us that they can flat stink it up if they so choose, and it’s evident that Jameer Nelson refuses to play defense. I understand that Malone wants some veteran leadership at the point, but has Jamal Murray not shown that he's capable to start and play the majority of minutes? IF the Nuggets decide to start Murray bringing Nelson off the bench, and IF they all decide to commit to playing aggressive defense they MAY have a shot at keeping their playoff spot. It will be up to them to determine how bad they truly want it.
Ryan Blackburn (@RyanBlackburn9): About a 5. The Nuggets have a lot of work to do, and they have to do it fast. Michael Malone has tried everything to motivate this team, and they only look motivated SOME of the time. I’m not sure why this is. It’s pretty clear that the best way to run the offense is by moving and cutting, yet only half of the players do so. It’s also evident that the best way to play defense is to consistently try, and that’s an issue as well. Denver’s schedule is difficult, but they do still have a slight lead. They probably need nine or ten wins to make it. Can they do it? I don’t know.
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): 1. The injuries are starting to scare me, because the Nuggets need Faried and Gallo to contribute down the stretch if they are going to win close games. Winning games is tough, and missing two talented players puts the Nuggets at a disadvantage. Jusuf Nurkic has looked motivated and has been a difference maker for Portland, and Damian Lillard is a great player. With an eye to the draft, if they miss the playoffs, they could jump from 15 to 12 - I wouldn’t mind that at all.
2: Juancho Hernangomez recently said his ideal starting five is him, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan. For this question, pick a current Nugget and name your ideal starting five.
Mares: George Hill, Gary Harris, Otto Porter, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic. You put three elite three-point shooters and cutters around Jokic and give him Paul Millsap and the team will lead the league in offensive rating. Then you have three guys that can prevent dribble penetration on the defensive end and allow Milsap to help lock up the interior and you’ve got a top 10 defense. This team would compete for a championship.
Douglas: Isaiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, Danilo Gallinari, Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic. Thomas, Gallinari, and Thompson will get the offense flowing while Jokic finds them open for easy buckets to capture momentum. Green will be the defensive pace car with Gallinari and Thompson following suit on the perimeter. Jokic is the secret ingredient that brings it all together making the magic happen. Winner, winner chicken dinner.
Blackburn: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Otto Porter, Draymond Green, Nikola Jokic. I’m taking the MVP, a defensive player of the year candidate, and two of my favorite role players in the NBA. The motion for this team would be focused on high-low between Jokic and Green with plays designed to free Harden on the perimeter and let him orchestrate. The goal of this team would be to simply not settle for perimeter shots, but be good enough to knock them down when necessary. Also, top-flight defense from three of the five while Jokic develops on that end should help.
Lewis: Steph Curry, Eric Gordon, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic. I’ll take some of the best players in the history of the NBA, a defensive ninja, one of my favorite players in the league, and Jokic. Does this lineup lack a true rim protector? Sure. But they’d probably average 2 points per possession, and none of the other lineups listed could outscore them.
3: Pick a breakfast food to describe the Nuggets season so far.
Mares: Scrambled eggs and toast, because that’s what their defense looks like most nights. Get it? First they get scrambled up by dribble penetration, they lay an egg on rotations, and then...nevermind.
Douglas: I would say Eggs Benedict. One mistake throws the entire balance off, and it's very difficult to produce the same balance consistently. The eggs must be poached to perfection, and the hollandaise cannot be over cooked. Sometimes the Nuggets defense is poached to nearly perfect, but sometimes it runs all over the place. Sometimes the ball moves on offense, but sometimes one player tries to over cook his stat line spoiling the sauce.
Blackburn: Pancakes, since they are usually flattened on defense but are still pretty sweet on offense. Jokic’s game is smooth like butter but his feet sometimes look like they are stuck in maple syrup on defense. No matter what’s mixed in (apples, bananas, chocolate chips), the result is usually the same: pretty good.
Lewis: Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. Take an amazing cereal, and add peanut butter? What could go wrong! Oh yeah, eating too much tears up the roof of your mouth and the sugar starts to pile up and your hands start shaking. It’s a part of a balanced breakfast that also includes a bran muffin, cup of juice, fruit salad, and a multivitamin. For the Nuggets, take an amazing player like Jokic, and then decide to not make him the focal part of the team for the first two months of the season. I’ve made a terrible mistake!
4: What kind of play this season makes you most excited? (For example, A Jokic assist? A Gallo triple? A Harris dunk?)
Mares: A Jokic assist. Chris Marlowe has been great on the call all year because every time Jokic gets the ball on the break he builds the excitement that we are all feeling. “Okay, Joker on the break, here we go…” Jokic’s passing is up there with the most fun and entertaining things to watch in my lifetime of watching the Nuggets.
Douglas: Last week, the Nuggets made nine passes in a single possession causing their opponents’ heads to spin, ultimately finding their perfect shot. Nine passes every possession may not be realistic, but when the Nuggets give up good shots to look for a great shot while playing unselfish basketball they are so fun to watch. I'll also add that I love to watch Gallinari get open for Jokic. Those two together can be unstoppable. (Editor’s note - we get it Ashley, you like Gallo)
Blackburn: A perfectly executed set for a wide open three that’s made. Those are few and far between, but when watching one unfold, knowing what’s going to happen, yet the offense still executes the play to perfection for a wide open shooter (who’s good at shooting), that’s the best feeling and a true momentum swinger.
Lewis: When Jameer Nelson dribbles the ball from the 3-point line, under the hoop, turns his back as he makes his way to the free throw line, and then spins into a fadeaway. It makes me excited because I’ve realized the Nuggets’ offense just hit rock bottom, and there’s nowhere to go but up. Honestly though, I love it when Gary Harris posterizes someone. He’s ascended to the throne of best dunker on the team with Faried out and Will Barton doing whatever he’s doing lately.
5: Coach Malone finally got a win over the Kings, but still won't wear purple. Is there a color you refuse to wear and why? If no, pick one and explain your answer.
Mares: No, but I really hate wearing a suit. I wore a blazer all weekend at Sloan and it gave me anxiety. Formal attire is a really wierd social norm that we all just accept. That’s my hottest clothing take.
Douglas: Yellow. I have red hair, and yellow makes me look physically ill. I hate yellow clothes, yellow cars, and even lemons. Yep. That's weird.
Blackburn: Like Adam, I’m terrible with formal attire. There isn’t a color that I won’t wear, though pink isn’t in my wardrobe, but the style of the clothing matters. I’m a comfort guy for sure, and suits just aren’t for me.
Lewis: Red. I attended Brigham Young University, and was raised on the fact that a diploma from the University of Utah doubles as a handicap sticker (they could get lost, walking is tough). I’ll wear something close to red (crimson for example) but never, ever, pure red. Oddly enough, I love yellow, decorating with lemons, and I also really like wearing a suit. Ryan, Adam, let me help you.