With Kenneth Faried re to health, where does he fit in the rotation?
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Ideally he’d be coming off the bench to spark the energy on the second unit without disrupting team chemistry. The fit with him next to Mason Plumlee isn’t ideal, though, with both guys lacking a shot outside 8 feet. He and Nikola Jokic were terrific together earlier this season, so I would expect him to go back to starting for that reason (and also because he complains when he doesn’t start) which frees up Wilson Chandler to be a lead bench presence again - or will when both he and Danilo Gallinari are back in the rotation as well. The year of inconsistent roles and minutes continues for everyone.
Ashley Douglas (@AshleyNBAHoops)
Faried will be great as a boost of energy off the bench, but that's not to say his presence isn't still critical for the Denver Nuggets as they move into the post-season. Now that Plumlee is getting more comfortable, he and Faried will be key on the rebounding effort when the starters need a rest. Faried can also be a good option as a starter when the Nuggets need more of a physical power forward presence. Chandler has been playing well in the starting rotation and his scoring abilities have set the Nuggets up for success when he's able to get in early and help get momentum flowing.
Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): I think it really depends on how long Chandler’s injury keeps him sidelined. I feel like Wilson has established himself as the stretch run starting PF but if he’s out for an extended period of time Faried could supplant him. If it’s a couple of games thing then I think Faried likely is going to be coming off the bench, taking the minutes that currently have been occupied by Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur and perhaps even a portion of Plumlee’s minutes as well.
Do the Nuggets have to get a win against either the Los Angeles Clippers tonight or the Houston Rockets on Saturday for this seven of eight homestand to be a success?
Gross: After watching both the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers get upset wins last night, I have to say yes. Denver’s gone 7-3 in their last 10 but have gained no ground over the Mavs and only on game on Portland. The Nuggets need to win some games they are not favored in for them to make the playoffs. Losing both of these games puts Denver in a precarious playoff position. This is the week that could decide who gets to be demolished by the top seed in the West and who gets to sit home with the worst lottery chance possible. Big week.
Douglas: They have a chance tonight since DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin aren't traveling with the Clippers to Denver. However, the Nuggets are without Gallinari, Chandler, and Arthur tonight so Coach Malone will need to be creative to find a way to get a win. The Nuggets do need to win at least one of the two games to keep their position secure. I actually think they might just win them both if they can get Gallinari back and keep Faried healthy against Houston.
Mikash: Absolutely. Without a victory in one of the next two games the Nuggets finish the 7 of 8 homestand at 4-4, which would basically be a snapshot of the season as a whole. The closing stretch is bruuuuuutal and Denver needed to put as much space between them and Portland during these 8 games as possible...they did so so in that regard but one victory, or ideally two, in these next couple of games would still help.
Do all the injuries this season make the Nuggets better prepared for the playoffs or will the lack of consistency hurt them down the stretch?
Gross: It certainly means they are used to making it work without their “optimal” lineup. If they were going down the stretch with a set rotation and then had to deal with injuries the rest of the way
Douglas: The injuries the Nuggets have been through this season have allowed the young bench players to see some important minutes. Everyone remembers when Denver’s bench beat the healthy and active Golden State Warriors by a landslide. I don't think the Nuggets will win the series with Golden State in the first round of the playoffs, but I hope Coach Malone sees it as an opportunity to give the starters as well as the bench minutes to help them get some higher level playing experience.
Mikash: If the injuries run right into the postseason then it hurts them. Even if the Nuggets were to overcome that hurdle and still get into the playoffs having to integrate key players back into the rotation mid series could be a disaster. Coach Malone has yet to be the head coach in a playoff game so with that in mind I think it’s a major benefit to him if he has his full roster to use for series adjustments. Then again, we’ve seen in the past the Nuggets tend to do better with a short bench, so really this could go either way but I do think it will have an affect.
What’s the magic win total in your opinion that gets Denver to the playoffs?
Gross: 15 more wins should do it, but I’d settle for 14. Realistically, they probably have to get to 40 wins. That’d be 8-7 the rest of the way if my math is right. They might squeak in with 39, but I have a feeling that 38 leaves them sitting at home watching the lotto balls bounce. In which case, c’mon top-3 pick…
Douglas: Denver needs to win at least half of the remaining games of the season. They have some tough games up ahead and if they're able to secure a few of those wins they will hopefully continue to pull away from Portland. There is very little room for the inconsistency the Nuggets have been known for lately so it's going to come down to will power and desire to make the playoffs.
Mikash: I think 41 will do it. A 9-6 run to close out the season is what it will take to get them there and I think going 3 games above .500 over that span probably keeps Portland at bay. 41 wins also gets them to .500 on the season which is a nice benchmark for the team to hit and even if it turns out to not be enough to get them in it will nonetheless something the organization as a whole can hang their hats on as they head into the offseason
Which player will you be watching in the NCAA tournament that you’d most like to see in a Nuggets uniform next season?
Gross: Josh Jackson, but he’s basically a pipe dream. If the lotto balls don’t bounce our way and we’re drafting 12-16, then let’s say Jonathan Isaac. Realistically, though, Harry Giles is the tourney wildcard for us. Giles could still be amazing, and I don’t mind taking bets on potential All-Stars in the middle of the first. Sometimes they turn into Greek Freaks, after all.
Douglas: Josh Hart. I would love to see the Nuggets trade Mudiay and get another high ranked rookie guard while they prepare Jamal Murray to start. I'm of the opinion that Murray is ready now, but perhaps the Nuggets are wanting to make sure they don't thrust him into the spotlight too soon like they did with Mudiay. At the very least I hope to see Murray starting next season.
Mikash: Markelle Fultz! No but seriously there’s not too many guys in the NCAA tournament who fit Denver’s needs and likewise are projected to be there when the Nuggets pick. If the question was who are we watching in the NIT the answer would be OG Anunoby, or if it’s who are we watching overseas then Frank Ntilinka is intriguing as well as Rodions Kurucs. Specifically in the tourney though I’ll go with a different Jackson than Gordon and say Justin Jackson out of UNC. He’s had a surprising improvement in his shooting this year and has the length to be a plus defender (though he is not right now). He’s also shown the ability to be a good spot up shooter at times and is an effective passer as well. He could be a good Gallo or possibly even Chandler replacement who projects to play well with Nikola Jokic.