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Roundtable: What to watch for during Denver Nuggets training camp and preseason

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Who’s the starting PG, who’s the backup PF?

NBA: Denver Nuggets-Media Day Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay or Jameer Nelson, who ya got as the starting point guard opening night?

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): Gonna go with Murray. Either he or Emmanuel is the future at point guard and it seems like he’s got the leg up early on. With a clean bill of health I think he’s got the ability to win this job outright in pre-season.

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): I’m going to pick Jameer Nelson. The Denver Nuggets goal is to win games this season, and lots of them hopefully, and in my opinion, no point guard helps them achieve that goal more than Jameer. I do think Murray’s minutes will be increased this season, and he’ll have more opportunities to succeed, but that starting role belongs to Nelson.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): I’m going with Murray as the starter well. The bench needs a point guard who can shoot (which both Murray and Nelson can) but it also needs a point guard who is used to running an offense and operating the PnR with a big like Plumlee, and I don’t think that’s where Murray needs to be right now. Mudiay has an uphill climb in order to get significant PG minutes, and I don’t think his current lack of shooting will help with Plumlee’s own issues in that department. Jokic can cover for Murray’s nascent-level of point guard skill while Jameer can make sure Plumlee isn’t left swinging in the wind.

Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): The early reports about Mudiay dominating camp are really encouraging but I’m going with Murray. Perhaps it’s closer than I thought a week ago but I still see this as Muray’s job to lose.

Who is going to be the backup power forward?

Mikash: This one is a lot harder to answer. Coach Malone referenced a 9 man rotation but I think he’ll have no choice but to go 10 man. That means Juancho Hernangomez is the guy at the backup SF position so Kenneth Faried has to be the guy at the backup PF position, his claims of being a starter notwithstanding.

Lewis: This question is why I had such a hard time believing Coach Malone when he said he wants to go with a nine man rotation. Should Juancho be the backup four when the Nuggets play the Utah Jazz or the Minnesota Timberwolves? Should Faried be the backup when the Nuggets play the Portland Trail Blazers or Oklahoma City Thunder? Should Trey Lyles get minutes against the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns? Where does Darrell Arthur fit in this conversation? I want to be optimistic and say that the Nuggets are going to use Lyles as the backup power forward, because I think of the players at that position, he has the highest ceiling. I also want to be realistic and say that they’ll use Faried, because he’s a veteran, a fan favorite, and they can’t just not play him.

That was a long non-answer. To summarize, I don’t think anyone knows, but my best guess is Faried. Or Plumlee. And sometimes Arthur.

Gross: Yes. All of them. I think backup PF is the position that will be most in flux to start this year. For opening night I’m going to assume it’s Faried, but that doesn’t mean he’s actually #1 on the backup PF depth chart. Call it a political hunch.

Mares: Malone made a clear point that the backup power forward spot was all about fit and I think Lyles probably fits better than Faried. Faried and Plumlee together will clog the paint. Lyles can open up the paint and provide some on-ball playmaking, so he gets the nod. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a spot that Malone tinkers with throughout the first few weeks of the season.

Kenneth Faried said if the team doesn’t make the playoffs then the season is a waste, agree or disagree?

Mikash: I disagree, but only because the West is so stacked. I could see a scenario where Denver gets into the upper 40s in wins and still misses the playoffs. If that’s the case then it’s hard to call a season where they continued a 3 year trend of improving their record a failure.

Lewis: I don’t think Faried is going to be around to share his opinion on if the season has been a waste if the Nuggets fail to reach the playoffs. But I do agree, if they don’t make the playoffs, it’s a waste. There was a chance to add young talent and offload veterans in the offseason, and it didn’t happen. The team is built to compete and win - now it’s time to go and do some winning for a change.

Gross: If the Nuggets don’t make the playoffs I don’t think Malone is coming back, so in that sense I do think it’s a big year for the Nuggets. They paid out a lot of money for the frontcourt this offseason, and may be extending some of the backcourt as well. The FO expects results, as do the fans. This is the team they wanted, it’s the team they got, and this is the team that needs to perform or some changes will happen. “We got really close” isn’t an excuse that will fly for a second year in a row.

Mares: Not a waste but certainly a major disappointment. Although the fight for the final three playoff spots will be very close, I think Denver should be looked at as a favorite over teams like Portland, the Clippers, Memphis, and New Orleans.

Which player are you keeping your eye on the most during preseason?

Mikash: It’s really hard to pick one player here. Can Mudiay finally put it together? Is Jamal’s health going to let him take the next leap? Where does Lyles fit in? So many questions. If I have to choose though it’s Jamal. I want to see him start at PG and I want to see if he can do it full time. I think the season hinges on him so I’d have to say he’s the one I’m watching the closest.

Lewis: I’m keeping an eye on Trey Lyles. This is potentially a guy that can switch on defense at the power forward position, stretch the floor, and attack defenses off the dribble. If he can prove that he’s skilled enough to fill the backup power forward role, I think that should help the front office have some clarity on what to do with the glut they have there. If he’s just a guy, then expect to see a lot more of Mason Plumlee in that role.

Gross: I think it has to be Murray. So much is riding on a 20 year old point guard who just had major surgery over the summer (rather than being able to dedicate it solely to improving his game). I want to see how Millsap and Jokic blend, I want to see the deep-bench guys, I’m curious to see Chandler’s fit with the starters at the 3... but nothing is more interesting to me than how a healthy Murray can make his mark.

Mares: There are a lot of candidates here but I think Mudiay is the guy I’m most excited to see. If he really is turning a corner, the Nuggets outlook changes, both for this season and for the future. Torrey Craig also has me intrigued. Trey Lyles will be interesting. Plumlee will be interesting too, as I don’t think he’s shown what he’s fully capable of. A full training camp and preseason should help.