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Roundtable: March madness and sadness

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The Nuggets are in the final quarter of the 2017-18 season, and are currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Will they miss the postseason again, or will they be playing meaningful basketball in April?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

What are the Nuggets doing on April 15?

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): I STILL BELIEVE! They’ll be in the first round, playing the Golden State Warriors.

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): Not playing in the playoffs. Tonight is their last home game until April, and although they don’t face the toughest competition on the road, we’ve seen what happens when they play bad teams on the road this season. Their final ten games are against playoff teams. Unless Michael Malone goes full-on Kindergarten Cop on this young, inconsistent team, they’re going to miss the playoffs and finish in about the same spot as they did last season. If the Nuggets aren’t sixth in the west by April 3, they’re done.

Jeremy Poley (@JeremyPoley): Playing their first playoff game in a very long time. I’m not taking the Lakers loss as strongly as some. I’m balancing it with what I saw in the Lakers win, which to me was an almost transformative 4th quarter of play. I use “transformative” because I thought they had figured something out, and they proved with the more recent loss that they have not. But they also showed that they can bring it together on any random night. I think a Nuggets team that can bring it together is good enough to at least contend with the other teams fighting for a playoff spot. They’re one game out of seventh place. They’re three games out of fourth place. Every team in this race is pushing so hard and out-of-control right now; throw a peanut in their path and it could send any one of them out of the picture.

How confident are you that the Nuggets offer Nikola Jokic a max contract in the offseason?

Mikash: Supremely confident. Jokic is the best player this team has had since Carmelo Anthony...who was the best player the team had since Alex English. These guys don’t come along often and Denver would be nuts to let him hit UFA or try to lowball him. Jokic on a max is still a good deal because he is only eligible for the smallest max contract you can get, so its not like his deal wouldn’t be movable. There’s very little downside/risk to giving him that deal.

Lewis: I’m the lone man in the world that isn’t quite certain the Nuggets offer Jokic a max contract this offseason. I am still concerned that they’ll exercise their team option for next year, keeping Jokic as one of the lowest-paid players on the roster, and then they’ll go into the 2018-19 offseason confident that he’ll sign a new contract with Denver. Do I think it’ll happen? No. But I’m definitely worried about it.

Poley: Very confident. It’s such a slippery slope if they don’t. There’s two other options: offer him a lesser contract now, or wait until he’s a RFA next off-season. Offer him anything less than a max now and he would probably decline it and go to any number of desperate teams next year that offer him a max. Wait until next off-season and you lose your goodwill and submit him to another unpredictable season that could diminish his desire to stay. “Locked On Nuggets” just recently brought up how players on a team can (at least marginally) look up to other players based on their contracts. Paying Jokic now could pay off in more dividends than just financial ones. Management has put a lot of effort into creating a credibility of a “player-centric” team. Extending Jokic to a max contract this off-season continues the theme of their management style and has been the plan all along. This management staff’s fate is permanently tied to Jokic - extending him means extending themselves.

Which team would you most like to be in a rivalry with?

Mikash: Portland. Division rivalries are the best and the Trail Blazers are still enemy numero uno in my mind. I was really hoping for a Nuggets/Blazers first round series but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

Lewis: I’d like the Nuggets to be in a solid rivalry with any division opponent, but they would have to be capable of beating them for it to be a true rivalry. I think Portland is a good answer, but if Nurkic signs with another team, I don’t think that is a strong option. Utah is the closest geographically, but there just hasn’t been any traction to a rivalry there. With Minnesota and Oklahoma City, there’s just not enough beef between the two teams and they’re so far apart. I don’t think it can be the Lakers either, because the other 29 teams in the league should all be rooting against them.

Poley: The Lakers. I’m not a fan of empty haughtiness (although I am a fan of huge generalizations). It’s the difference between an LA sports fan’s arrogance and a New York sports fan’s arrogance. Ask any NY sports fan a random question about their team’s past and they’ll give you every detail and statistic that you need. Ask the same to an LA fan and they’ll change the topic to the car that they drive that I’ll never be able to afford (and probably one that they can’t afford either). I actually really like this group of guys on the Lakers right now and have watched more Lakers than I can remember in a long time, which is more than most Lakers fans can say.

Daylight savings, good or bad? Why?

Mikash: I used to love DST, then I had kids and now I hate it. You don’t just change a 5 year olds routine by an hour over one night. It’s a week long ordeal. Yesterday I took a nap at 5pm, woke up at 7pm and then couldn’t get back to sleep until 3am, all because my kids sleep schedule is totally out of whack.

Lewis: Good! I’m a fan of summertime, being able to finally enjoy some sunshine and get outdoors after work. I wake up before the sun rises no matter what, so I’m not as impacted by the time change. I’ll never be a fan of 8:30 PM tip-offs though, those are brutal.

Poley: I look at it like finding money in your pants pocket. Yay! Free money! But it also means that you were smart enough to have lost it to begin with.

Would you be okay if the Nuggets just fully committed to offense and averaged 125 points a night and didn’t make the playoffs a single time in the Jokic era?

Mikash: No, you don’t play the game to score 125 points a night.

Lewis: That’s basically what Jokic-ball is, in my opinion. The franchise hasn’t shown the ability to craft a good defensive team here ever, and they might as well be entertaining if they’re not going to be competing for a championship. You can’t have a coach that preaches about playoff-level defense and not make the playoffs, that’s skipping steps. Let’s get the city excited about the Nuggets, and continue working on developing a fun, successful franchise.

Poley: Not at all okay with it. “Hope” to contend in the playoffs is why I watch. But that’s not to say that fully committing to offense and averaging 125 points a night won’t get you to the playoffs. I’m a huge fan of the George Karl era. I know that he was dubbed “the coach to get you to the playoffs and lose” but I always held hope for a championship just because we were in the playoffs. And, hey, one season it came down to a single play. I will always put hope into the team if I’m given a reason to hope. Go ahead and trick me and take my money. Just as long as I get my money’s worth out of the trick.

There’s a repair shop near your house with a mechanic that claims to be the best brakes repair specialist in the region. You take your car in, and they do a terrible job fixing your brakes. This continues for three years. Do you wait for the “best brakes repair” to actually happen or do you find a new shop to go to?

Mikash: Depends. Maybe the brakes still aren’t fixed but what if the engine is running smoother? What if the car no longer sputters and quits anytime it faces adversity? What if all the other brake shops have mixed reviews, except the really good ones who don’t want to work on your car unless they have no other choice? Lots of layers to...brake shops.

Lewis: But what if the next mechanic you go to is even worse than the one you have now? You never know, there’s a possibility he could be better or he could be worse. You could read reviews, talk to friends and get their recommendations, call for prices and inquire about materials, but that sounds like too much work. I’ve yet to see anyone provide a list of mechanics they can guarantee would be better than the one I’m going to. Better to just stick with the mechanic you have - it’s a pretty fair price after all, and your expectations have already been lowered - and accept that your brakes are never going to work to their full capacity. Going to a new mechanic seems like the smart decision, and would probably be better, but making decisions is hard work and I’m not about that life.

Poley: First of all, this roundtable must’ve been written by Dan. Dan, sometimes I really do love you. Now, to answer the question: Sounds like he spends more on his online marketing (shameless plug) than he does his……. tools! The problem has to be the tools, right??? I’m sure he’s the greatest mechanic (he said so himself). He just needs better tools...

Which team do you have winning the March Madness tournament?

Mikash: Villanova, because why the hell not.

Lewis: On Sparty! Miles Bridges is one of my favorite college players, and I think Michigan State has the talent to cut down the nets at the end of the tournament.

Poley: Villanova. I’m a Georgetown Hoyas fan. So, the closest thing I have to a dog in the race is Villanova (and they’re really good this year).