With so many talented players, including Denver’s Paul Millsap, withdrawing from Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, could Serbia, Spain, or Canada earn a gold medal this year?
Ryan Blackburn: Team USA will always be the favorite, but given the amount of turnover and uncertainty over the last few weeks, it would surprise no one if the now shaky roster dropped a random game in China next month. It could be to Nikola Jokic and Serbia, or Juancho Hernangomez and Spain, or even Jamal Murray and Canada. My money would be on Jokic, who’s now the best player in international play outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Add in other competent NBA players on the Serbian national team and it’s possible that chemistry could outmatch the now less impressive collection of talent Team USA has amassed.
Adam Mares: They could. FIBA play is structured to create upsets so even a fully stacked Team USA roster would be more vulnerable in practice than they would seem in theory. But Team USA is not fully stacked. And Team Serbia has a bit of continuity and familiarity, headlined by Nikola Jokic and Bogdan Bogdanovic. If they make it to the gold medal round, they should be able to put up a good fight. But that upset potential swings both ways and Serbia will have to avoid getting bested by a lesser team en route to the final round.
The Jamal Murray extension became official on Wednesday afternoon. What percentage chance does Murray have to make an All-NBA team during the life of that extension?
Blackburn: With so many talented guards at a similar level to Murray, I’m going with a 60 percent chance Murray will earn at least All-NBA third team over the next six years. In today’s NBA, Stephen Curry (age 31), James Harden (30 in August), Damian Lillard (29), and Russell Westbrook (31 in November) have dominated the All-NBA nominations. Going forward, I don’t expect any of those guards to maintain their current levels past 2022 or so. Murray will turn 25 in 2022 and should be squarely in the prime of his career. He will have to compete with other guards though, including Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, D’Angelo Russell, De’Aaron Fox, and Luka Doncic. Murray should be in the mix with most of those players and also play for an (hopefully) elite team with Nikola Jokic. He will have every opportunity to justify that extension.
Mares: It’s almost impossible to predict the league in 5 years. Just look at predictions from 5 years ago! So just about anything is possible for Murray, including earning an all-star bid. But my bet would be against Murray. The league has a lot of very talented guards and more enter the league each year. Murray also plays in Denver which means either the Nuggets would have to become a perennial top 2-3 team in the NBA in order for him to draw the recognition that he deserves, or he’ll have to be about 20% better than whatever star guards are playing in Los Angeles and the other Western Conference glamour markets.
Bol Bol and Vlatko Cancar have yet to receive official NBA contracts with the Nuggets. What could be holding things up and when will they sign officially?
Blackburn: Rumor has it that Denver expressed interest in veteran forward Andre Iguodala earlier this summer. It’s possible that the Nuggets are waiting to sign the last two players to official deals because they want to work every angle on the free agent and trade market. I would expect both Bol and Cancar to be signed to guaranteed deals on the 15-man roster over the next few weeks.
Mares: No idea when they will sign or what is holding them up. I can’t imagine Cancar has interest in leaving Europe to play in Delaware or Sioux Falls so I would be shocked if he signed a two-way deal. Bol Bol was considered a long-term, high-upside project for the Nuggets so I’m not sure a two-way contract would provide the Nuggets the appropriate amount of time to evaluate and develop him. Tough decisions ahead for the Nuggets.