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Stiffs Mailbag: Arturas Karnisovas, the Nuggets H.O.R.S.E. champion, and quidditch

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Answering questions from Denver Stiffs readers

Milwaukee Bucks v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

It’s been awhile Nuggets fans, but I’m back doing the Denver Stiffs mailbag. No word on how many times I will be doing it or if it will be a permanent fixture, but for now, I’m here to answer your questions honestly.

There were a lot of questions about the departure of Arturas Karnisovas this week, the Nuggets general manager who will be taking a new position with the Chicago Bulls to run their organization. I decided to choose three of those questions to offer various perspectives on the move, as well as some other serious and not-so-serious questions regarding the Nuggets offseason.

Enjoy!


The short answer as to whether Denver will miss Karnisovas is yes. The Lithuanian executive remains a legendary figure among Eastern European basketball fans as one of the key contributors to the Lithuanian national team during the 1990’s. His basketball acumen is some of the sharpest in the NBA today, and he understands the best practices for running an organization the right way. He also has major connections all over the NBA and International basketball scene, helping him accrue the best information and helping the Nuggets identify key foreign players to target in the draft, including Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic.

Karnisovas served as the right hand to Tim Connelly for nearly seven years, and that vacancy will be difficult for the Nuggets to fill. Connelly is also well connected as a former scout, but Karnisovas’ name opens many doors, and he helped bolster Denver’s draft room with elite knowledge and info every single year.

That will be where the Nuggets miss him the most, along with his professionalism and businesslike demeanor. Denver does have other candidates to fill in for him going forward, but he’s one of the best in basketball today. It’s hard to replace a guy like that.


There are a variety of coaches and front office personnel that may have an opportunity to join Karnisovas in Chicago. It’s likely that there will be a number of new positions available in the Windy City going forward, and Karnisovas may hope to persuade those he is familiar with to assist the Bulls in their transition from regime to regime.

International scout Rafal Juc is a name to watch. He has been with the organization for all seven years Connelly and Karnisovas have been in Denver, and Karnisovas was one of the major reasons Juc came to the Nuggets. If the Bulls were in need of a high level scouting position, Rafa has certainly put in the time and been incredible for the Nuggets in Europe.

Another name is Assistant GM Calvin Booth, who would be a major loss for the Nuggets if he followed Karnisovas to Chicago. The Nuggets know they have a rising star in their front office with Booth. He is well regarded around the league and one of the names to watch with teams overturning their front offices. It’s widely assumed that the Nuggets are hoping Booth will step into Karnisovas’ position as GM, and he would be a great guy to keep around.

Finally, if the Bulls decide to go away from Jim Boylen as head coach, both Wes Unseld Jr. and Jordi Fernandez, assistant coaches on Michael Malone’s staff, have interviewed for head coaching gigs in the past and are ready to progress. The Nuggets have lost assistant coaches in the past, and they are well versed in filling those positions with capable people.


As I mentioned above, it’s widely believed that Calvin Booth is the likely choice to succeed Karnisovas as GM; however, adding Chauncey Billups would certainly be an interesting addition. Though Billups doesn’t have any prior front office experience, he’s a great analyst and understands what it takes to win in the NBA. While Billups has said in the past that it would be great to rejoin the Nuggets organization, I expect he would want some decision making power. Tim Connelly is definitely the final decision maker in Denver outside of ownership, and with Connelly rejecting a job offer to join the Washington Wizards last offseason, I imagine he’s here to stay.

Denver’s GM search could either go far and wide or be quite quick. There’s definitely justification for either choice. If the Nuggets believe in Calvin Booth, they will spend little time before offering him the position. If they want to do their due diligence, then that’s understandable as well.


I see we are hitting the important questions! I actually have a Harry Potter themed article planned for the near future, so this is topical.

If you don’t know that much about Harry Potter, quidditch is the team sport in the magical world. They fly around on broomsticks and basically play soccer in the air with some extra details involved. There are four different positions and seven total players on each team.

If you do know about Harry Potter, strap in.

Keeper: Paul Millsap. The ultimate help defender. The keeper defends the three rings on their side of the pitch and has to have great instincts protecting the hoops. Millsap is the perfect candidate here. He’s the defensive captain and the key to protecting the backline.

Beaters: Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee. Beaters are used as both protection and attack based on certain elements of the game. They are the enforcers, physical and willing to get dirty for the good of the team. Craig and Plumlee embody those traits perfectly, willing to do what it takes and sell out for the win.

Chasers: Will Barton, Jerami Grant, and Jamal Murray. These players have to be skilled and aggressive at the same time, using coordinated offense and defensive strategies to score against the opposing team’s keeper. All three of Barton, Grant, and Murray are versatile enough to match up with the opposition, and they can each break down their matchup to do so.

Seeker: Gary Harris. The seeker has the most difficult task of tracking down the smallest ball on the field while dealing with chaos around them. This is the easiest call of them all, as Gary Harris has both football roots as a former wide receiver and has great hands to poke the basketball loose. This player has to be lightning quick with the ability to get out in transition in a heartbeat. They have to catch passes on long distance routes while dealing with the opposing seeker, so Harris was built for this role.


There is no public word as to when or if a G League team is in the works for the Nuggets. They’ve had things brewing at different instances, but for one reason or another, those plans have fallen through. If I had to guess, the Nuggets would announce their G League team within the next 18 months, but that is purely speculation. After predicting Denver would announce a G League team within the last few seasons, it’s hard to give much credence to any murmurings at this point.


So, I think there are five great candidates for Nuggets only H-O-R-S-E: Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., and Gary Harris. All five have proven capable of hitting difficult shots from all over the floor. Jokic frequently hits crazy shots from all angles, Murray gets creative with his shot delivery when contested, and Harris has the juice to hit shots from all over the floor.

If I had to go with one player, it would be Murray. He has the range to shoot all the way out to half court, as he regularly practices those shots during his warmups before games. In addition, he also hit this shot from behind the backboard in the playoffs last year.

As for how Murray would compete with the rest of the league, I think he would do reasonably well. He has as good of a chance as anyone to be a H-O-R-S-E champion. Players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic would be very tough competition though. If I had to pick a winner, it would be Doncic. That dude is unreal.