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Roundtable: Nikola Jokic, PJ Dozier, and the NBA’s restart

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Stiffs writers join together to discuss Nikola Jokic, PJ Dozier, and the NBA’s plan to resume play next month.

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

It was reported on Tuesday that Nikola Jokic tested positive for coronavirus while in Serbia. He is asymptotic and should return to Denver next week. What type of Jokic do you think we will see in Orlando?

Brandon Ewing (@BSkip1717): This is the real question surrounding the Nuggets going into Orlando. Not only has Jokic sadly come down with COVID-19, but it also seems like he’s lost a ton of weight over the past few months. Jokic showing up to training camp in fairly decent shape is going to be incredibly important, which might be tough since he will be recovering from the virus. One thing is certain though and it’s that Denver will need him at 100 percent when play opens up in late July if they want any shot at their first title.

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): It’s difficult to say what condition Jokic will be in given the weight he lost during the last few months and how little we know about the affects of coronavirus on NBA players thus far. Some studies have shown potential lung and respiratory complications following infection, and for an NBA player, that would be devastating. It’s hard to believe that could happen to Jokic, but we are just going to have to see whether he can handle averaging 39 minutes a night like he did in the playoffs last season.

Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): We obviously are not fully aware of the long term effects that it can have on the human body, so that aspect remains to be seen. The disease makes a bigger impact on people with other comorbidities, and a fully healthy NBA player like Jokic doesn’t fall into that category. He’s in his prime, but that’s no guarantee for how he bounces back once play starts. If he were forced to play a heavy amount of minutes right away, it could be more drastic. I think Michael Malone gives him time to ramp up in those first eight games to preserve him for the playoff rounds, and we should see a full-power Jokic when they get there.

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): I expect he will be in top physical condition with a full clean bill of health or otherwise he won’t play. If there’s any risk to Nikola’s long term health by playing he should absolutely shut it down. However, if he continues to be asymptomatic and continues to quarantine until he stops carrying the coronavirus while maintaining the peak physical condition he appeared to be in when he left for Serbia then I expect Nikola to be playing at his best.

Reid Howard: From what I’ve seen and heard, Nikola may have been in the best shape of his life before falling ill. The good news is he should have plenty of time to recover. The virus hasn’t existed long enough for us to know how this will effect him, but it will be a setback regardless. The extent of which, however, is completely up in the air. I’m still expecting a dominate Jokic in the bubble. That said, the current circumstances are so unique that we should all have less confidence in what we expect to happen the rest of the season.

Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): Juancho Hernangomez got mono and was a shell of himself the rest of the season, who knows how getting a respiratory infection will impact Jokic? At least he won’t have to exert himself at altitude, and can get that sweet sea level oxygen while he’s in Orlando. He’s lost a lot of weight, which should help him be in a healthy condition to recover fully, but his new 100% may not be his old 100% (anyone over 28 knows what that means).

The Nuggets signed PJ Dozier to a guaranteed contract on Wednesday. What do you like most about Dozier’s game and what he brings to Denver’s roster?

Ewing: The length and his upside on defense is what really stands out about Dozier. When you compare Dozier to someone in the NBA, he plays similar to Torrey Craig, but he does it all from the guard position. Dozier also possesses a little more upside offensively, which is why I like his chances to stick around in Denver long-term. In the 21 games Dozier helped the Nuggets this season, he showed the ability to not just be a playmaker, but he presented them with another solid piece defensively. Dozier is a perfect fit for what the Nuggets want to do, which should give him a role on the team for many years to come.

Blackburn: Dozier’s combination of physical tools and basketball IQ have turned him into a solid defensive prospect. With length on the perimeter becoming such an important quality for defensive players, Dozier is at least unique to Denver’s roster at a true guard position. With Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Nikola Jokic all star players and prospects mostly focused on the offensive end, the Nuggets need players who can fill in the gaps defensively. Dozier offers some serious intrigue there.

Bridgford: I like the athleticism and hustle he brings to the floor. If you’re not a high draft pick, you have to work harder than everyone else on the floor, and he always brings that energy when he’s out there. Like Ryan said above, Dozier is completely unique to there other guards in Murray and Monte Morris because he plays hard on defense, and he brings good size at 6’6.” If he can develop his skills more, he can become a solid rotation player in time.

Mikash: I like the versatility Dozier brings as a guy who can easily play the one through three and probably even some four in a small ball pinch. I don’t think he is your answer at backup point guard, but I like him a lot as a wing off the bench who can fill in at point guard on occasion. With Torrey Craig about to be a free agent, there’s a fringe spot in the rotation that Dozier can fill nicely. This is also absolutely well deserved. P.J. has shown he can make an impact on the court and help the Nuggets win basketball games.

Howard: I see a lot of Barton in Dozier’s game. Similar size and ball handling ability that gives them the versatility to play 1-3. Barton is a more natural scorer, but he took awhile to become a consistent offensive threat in the league. There’s no reason to think Dozier couldn’t make strides on both ends and he even appears to have an advantage over Barton in terms of strength (although Will does play stronger than he looks). Dozier should be given an opportunity to earn a rotation spot next season, but that heavily depends on what roster moves are made this offseason.

Lewis: He can play good defense against other point guards. Some readers may remember a player named Shaun Livingston, who was another tall, lanky point guard. Livingston found a home with the Warriors because he could play defense, run the offense, and if they needed him to score, he had one option, and that was posting up his much smaller defender for a turnaround jumper. Dozier has improved his 3-point jumper in the G-League, but it’s not something that makes him stand out. He’s going to be good in nearly every other part of the game though, and I like that Denver was able to sign him to a guaranteed contract.

Name a surprise player who you think could play a big role in whether or not the Nuggets walk out of Orlando with a championship.

Ewing: I really like Monte Morris here. Is it weird to consider Morris as the forgotten guy on the roster? You don’t often hear much about him, but when he’s on the floor all he does is produce. The thing with Morris is that he really struggled in the playoffs last year, so I’m expecting him to use that as motivation and turn it around this year. Hopefully that leads to a successful playoff run for the Nuggets.

Blackburn: A surprise implies that this player didn’t play a significant amount of minutes in the regular season AND isn’t Michael Porter Jr. because that would be cheating. Since we talked about Dozier above, I will say Keita Bates-Diop. How many players in between 6’7 and 6’9 do the Nuggets have that could capably guard both the perimeter and interior defensively. Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant stand out. Torrey Craig will get his opportunity. It would be a surprise if Bates-Diop received an opportunity, but if one or two of Denver’s forwards contract coronavirus during this bubble playoff, Bates-Diop is the next capable defender on the roster. Like Dozier, he’s long, athletic, defensively geared, and offensively challenged, but if he shoots it well in practice, he may get a real look.

Bridgford: Well, since Ryan put some stipulations on what constitutes a surprise player, I’m going to have to go with Troy Daniels. Daniels played just one minute in a Denver uniform before Covid-19 hit, and there is no guarantee he actually gets time during the playoffs. He has shot 39.6 percent from 3-point range during his career. He brings a little bit on both ends of the floor, and he’s like that Mike Miller type player. He’s not going to carry your entire team, but he can come off of the bench and bring some scoring with his downtown shooting. I have a lot of doubts about whether or not he actually gets minutes, but I think he can perform if that opportunity does come.

Mikash: VLATKO CANCAR!!!!!! Sadly, as much as I would love to see Vlatko dominate the Orlando bubble like he dominates a good rope workout I don’t think he’ll be seeing too much playing time at the magical kingdom. I think the guy will be Torrey Craig (to hell with Ryan’s rules). As I said, Craig is going to be a free agent at season’s end and he’s going to be looking to make an impact. He’s also the best perimeter defender the Nuggets have while they also have to march through a bunch of teams with great wing scorers. If the Nuggets are going to pull it off, Craig will have to play a big role.

Howard: It feels odd to use a starter to answer this question, but I’m going with Gary Harris. If he comes into Orlando 100% healthy and somehow regains his offense form from a few years ago, I believe that can make a huge difference for our title chances. I realize this is a giant if, as injuries may have made it impossible. The point is that a Gary Harris that puts up a very efficient 15+ per game, while playing defense at an All-NBA level, might even be our second best player.

Lewis: I’ll go with Paul Millsap. I’m sure he probably didn’t expect that he’d be playing competitive basketball when he went to DisneyWorld this year, but he can adapt. Healthy Millsap is an outstanding defender, has his legs for his 3-point shot, and will have had plenty of time off to study game tape on how to play against the top teams in the Western Conference. He could easily be the Finals MVP if the Nuggets win their first championship.