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Roundtable: Return to play speed bumps and Michael Porter Jr.

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Stiffs writers join together to discuss the Nuggets just days before they head off to Orlando!

Denver Nuggets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Nuggets had to close their facility this week due to two positive COVID-19 tests. What was your reaction upon hearing the news and how do you think it will affect the team moving forward?

Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): I was not really surprised when the report came out, but was just hoping whoever did test positive will hopefully have a safe and speedy recovery. Positive tests are going to happen and it’s the nature of starting the league back up. We are just going to have to get comfortable with those tests coming back positive moving forward because it’s undoubtedly going to happen. The more positive tests that occur though, the more worried I get the NBA season won’t actually resume.

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): My initial reaction wasn’t one of panic, but there’s definitely concern that this Nuggets roster may have been more negatively affected by coronavirus than we ever realized. With Michael Malone testing positive for antibodies back in March, Nikola Jokic testing positive, and another two positive tests popping up, the Nuggets clearly aren’t out of the woods just yet. Closing the facility is a necessary precaution, and that’s all this was: precautionary. It doesn’t make it any more fun or simple to figure out, but taking things slow on the coronavirus front may put the Nuggets behind on the basketball front when the team travels to Orlando.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): It delays them all getting back on the court together, which is an issue. It looks like Denver may have lucked out and none of the positive tests have been noted to be symptomatic, though. Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets has symptoms and is a week into it:

He may not be able to play, depending on how long it takes him to recover and what kind of basketball shape he can be in once he does. So the Nuggets might have dodged that bullet so far but it certainly creates some uneasiness as the team tries to regroup for this bubble playoff scenario.

By this time next week, the Nuggets should be in Orlando if all goes according to plan. With that in mind, do you think the NBA restart is actually going to happen or do you have some concerns?

Ewing: I don’t think the NBA restart is going to happen and I’ve gone back and forth on whether it’s a good idea to actually resume play. On one hand, I think it’s really good for the world to have a sport like basketball return, but on the other hand are the safety concerns. With the recent spike of COVID cases is Florida, I just don’t see how the NBA can keep these players in a bubble for such a long period of time and expect it to go well. I hope everything does go how they imagine it though, because I’d love nothing more than to have the Nuggets back on my television screen.

Blackburn: I expect this thing to happen. The NBA is taking this restart slowly on purpose, knowing that positive tests can and likely will pop up. When teams get down to the bubble, there will likely be minor Coronavirus outbreaks here or there that the league will attempt to remedy as soon as it can. As long as Disney employees are brought into the bubble and aren’t forced to leave the bubble and come back every single day, I have confidence this thing will work better than people currently expect.

Gross: The way it doesn’t happen is that someone is severely injured or dies due to the Coronavirus before they get truly restarted. And it would have to be a player or coach. The NBA already had a cameraman in a medically-induced coma with a 25 day hospital stay and that hasn’t deterred them. Absent that urgent, public-facing crisis the NBA is trying to find a way forward not just for this year but potentially future seasons as well, and this restart will happen despite the daily records in new Coronavirus cases being set in Florida. My concerns are legion; I have a loaded barge full of concerns. I’m sure everyone in and around the NBA does too, but the NBA is spending $150 million to try to do everything it can to protect both the people in its organization and its business. Let’s all hope it’s enough.

Michael Malone said during his media Zoom call that Michael Porter Jr. has a “good chance” of playing in the playoffs. How many minutes do you think we can expect MPJ to get when that time does come?

Ewing: I would expect Porter to get around 10-15 minutes per game in the playoffs. Porter averaged 14 minutes per game in the regular season and was playing closer to 20 minutes a night during his phenomenal play before the all-star break. It’s just so hard to say what the Nuggets rotation will look like come playoff time, but the eight games leading up to the postseason should answer a lot of those questions.

Blackburn: This was a fairly tepid response in terms of playing time for Porter. There were no declarations on his behalf, no promises made. Porter’s minutes will likely be a wait-and-see process depending on how he handles the environment in Orlando. The good news for him is that concepts on offense and defense will be seemingly reduced in complexity due to a short turnaround, and as long as Porter can do what is asked of him defensively, he has a great chance to stay on the floor in important moments. With all of that in mind, I will go 15 minutes per game across 12 playoff games in the first and second rounds.

Gross: I expect Porter’s playoff time to be based on how well the plan works with his remaining regular-season minutes. Denver will not be in mid-season form, so more players will get regular-season minutes spread out to make sure they are not completely rusty in case of emergency. However Porter handles the minutes and situation he’s presented with for the final regular season seeding games will determine his immediate playoff future with the Nuggets. I expect 10-12 minutes a game in the playoffs, but not every game. Here’s hoping he comes out of the gate fast.