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Roundtable: previewing Nuggets vs. Heat

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Stiffs writers join together to discuss the storylines surrounding the Nuggets game against Miami.

Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

What is the biggest story line surrounding the Nuggets first game Saturday morning against the Heat?

Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): It definitely has to be the rotation. There are so many questions left to answer like, who is actually going to be available to play? Once that gets settled, then it’s well is Michael Porter Jr. going to play? Is Bol Bol going to play? How much do guys who joined the team late (Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris, and Porter) play? A lot of unanswered questions will be answered once tip-off arrives Saturday morning.

Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): What is the rotation going to look like? We’ve seen offensive flashes out of Bol Bol and Michael Porter Jr., but we know that Michael Malone cares about a player’s contributions on the defensive end of the floor. If Gary Harris is unable to go, it’ll be between MPJ and Torrey Craig as to who gets the start. While Porter should likely get the starting nod, we’re probably going to see a heavy dose of Craig.

Nick Hertzog (@NickHertzogSBN): It should be the rotation—as long as MPJ doesn’t decide to weigh in on BLM or geopolitics from now until then. Personally, though, I’m just curious to watch the entire surreal spectacle of basketball in a bubble. The camera angles, the fan-less atmosphere, the informal commentating. We’ve never seen anything like this, so I will probably have a difficult time paying much attention to the game (unless Bol Bol gets some minutes).

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): For me it’s got to be Gary Harris. He hasn’t played a minute and is a guy who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. He also finally appeared to be healthy and getting back into a groove right when the season was shut down. If the Nuggets are going to get to a conference final level they need Gary to be more than just a defensive stopper and they certainly need him to be on the court. If he’s a no go for the Miami game it could be a bad sign.

Quenton Albertie (@qshironalbertie): Chemistry. The majority of the Nuggets’ rotation have been together for at least the last three seasons but they didn’t get a chance to field their regular rotation even once during the scrimmages. After more than a four-month layoff between their last competitive game, it’s at least a little bit concerning. Speaking of the scrimmages, the team averaged 22.3 turnovers per game in those three games but they only averaged 13.7 turnovers per game in the regular season. Part of the reason is due to the strange lineups they’ve been forced to play but it’s clear the team needs to re-establish their chemistry.

Are you concerned at all with Nikola Jokic and his play in the scrimmages?

Ewing: I would say my concern level is still minimal, but I’m not sure he will be his normal First Team All-NBA center self when play resumes on Saturday. The scrimmages have not left me confident and the thing I’m most concerned with is the turnovers. Sure, these are not high intensity games, but the turnovers have always been an issue with Jokic. I think it is much more likely that Jamal Murray dominates play in the bubble than Jokic.

Bridgford: On a scale of 1-10, my concern level is probably about a four. I acknowledge that Jokic had some trouble playing how he was prior to the stoppage in March, but I also understand that he hasn’t played ball like this in four months. He has to get himself back into a rhythm, and that’s likely going to take him a few games to get rolling. As long as it doesn’t last into the final few games prior to the playoffs, I’m content to let him get his feet under him.

Hertzog: I will worry about Jokic when he retires. Will he be able to keep enough weight off to keep riding his horses? Will he stay in Denver or go back to Serbia? Will he follow his brother into the octagon? Until then, I won’t ever worry about Jokic. Overweight, disinterested, sloppy—whatever the issues, he produces when it matters. And starting Saturday, it matters.

Mikash: Not all that concerned. Joker certainly appeared to knock off some rust in the second scrimmage but in the third and first he was less impressive. Personally I think that’s because Nikola cares about as much as I do about these scrimmages (read: not at all) but fact remains we didn’t get to see the dominant force that we know he can be.

Albertie: I’m not extraordinarily concerned but he was definitely passive in the scrimmages. If he was just trying to make sure he didn’t overdo it in games that aren’t too significant that makes sense. Still, I know that in the postseason, Jokic will give it his all and that’s what’s truly important.

Which player are you most looking forward to watch on Saturday?

Ewing: Jamal Murray. Before the NBA got shutdown due to COVID-19, Murray was really starting to come on and put together a dominating second half of the season. Fast forward to the Nuggets final scrimmage on Monday night in which Murray was the best player on the court and you’ll again see a player who — once again — is really starting to find his groove.

Not only do I think Murray will lead the Nuggets in points throughout the final eight games and playoffs, but I think he could be the leader in assists as well. Murray has grown as a passer so much this season and Jokic has not given me the upmost confidence with his play so far in the exhibition games. Murray is about to destroy the NBA bubble.

Bridgford: Porter. He’s the most exciting player to watch when he’s rolling, and I’ve been wanting to see more out of him all season long. It’s just a matter of him actually getting to be on the floor for extended minutes. When they need an offensive lineup to cut into a lead, he needs to be out there. If he’s still relegated to the bench, we’ll know what to expect for the rest of this restart.

Hertzog: Murray has me excited. He looked fabulous in the last scrimmage, which could be a sign that he stayed focus during the shutdown and is ready to co-lead this team to a championship. Since it looks like Harris may not be ready to go, the Nuggets need their point guard to ball sooner than later if this team is going to gel in time for the first round.

Mikash: It’s Jokic for me. It has to be Jokic! I get the excitement around Jamal and MPJ given their performances in this scrimmage but Nikola is what makes it all go round. I’m excited to see him come out of the gate strong now that the games count. The Nuggets will definitely need him at peak performance if they expect to go far in this tournament.

Albertie: It’s between Murray and MPJ for me. Murray’s sole scrimmage game was encouraging and he looks like the guy most ready to play playoff basketball for the Nuggets. Porter is simply oozing with potential and, if he’s healthy, he’s a boon for Denver’s offense. I’m excited to see what both of these players can do for the rest of the season.

Simple yes or no response, will Bol Bol play?

Ewing: No.

Bridgford: No.

Hertzog: Yes.

Mikash: No.

Albertie: Yes.