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Stiffs Mailbag: Gary Harris, national coverage, and the nature of the trade deadline

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Answering Twitter questions from Stiffs readers.

Charlotte Hornets vs. Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Everybody knows the drill at this point. Thank you for the great questions as always!

If you want to ask a question in the future, either drop a comment in this article or follow me on Twitter and ask me there!

Let’s get into it.


I gotta admit, I didn’t see the no-look part of the pass initially. I simply thought it was a great lead to Zeke Nnaji and the defense lost track of their man.

Nope! As it turns out, it was Vlatko all along!

You know that Vlatko is great friends with Nikola Jokić based on how Vlatko emulates many of Jokić’s tendencies. The passing is just one aspect of that, but it’s a real thing with regard to the Slovenian Cyborg. He can do some interesting things that help other players look better, from his screening to his passing to his defense.

I hope he never leaves Denver.


Facundo Campazzo has definitely had a positive impact on this Nuggets roster really dating back to around the start of February. It took him awhile to get up to speed and for his impact to be truly felt, but since he got his NBA legs under him, he has been an impactful player.

There are 21 rookies so far this season that qualify on the minutes per game leaderboard on Basketball Reference. Campazzo ranks 18th in minutes per game and 20th in points per game on those lists. Often, that’s what voters look at the most with regard to the All-Rookie teams, a simple way of doing it but simply how it’s graded much of the time.

Campazzo clearly should be in the running in terms of overall impact. He has been better in his limited role than many other rookies have been in expanded roles on bad teams; however, that limited role may be his ultimate downfall in this award. Rookies often get the benefit of the doubt for streaky play, and it’s often about the high points as much as it is the impact. I doubt Facu will make an All-Rookie team, but if he plays significant minutes in the second half and performs at a similar level, voters will definitely take a look at him.


So, prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Malone shared that there was no updated timetable for Gary Harris to return from the left adductor strain he suffered over a month ago. Harris returned briefly and played heavy minutes in a loss to the Washington Wizards, and he hasn’t been back since, missing seven games prior to that Wizards game and now 12 games beyond that brief return.

It’s hard to rely on Harris’ health in any way, shape, or form at this point. The nature of this injury, a soft tissue muscle strain, is one of the most finicky to figure out. Sometimes, players come back and are perfectly fine. Other times, it’s a debilitating injury that lasts way longer than anticipated. This could be one of those times.

I don’t want to speculate too much on the nature of Harris’ health. He could come back in the next month and look great. He could come back in the next week and look great. I honestly have no idea what to expect for his timetable, and I don’t think the Nuggets truly know either.

As far as your second question, I very much doubt any Nuggets player would lose their rotation spot due to injury. There might be other factors that come into play, but when he’s healthy to return, Harris will at least return as part of the primary rotation. How much more than that remains to be seen, and if I were the Nuggets, I’d plan on him returning as a bench player or not at all. It’s time for the Nuggets to iron out their playoff rotation, and it’s easier to figure out how to work in Harris from the bench than it is to immediately bring him back to start.

And yet, if I were to predict a starting five at full strength, it would include Gary Harris.


Frankly, it’s very odd that Jokić doesn’t get the same coverage that other stars get. One of the things that media members dislike about some stars is inconsistency or “getting burned” for putting too much faith in a young player early. That isn’t Jokić though. Every step of the way, he’s given analysts and media reason to be confident in his abilities. It wasn’t an immediate superstar track like Luka Doncic, but Jokic hasn’t had a bad playoff series yet.

Around the league, there are teams Denver is often covered more favorably than: look no further than the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns, the two top seeds in the Western Conference. The Nuggets, though they haven’t won as many games, have a bit more playoff certainty given their track record over the last two years. People know what they can count on with the Nuggets, and that will make people gravitate to them in a couple months. Utah and Phoenix? They still have a lot to prove, despite winning more games right now than Denver.

Denver could find more ways to generate attention, but it would be unwise to do so until they’re ready. The Nuggets are waiting in the shadows, developing Michael Porter Jr. alongside Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, so that they never struggle to score in the playoffs again. When that happens, and if Denver advances within the West playoffs once again, they will gain the recognition they deserve.


Things were looking more bleak for the Eastern Conference earlier in the regular season when they only had two or three teams above .500, an absurd disparity with what the West deals with on a consistent basis. Now, five teams are above .500 out East: Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Miami, and Charlotte. That’s still laughably low, but it’s just what the East has to go with right now.

The four teams in the play-in out East: Boston, New York, Chicago, and Indiana. Boston should be better than that, but they’re not. Denver only lost to them because they were decimated by injuries and Denver’s bench unit was Markus Howard, R.J. Hampton, Vlatko Cancar, Zeke Nnaji, and Isaiah Hartenstein, a unit that wasn’t ready to play NBA minutes together. Denver blew out New York earlier in the season and it wasn’t that difficult, won against Chicago in a game that was closer than it should have been, and then swept Indiana to boot. None of the teams in that grouping are very inspiring.

Compare it to the West play-in field that’s currently comprised of San Antonio, Dallas, Golden State, and Memphis, and there’s just a different level to the competition. It’s actually shockingly different.

But this is the same old story of the last 25 years. The West is significantly better than the East as a whole. There are some great East contenders, but the depth of the field, as always, drops off a cliff.


I will still maintain that the Nuggets make a small move at the trade deadline at least.

This team is very close, and with the way they have played, it would be wise to be cautious about who the Nuggets acquire and send out. Making the wrong move could stifle all of the momentum Denver has built over the last month, one of the greater fears of a front office at the trade deadline.

The best example: Will Barton. He’s the most likely player to be moved at the trade deadline. The Nuggets won’t move Jokić, Murray, or Porter. They can’t move Monte Morris due to trade rules. They likely can’t move Paul Millsap because of the one-year contract he signed in free agency last offseason that gives Millsap a no-trade clause. Gary Harris has been too injured and ineffective of late to have significant value to opposing teams. That leaves Barton, whose middling $13.9 million salary and $14.9 player option in 2021-22 make him an intriguing trade target for teams needing scoring on the wing.

And yet, the Nuggets must take caution if they move Barton. He has been a stabilizing force in Denver’s starting unit for much of the last month, and he’s one of the only players on the roster that can operate on the wing. He’s undersized, but he’s taller and more suited for the role than Harris, Morris, or Campazzo. In addition, Harris’ injury might make the Nuggets hesitate on trading Barton if said injury is worse than the public realizes.

If I were in Tim Connelly’s position, I wouldn’t let Denver’s recent hot streak prevent me from tailoring the roster around what Denver will need in the playoffs around Murray, Porter, and Jokić. That means finding a defensive wing option of some sort, potentially larger than PJ Dozier who could already guard some wings himself. Denver might decide that a marginal upgrade on the edges is best, but they could still find a wing that could be helpful for that price. Names like James Ennis, Moe Harkless, Troy Brown Jr., and Kenrich Williams come to mind.