What are your initial thoughts from the Denver Nuggets’ media week?
Asher Levy (@ashmanzini): I think that overall this media week went pretty well. We heard from Jamal for the first time in a long time and I feel confident that once we get him back, he’ll be ready to go. I think it was great to see Will and AG in such high spirits. MPJ had some great responses about his extension. Bones Hyland is quickly becoming a fan (and personal) favorite, and it continued into media week. Everything we heard from or about him was great. Just overall really excited to see the team this season.
Peter Leensvaart (@petepizza27): This week definitely went well. I didn’t hear any negative comments about anyone on the team from someone else on the team and the whole roster showed up. That’s more than a lot of franchises have right now. Everyone is on the same page and it’s great to see so many of the guys being actually really happy. This team is full of guys ready to accept whatever role that is given to them and guys who will fill that role well. The only way this media week could have gone better would be if Tim Connelly said the team is fully vaccinated or if Tim said that Jamal Murray is totally healthy and can return for the start of the season.
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): In terms of the checklist of items you hope to hear at media day, the Nuggets checked most of the boxes. Everyone’s in great shape and ready for camp save for injuries and absences we already expected. The Nuggets spoke about their championship goals and hopes for the year. The hope at media day is to go through all of the procedures smoothly without any major hiccups, and the Nuggets accomplished that. We even heard about Aaron Gordon’s improved comfort level and Bol Bol’s increased sense of urgency, both of which should make for interesting storylines as the year progresses.
What was the biggest surprise that we heard at media week?
Levy: To me, it had to be the praise Bones received from his teammates and Tim Connelly. Everyone who spoke on him had nothing but compliments for him, and that was great to see. Tim said he’s a killer who impressed him in the open runs, Will said he brings him back to a younger him, and Bones himself said that he and Jokić had to be split up because they were making things so easy. I really look forward to seeing the rookie showcase his talents in the minutes he gets.
Leensvaart: The biggest surprise to me was what Monte Morris had to say about his knee. We knew that something was wrong and that it had been bothering him for a while but Monte saying that it had been bothering him for most of his career was worrying. Monte told us that he was rehabbing it over the off-season and had only recently started playing with contact. I trust Monte when he says that he feels “real real good” but we will see about that. Knee tendinitis is no joke.
Blackburn: That Will Barton and Monte Morris both spent some time bulking up for the 82-game season. Both players appeared visibly bigger in their interview sessions, and given Denver’s heightened need for good guard play with Murray out, it’s at least an interesting detail. Could the Nuggets ask Morris and Barton to switch more ball screens this year and battle against larger players defensively? Will they have to take a more physical role in Denver’s success by driving to the basket more frequently? Both are possibilities and could be indicators of Denver’s play style going forward.
Who had the best media session of the week?
Levy: Might not be a popular pick but I think Bol Bol had a pretty good media session. He showed that he’s matured a lot. He talked about how he hasn’t always been the best about staying locked in when things aren’t going well for him. He said that that’s a thing he wants to get better at. He wants to be locked in whether things are going good or bad for him personally. He also talked about how him and Michael Porter have been close friends for a long time and that Michael was going to stay on him this year and make sure he was going to the gym consistently and doing the little things, and that he was happy MPJ was doing that for him.
Leensvaart: I can't go against Nikola Jokic here, he is always so amazing and funny in interviews and this one was no different. Jokic talked about his relationship with Red Rocks and his unborn baby that is on the way, when asked if he and Natalija had picked a name he said that they had not and that they were fighting over it while having his signature smirk on his face. I mean what’s not to love? I think Jokic is the only player in the league that has must-watch interviews.
Blackburn: Will Barton was on absolute fire in his presser. He shared his championship expectations, hyped up his teammates, set the bar high for himself, and joked around with Chris Marlowe when Chris observed that Barton’s shoulders looked bigger. Barton is a popular interview for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is that he’s real and genuine. He says it how it is, and he’s unapologetic in that regard. The Nuggets (and Nuggets media) are lucky to have him setting the bar.
Who seems primed to make the biggest jump in production based on their comments from this week?
Levy: I think Aaron Gordon is primed to be more comfortable with the team. I think the obvious answer for who will improve the most this season is Michael Porter Jr, but Gordon will finally get a full training camp with the team as opposed to being a midseason pick up. He will have time to develop chemistry with the team and in his media session, he mentioned that he’s glad to have this time to put in so that he can be comfortable being himself with the team. JaMychal Green also mentioned how comfortable Aaron looked with his jumper in open runs. Those comments make me think that, while he may not put up a bunch of numbers in the box score, that he’ll be right at home this season.
Leensvaart: There is quite a few guys I could go with, Monte Morris seems primed but so do players like MPJ, Aaron Gordon, and Will Barton. The obvious answer is MPJ, Jamal is out so someone is going to have to pick up the production Jamal is leaving behind, so why not pick the second most talented (healthy) player on the team? I think MPJ will have a jump this season, but I’m more excited for Will Barton. Thrill has been battling various injuries for the better part of 2 years now and he is finally healthy. Will Barton also has something to prove this season, he was called a shot chucker and a ball hog by Nuggets fans this last season and he's finally ready to prove them wrong. A healthy and motivated Will Barton is a scary sight for any team, Will put it best by saying “I’m Excited.” when asked about the upcoming season in his Media Day interview.
Blackburn: P.J. Dozier was one of the early interviews, and though he didn’t talk as big of a game as some of the other players, I’m still going with him as a breakout candidate. His main focus involved continuing to excel at his role to the best of his ability, and that will continue to mean a lot for his future with the team. He’s primed to fill a sixth man role by sliding up and down various lineups to be the connective glue of the rotation. His defense, playmaking, and potential as a shot maker give him a skill set Denver needs to accentuate the strengths of their current core. I’m predicting Dozier jumps up to 25+ minutes per game off the bench and is part of Denver’s most consistent five-man lineups throughout the season.
What are some quick thoughts you have on the extension for Michael Porter Jr.?
Levy: I think that it’s a great extension. Only $145 million is guaranteed of a potential $207 million, and the only way he gets to that figure is if he makes an All-NBA team this year. If that happens, he’ll be more than worth it. The Nuggets were going to have to pay him a max eventually so might as well do it now, keep your young star happy, and not have to worry about restricted free agency.
Leensvaart: This was exactly what I wanted for Michael Porter Jr. to get, gives him the money he deserves and includes enough clauses so that he still has to work for it. Making the contract partially guaranteed based around All-NBA selections and other accolades is a perfect scenario for the Nuggets. If MPJ plays great and at an All-NBA level then he gets that extra money and the Nuggets don’t have to pay him the max unless he does just that. This was something that I was expecting for a while now I’m just happy it’s finally done with. I think the most under appreciated part of this whole thing is that the owners are finally willing to pay the luxury tax, that is a big sigh of relief for me personally.
Blackburn: This was a deal the Nuggets had to get done to avoid a major distraction throughout the season. Imagining Porter trying to blend playing hard and playing the right way with keeping himself healthy so he can still collect a big contract on the end of the year was probably nails on the chalkboard to Malone and the Nuggets’ negotiating team. They believe in him and know what he’s capable of as a scorer and playmaker when he enters his prime. Jokić, Porter, and eventually Murray can continue working on that chemistry this season when everyone gets back together again, and hopefully by the playoffs, the Nuggets will see the initial stages of their Porter dreams realized.