What grade would you give Isaiah Thomas in his debut with the Denver Nuggets?

Adam Mares: I’d give him an A. The most important thing to me is that he seemed to fit into the flow of the offense. It didn’t feel like the Nuggets had to change what they were doing or alter their identity. Thomas played well alongside Monte Morris and Thomas’s minutes didn’t take away form Malik Beasley’s. I’d say it was a successful debut.

Ryan Blackburn: Definitely an A. Not quite an A-Plus, but he was nearly there. The Nuggets needed a major energy boost in their last game before the All-Star break, and Thomas gave it to them in a big way. Lob passes to Mason Plumlee, transition threes, and getting the crowd involved gave the Nuggets the life they needed.

Brendan Vogt: A+. I’ve noticed a few IT fans taking victory laps and laughing at those of us who remained skeptical he’d make a positive impact right away. Perhaps they’re right to do so. Thomas’ propensity to shatter expectations is woven into his identity as a person and a player, but it’s been 11 months since he checked into an NBA game. He should have looked rusty. Even Michael Malone cautioned fans to temper their expectations before the game. What IT did that night is remarkable and it galvanized a team that looked ready to roll over.

Zach Mikash: I think a solid B is in order. B is “above expectations” and he was exactly that. IT had some big moments in the third which were a vital part of the victory but to get an A I would have liked to see him at least get one bucket in the first quarter. Had a couple nice assists though…I’ll compromise at B+.

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How optimistic are you about IT’s fit with the Nuggets?

Mares: I’m still on the fence about it. It’s clear that he can add a lot of value but it’ll still be interesting to see how Michael Malone divies up minutes once Gary Harris is back. The range of potential outcomes is still pretty wide for me.

Blackburn: More optimistic than most. I outlined in pieces here and here how the Nuggets may utilize the multitude of guards in their rotation. The Nuggets will have to go small the majority of the time they take the floor, but I believe it’s in their best interest to do so. Once everyone is healthy, a Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton starting trio complemented by a Thomas, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley trio makes the most sense. Lean into the strength of having the most capable scoring guards in the NBA by throwing them all out there at once.

Vogt: It’s going to take some wizardry from Malone to find consistent minutes for him if this team ever gets healthy, but I’m finished with doubting Thomas in any capacity. So many guys have stepped up when called upon this season, so many players have contributed to this team’s unlikely success, why can’t a player like IT help them win?

Mikash: I think he fits just fine as long as the Nuggets have one of Will Barton, Gary Harris or Jamal Murray, Monte Morris or Malik Beasley out with injury, which has been the case for almost the entire season. When all those guys are healthy though? It’s harder to see how he fits into the guard rotation.

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Predict Nikola Jokic’s stat line in Sunday’s all-star game.

Mares: 5 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists. It’s his first all-star game but hopefully not his last. If he gets to share the court with the starters for any extended time, then I think his numbers will look alot better and he’ll have a few big time highlights. But if he plays with the bench, which includes Blake Griffin, Nikola Vucevic, and lacks a bit of shooting, then I’m not sure he’ll get a chance to put on a show.

Blackburn: 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, including two great post-ups, getting to the free throw line a couple of times, and passing the hell out of the ball in the open floor. He will throw some absurd passes that will make the crowd ooh and ahh, and I’m hoping for a behind the back alley oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Vogt: Zero points, eight rebounds, 16 assists, one technical, and one earth shattering alley-oop to Giannis that almost shuts the game down.

Mikash: I’m not entirely sure all star games are a great place for Nikola to show off his skills. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of full court passes and lobs but how many DHo’s are these guys really going to run? How often are they really going to let Nikola bring the ball up the corurt and initiate the offense. How often will they even care about “initiating” the offense at all? Put me down for 6 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.

How do you think Jokic will do in the skills challenge?

Mares: I think I’d take Luka Doncic and Trae Young over him. Like Jokic, Doncic seems to have a knack for being good at weird things so I could see him being good at this. Young is lightning fast and can shoot and pass. I think he’s the favorite.

Vogt: He’ll win.

“Because he’s skilled.”

Blackburn: I’m a little worried that he will be a little slow going against six other guards and wings, but I bet he makes it through the first round before losing to a guard like De’Aaron Fox. Imagine the hilarity of him winning the event? Glorious.

Mikash: Jokic got tripped up on the easiest pass in the skills challenge before, I think this year he’ll be ready. I think he’s got a good chicane of being in the final pairing, if not winning it all.

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Which Nuggets player would you most like to see participate in an all-star weekend event (skills challenge, 3-point contest, dunk contest)?

Mares: I’d like to see the Nuggets do their own three-point contest. I’m dying to know who would win between Malik Beasley, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, Isaiah Thomas, Monte Morris, Juancho Hernangomez, or Tyler Lydon. Wow, just writing that is ridiculous. The Nuggets have a LOT of shooters.

Blackburn: I’m going with Michael Porter Jr. and/or Jarred Vanderbilt in the Rising Stars game next season. I bet both will get opportunities to shine, especially Porter, whose star is already shining around the NBA after being a top high school recruit.

Vogt: Let’s get Monte Morris in the skills challenge. It’s not a sexy event, but this guy is deserving of several accolades he’s unlikely to receive this season. Put some respect on that man’s name.

Mikash: Give me the full MPJ experience next year. Rising Stars, Skills Challenge, Dunk Contest, 3-Point Contest, and All Star Game.

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Come to our all-star game watch party and Locked on Nuggets live show

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