This week marked the beginning of the real off-season. The NBA draft is over, as is summer league. Even though a few players are still unsigned and available, NBA free agency is winding down and most of the big dominoes have already fallen. So with that, the Stiffs take a look at some questions heading into next season.

Who should be the backup power forward next season?

Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): Trey Lyles. So here’s the thing. Kenneth Faried is in a weird spot right now. He works best with Nikola Jokic and three shooters but since Paul Millsap will be the starter, Faried is looking at playing primarily with bench units that likely will include Emmanuel Mudiay and Mason Plumlee. That’s awfully similar to the Mudiay-Faried-Jusuf Nurkic lineups that were an absolute disaster last season. So I’m not sure Faried will have a meaningful role next year and therefore think it might be best to move him now and play Lyles alongside Plumlee. Lyles will open up the court with his shooting and hopefully provide some playmaking off of the bench.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): OG Anunob… oh, right. I don’t know how it’s possible for Denver to have 6 options and no pack leader at the backup PF position, but here we are. I don’t think Lyles or Faried can shoot well enough to survive next to Plumlee whether or not Mudiay is the point guard. I would expect (assuming both are still here) for Will Barton to play the 3 for bench units, sliding Wilson Chandler to the 4 when Millsap is out. That’s going to require some creative rotations, but if there’s one thing Michael Malone is known for it’s those rotations. Juancho Hernangomez is also a possibility, but I expect him to get more time at the 3, for better or worse.

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): It should be Lyles, otherwise acquiring him makes no sense. This might mean having to sell low on Faired and doing it before the season starts. If the Nuggets don’t do that then I’d expect Faried to start out the season as a backup, which is less than ideal for the lineup issues that Adam pointed out.

Mike Olson (@visiblemike): So… I have a weird feeling we’ll lose Faried this offseason for the exact reasons Adam details above, that we try Trey Lyles in the early season, and that we eventually settle in on Darrell Arthur. I may be crazy, but he’s a solid second-team do-what-needs-to-be-done guy, and all our jokes about the plethora of power forwards in the pre-season feel like we’ll be talking about actually being light at the position by the All-Star break.

What percentage will Gary Harris shoot from behind the arc next season?

Mares: I love Harris but I do wonder if his 42% three-point shooting is replicable. My gut says that he will shoot around 39% next season. A great mark, but slightly below the super high mark he shot last year.

Gross: 38-39% sounds about right to me. I don’t think Harris is quite the sharpshooter that 42% would make him out to be, but with enough spacing limiting his challenged shots it’s certainly possible. More interesting will be whether Jamal Murray can top that 38% that I expect from Harris. The Nuggets will be in a good spot if so.

Mikash: I think he will be right around 40% which is still very very good. Teams will recognize his shooting as his top skill and also will understand better how Denver tries to get him open looks in a Jokic-centric offense meaning overall Gary probably will not have as good of quality of looks next season. Still, he’s an excellent shooter and I think it’s between him and Juancho for he shoots the highest percentage from three this season.

Olson: I’m with Zach. I think Harris’ uptick was partially predicated on the great looks he was getting in the new offense. I’ll bet he stays above four out of ten.

Who will lead the team in scoring?

Mares: This one is tough. Jokic is the smart bet and probably the right answer but I could see a scenario where Jokic, Millsap, Harris, Wilson, and Barton are all within a few points per game of each other. That is one of the strengths of this team, the scoring load is so balanced. The 2015 Atlanta Hawks had 5 players score between 12 and 17 points. I think Denver will be very similar to that next year with Jokic leading the way by a small margin, probably scoring around 20 points per game.

Gross: Last year Gallo was first with Jokic / Chandler / Harris going 2/3/4 in scoring. Most everyone was getting around 11 attempts a game. I have to think Jokic’s attempts will be going up, but also that he and Millsap will work together to decimate teams. I think Millsap will play more minutes though, and he scored the most of any of the remaining Nuggets options last year, so let’s go Millsap.

Mikash: I’ll hot take this one. Lets go with Jamal Murray. Murray has shown he has the capability to score in bunches and it would seem that he’s the top option to be the starting point guard going into the season. He was on and off last year but was also battling two sports hernias. Now with a clean bill of health and ample minutes in the rotation, Murray’s as good of bet as anyone for leading scorer in 2017-2018.

Olson: Adam’s point about the multi-pronged attack are dead on, but I think Gordon is singing my tune. I think Paul Millsap is quietly decided to show the rest of the league what they just missed out on, and is feeling a bit slighted. He seems very happy to be here, and I think will be the beneficiary of a fast-flowing offense with four other guys who cannot be left alone by the opposing D. You’ll have to pick your poison against these Nuggets starters.

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What do you expect from Emmanuel Mudiay next year?

Mares: I alluded to this in the first question but my worry for the second unit is that, as things stand right now, I don’t love the fit. If Mudiay gets to play alongside Jokic, Harris, Murray, Barton, Juancho, Lyles, and MIllsap, then I think he is going to have his best year yet by a wide margin. If he is stuck playing a majority of his minutes with Plumlee and Faried, then I think he will struggle. So as things stand right now, I think he will once again be heavily influenced by which lineup combinations he finds himself in.

Gross: I expect him to be the backup and for that not to work thanks to the lineup combination issues Adam mentioned above, and then for Denver to fiddle with his minutes until he’s playing half of them with Jokic and half without. If his ability to finish has improved (or even his ability to hit an open jumper) that will do wonders for his game, but I expect him to need to cover of being a secondary ball-handler and slasher that playing next to Jokic would provide – and he won’t get all his minutes there at all. My hope is that Millsap can help share the passing load as well and work in the PnR game with Mudiay, but again it makes rotations absolutely vital this year.

Mikash: I expect (ok maybe just hope) that he will be a quality back up point guard. I think to still expect Mudiay to be one of the top players on the Nuggets is unrealistic. That being said I think he still has loads of talent and if he’s put in the right situations he can be successful.

Olson: Mudiay has put in a hard-working offseason, and now has two years under his belt after being thrown into a fast-flowing river to see if he could even swim in his first year. If that work has produced a better shot, Emmanuel can be a killer backup point guard. If it has not… He needs the first-teamers to make him look good, and that’s a worry.

What has been your favorite off-season, off-the-court Nuggets storyline?

Mares: Gotta be Jokic’s week with Steve Hess. The tighty-whitey picture is an all-timer. I wish Jokic was on social media a lot more since it’s almost impossible to keep up with him but I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder. We miss you, Joker!

Gross: Denver’s vets aren’t on social media with their summer plans too much, so if Mares is taking Jokic then I’ll cape for Malik Beasley’s round-the-world flair. From beach highlights with his girlfriend straight into a China trip and then back to Summer League, Beasley has been everywhere – and has been kind enough to share some of trip with us. It’s not Jokic’s-horse-in-a-Nuggets-hat great, but still good. Of course, there’s always watching Jamal Murray’s training regimen and surgery recovery…

Mikash: My favorite off the court thing has been on the court actually and that’s Murray. I’m starting to think the guy has a cot set up somewhere in a back room at the Pepsi Center because he never leaves. He went with the team to Las Vegas even though he wasn’t playing in summer league and I haven’t seen one instagram post from Red Rocks by the Nuggets that doesn’t involve him. Jamal’s work ethic is amazing and I think it’s why he is going to have a big year.

Olson: I’m a close cousin with Adam, but mine is Michael Malone’s visit to Jokic later in the same summer. You can see in the many pictures they were having a great time, and Jokic seems to have kept working hard after Hess came home. Good news all around, and I think the bond between Jokic and Malone will pay huge dividends in Jokic’s first fullyear as a leader of the team.

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