On draft night, the Pepsi Center media room was abuzz with talk of the Nuggets draft night haul. The team kept their own pick in Kenneth Faried (22nd). And later added a first-round selection in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks for Ray Felton that turned into Jordan Hamilton (26th) and veteran Andre Miller. The big question now, will George Karl’s notorious legacy of not playing rookies haunt Nuggets fans again?

We have to hope that tonight's Free Fan Jam: Intrasquad Scrimmage isn't the only time where we'll see Faried and Hamilton featured … or even rookies Julyan Stone and Cory Higgins (if they make the team.)

With a compacted 66-game season, this could be the perfect time for Karl to loosen up his player rotations. In a recent interview with Mike Evans and Scott Hastings, Karl talked about how people probably want to see him open up an "11, 12, 13" man rotation, but said he'll likely stick to a "8, 9, 10" player rotation.

Who would be in the rotation? Let's count them …

PG: Ty Lawson (1) and Andre Miller (2)
SG: Arron Afflalo (3) and Rudy Fernandez (4)
SF: Danilo Gallinari (5) and Corey Brewer (6)
PF: Nene Hilario (7) and Al Harrington (8)
C: Timofey Mozgov (9) and Chris Andersen (10)

Guys fighting for minutes: Kosta Koufos (11), Faried (12), Hamilton (13), and anyone else on the roster.

It is difficult to argue with the 10 man rotation above. Karl has stated that he'd like to use Lawson and Miller in the backcourt together at times and that makes minutes even more scarce (I hate the two point guard lineup). One could argue that Faried be given some minutes at small forward in place of Brewer and that could likely be "Manimal's" best shot for minutes … unless Harrington isn't performing.

One thing that could widen the rotation, foul trouble. Mozgov is young and NBA officials love to blow the whistle on young players, especially big men who are trying to play a physical brand of basketball. Birdman Andersen has a knack for picking up fouls as well … Koufos, same thing. The young Nuggets big men will need to learn how to stay on the court so they can get their burn.

I do get Karl's point that a shortened training camp hurts the Rooks. We're only 10 days away from opening night in Dallas, so with less than a month of training camp (Dec. 9th-Dec. 25th) it's learn on the fly … or else! But Karl has also stated, during his time in Denver, that he has no issues playing rookies.

Let's take a look at the regular season minutes given to random rookies throughout Karl's coaching tenure:

Year Team Player Minutes
1986-87 Golden State Warriors Chris Washburn
(3rd overall pick)
11 mpg
1993-94 Seattle Supersonics

Ervin Johnson
(23rd overall)

6.2 mpg
2000-01 Milwaukee Bucks Michael Redd
(2nd Rnd pick)
5.8 mpg
2005-06 Denver Nuggets Julius Hodge
(20th overall)
2.4 mpg
2005-06 Denver Nuggets Linas Kleiza
(27th overall)
8.5 mpg
2008-09 Denver Nuggets Sonny Weems
(2nd Rnd pick)
4.6 mpg
2009-10 Denver Nuggets Ty Lawson
(18th overall)
20.2 mpg
2010-11 Denver Nuggets Gary Forbes
12.6 mpg

Those eight players averaged just 8.9 minutes per game as rookies. Washburn was the third overall pick in the 1986 draft and couldn't get on the floor. He didn't last long in the NBA, but at one point he was highly thought of as a prospect. In his fourth NBA season, Ervin Johnson averaged 11.1 rebounds per game as a Nugget in 31.7 minutes per game, but could hardly see the court as a rookie, appearing in just 45 games. Michael Redd proved after his rookie season that he could indeed see minutes in the League and went on to have some big NBA success (before injuries robbed him) … but not in his first year.

Nuggets rookies didn’t fair too well, until North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson came to town. Hodge, Kleiza, and Weems were afterthoughts during their time as Rooks. Kleiza quickly showed he belonged on the floor jumping from 8.5 minutes as a rookie, in 61 games, to appearing in 79 games in his sophomore season and 18.8 mpg. Weems went from 4.6 minutes per game as a rookie in Denver (in just 12 games) to appearing in 69 games in his second season with the Toronto Raptors and earning 19.8 minutes per game to 23.9 minutes last season (his third year).

It's not looking good for the Nuggets' rookies. Maybe it's not too late for Faried and Hamilton to forge North Carolina onto their resumes instead of Morehead State and Texas, respectively. All the rookies can do is work their tails off, be ready, and hope at some point that the Coach calls their names.

On to the links …

Ball Don't Lie's 2011-12 Season Previews: Denver Nuggets – Kelly Dwyer and Co., Yahoo! Sports
An interesting read to say the least …

Can Nene Live Up To His Contract? – Madness, Nugglove.com
Our friends over at Nugglove tackle the Nene re-sign. A nice read and the popular power forward term comes up again.

Kenneth Faried: Nuggets' rookie on Denver, Dennis Rodman and being "Manimal" – Kenneth Faried, Denver Post
The Nuggets rookie answers fan mail!

Video: Nuggets nearing crunch time as they get ready for NBA season – Ben Hochman, Denver Post
Cool video from media day at Pepsi Center.

How Good Can the Denver Nuggets Be? – Jeremy, Roundball Mining Company
Our friend Jeremy has a great article on the outlook of the Nuggets this season.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons
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