Welcome back to the Denver Stiffs Friday mailbag! If you have questions you want answered in the future, ask me in the comments down below or on Twitter.

Let’s get into it!

By the very definition: Jamal Murray’s ceiling is the guy who dropped 48 points on the best defense in the NBA at that time in the Boston Celtics. He showed immense closing ability when it counted, and the Nuggets needed a guy to take over in the clutch.

That being said, Murray’s overall shooting numbers in clutch situations are rather poor. Among the 27 players to shoot as many times as Murray in what NBA.com deems clutch situations, Murray’s 31.3 FG% ranks dead last. Among the 41 players with higher than a 25.0 Usage Rate in the clutch, Murray’s TS% ranks 37th out of 41. Jokic has actually been far superior in these moments, ranking 10th out of 27 and 18th out of 41 respectively. So, it’s possible that Murray as the closer has become an overstated narrative based on a few elite performances here or there.

Now, that’s not to take away from those performances in any way. Murray has had moments flashing Stephen Curry potential, taking over like Damian Lillard or prime Dwyane Wade. The numbers don’t back it up right now though. Becoming more judicious with these clutch situations and focusing on setting up Jokic is definitely the best thing Murray can do in the short term. Long term though? He’s 21 and has to go through these learning experiences to become the clutch shooter Denver needs him to be down the line. The more he struggles now, the less he may struggle in the future.

I said on the Nuggets Numbers podcast a couple days ago that I thought Will Barton would be the first to return based on the reported timetables of all three players. However, it’s clear that Barton is taking things a bit slower, while Gary Harris and Paul Millsap have progressed quicker than anticipated. That’s probably for the best as well. Denver needs the extra defenders badly right now, and the outside shooting of Harris and Millsap in the starting lineup compared to Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee should give Denver a boost.

When Barton returns, Denver will be back to the strength they were on Game 1 of this season, and it will be 30+ games of horrible injury luck hopefully coming to a close (knock on wood). It will be fun to watch Denver at relative full strength, and with so many options, Michael Malone will have the opportunity to use the three returnees more judiciously.

I give him a 9 out of 10, and the only reason it isn’t a 10 out of 10 is the major misstep in the first round of the 2017 draft. Denver had an opportunity to draft a number of solid players that night. Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, OG Anunoby, John Collins, and Jarrett Allen were on the board to be selected at 13. Denver trades down to 24, misses all of those guys, and selects Tyler Lydon, who has played just 43 total minutes in regulation games the past two seasons. That said, Connelly saved that draft by selecting Monte Morris 51st overall. Those who were analytically inclined loved Morris, and he has lived up to his reputation, solidifying Denver’s backup point guard spot in just his second season.

Here are all of his draft picks since becoming Denver’s GM and now President of Basketball Operations:

2013 Draft: Traded pick that became Rudy Gobert. Drafted Erick Green and Joffrey Lauvergne.

2014 Draft: Traded pick that became Doug McDermott for Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris. Drafted Nikola Jokic.

2015 Draft: Drafted Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Radicevic.

2016 Draft: Drafted Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley in the first round and Petr Cornelie in the second round.

2017 Draft: Traded pick that became Donovan Mitchell for Tyler Lydon and Trey Lyles. Turned Joffrey Lauvergne into Vlatko Cancar and Monte Morris.

2018 Draft: Drafted Michael Porter Jr., Jarred Vanderbilt, and Thomas Welsh.

Connelly’s hit rate on draft picks has been very good. He found a franchise player, a potential All-Star or two, a quality starter, multiple quality reserves, and has some potential gems in this last draft class. There were missteps along the way, but everyone has some misses. 9 out of 10.

Yeah, I think it’s about that time. I mentioned Lydon earlier, and it’s really the only major red mark on Connelly’s resume (the Emmanuel Mudiay selection was thought to be ‘best player available’). Even though Denver missed at the back end of round one, there were still contributors on the board who fit the Nuggets far better than Lydon or were simply more talented, including Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Derrick White, Jordan Bell, and more.

That fact that Denver went to Nick Young (who wasn’t even on the roster) before Tyler Lydon this season says a lot about that draft pick. The Nuggets have already declined Lydon’s third-year team option for next season, almost unheard of in today’s NBA given the value of the rookie scale contract. Still, the Nuggets can and probably will do better than Lydon in the coming months, possibly when Denver’s starters return to form.

Oh, the best has to be Mr. Daniel Lewis right? That dude’s getting married today. He knows exactly what to say to the ladies! Everyone wish him good luck on Twitter.

The worst though? Probably the head honcho himself: Adam Mares. As good looking and suave as Adam may seem, I’m 22, so Adam’s basically ancient to me.

This is a toughie, but I think it will be Torrey Craig and Craig only.

Right now, the Nuggets are basically running an eight man rotation. Add in three starters, and somebody definitely has to go. Coach Malone has never been comfortable running a rotation larger than 10 players. With Craig out of the rotation, Denver has a solid starting unit and solid bench unit lined up:

Point Guard: Jamal Murray / Monte Morris

Shooting Guard: Gary Harris / Malik Beasley

Small Forward: Will Barton / Juancho Hernangomez

Power Forward: Paul Millsap / Trey Lyles

Center: Nikola Jokic / Mason Plumlee

With Denver’s ability to play small with Hernangomez at the 4, Denver has an opportunity to recreate their solid bench unit with Juancho at the 4 instead of Lyles to keep getting Murray reps with the bench. It might be a good idea to stagger lineups as well. The given starting unit has spent very little time together, and while they will likely be great, things could be slow getting back to form. Playing one of Murray, Harris, or Barton with the bench unit at all times provides a solid weapon at all times.

For that reason, Denver may be able to cut the rotation down to nine players and eliminate Lyles altogether; however, his size and one-on-one scoring could be helpful down the line in lineups without Jokic, so I doubt Malone cuts him out immediately. They will likely play 10 guys if everyone’s healthy, at least to start.

This content is no longer available.