The NBA season opener is just around the corner for the Denver Nuggets. With that in mind I thought I’d take the time to pose some questions for this year—and try to give some answers too.
Q. What about the Nuggets who signed to play in China this season?
A. Kenyon Martin and JR Smith were unrestricted free agents when they signed with Chinese teams. When they return, they will be free to sign with any NBA team including Denver. Wilson Chandler meanwhile is a restricted free agent—thus the Nuggets retain his rights and can match any offer that comes his way.
Q. How will Ty Lawson and Andre Miller “share” the point guard position?
A. George Karl has said that Ty will be the starter and that Andre Miller will come off the bench. Sounds good unless you’re Andre Miller. Consider: if Ty plays 35 minutes each night that leaves only 13 for Andre at the point. Karl could play Ty and Andre together in the backcourt, but you wonder if that small backcourt could get it done defensively. I predict point guard play time will be a tricky issue for the Mile High Crew.
Q. My daughter Grace thinks Danilo Gallinari is “the bomb”. Can “the bomb” develop into a shooting star?
A. I believe there’s a good chance he can. At 6’10” he can really shoot, has an underrated handle, makes free throws, and is a willing defender. I’d be surprised if Gallo doesn’t become the Nuggets go to guy, and leads the team in scoring.
Q. Can Nene, at 29, take the next step up and become an NBA All-Star?
A. I say yes. The move to power forward gives the Brazilian big man a chance. If he can be more aggressive, make his free throws, and forget about the refs, Nene will be an All-Star in 2011/2012.
Q. What do you think of the “new and improved” Al Harrington?
A. Al has a chance to have a great year. He’s healthy (bad foot last season), is in terrific shape (just 8% body fat) and has been shooting the lights out in practice.
Q. Can Russian center Timofey Mozgov become the next Arvydas Sabonis (the greatest Russian center of all time)?
A. Probably not. However I do think that Mozgov can be a very good NBA center. I say that if “Timo” plays starters minutes (35) he can put up similar numbers to the Grizzlies Marc Gasol—which would be 11 points and 7 rebounds a game.
Q. Who will be the backup center for Mozgov?
A. This could be a battle royal. Chris “Birdman” Andersen has the inside track. If Bird is healthy he can be very effective in that reserve role. However, don’t sleep on 7’1” Kosta Koufos. Kosta is young and athletic (a 34 inch vertical), and has an array of terrific post moves. He had 24 points and 8 rebounds in the recent scrimmage and George likes his attitude a lot.
Q. Who is going to be on the wing for the Nuggets?
A. Great news…Arron Afflalo is back in the fold. And more than likely he will start. Former Blazer Rudy Fernandez (20 points and 10 assists in the scrimmage) will assume and embrace JR Smiths’ old 6th man role. And newcomer Corey Brewer will see minutes too.
Q. Will any of the rookies play much?
A. Maybe. Kenneth Faried, alias "Manimal," will get the first call. He has been impressive in practice and has the one skill that always transfers from college to the NBA—rebounding. Jordan Hamilton is talented, but will have a tough time finding minutes on this deep Nuggets team.
Q. Finally, will Scott Hastings’ “Arkansas math” improve this season?
A. Probably not. You can lead a giant dog to water, but you can’t teach him new tricks.