Lunch Special: Are the Nuggets in the market for help at small forward? – The Denver Post

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The Denver Post’s Gina Mizell on Wednesday answered questions about the Denver Nuggets in a live chat. Here are the highlights:

So, last I checked the Nuggets are 4th in the Western Conference standings… is it realistic to think they can finish the season that high and have home court for the first round?

Gina: Yep, they’re fourth right now, though that can fluctuate a lot given Denver, Portland, Minnesota, Utah, New Orleans and OKC are all very close together record-wise (the Blazers were fourth yesterday and just dropped to sixth, for instance). Getting home court would be a HUGE accomplishment for this team, particularly given the Paul Millsap injury situation. But a couple things need to happen for that to remain a possibility in the second half of the season. One, Denver obviously has to figure out how to play better on the road. And two, the Nuggets need to beat good teams. They have only beaten two opponents also currently in the playoffs (New Orleans and Toronto). There’s something to be said for taking care of the teams you should beat at home, but this team still has some maturing to do in order to have a chance of finishing in the top half of the West.

If you had to guess, when do you think Nikola Jokic will be back?

Gina: I didn’t get a chance to talk to him at shootaround today, but he seemed pretty optimistic when I caught up with him in Dallas on Monday. As we reported then, he’s returned to some light jogging and such, so it doesn’t seem like Malone’s hope that Jokic could come back at some point on this road trip is very far off. Of course, setbacks can happen, and they’ve been clear that they don’t want to rush him back. But I’ll obviously keep monitoring that on this trip.

Is Anthony Davis playing tonight?

Gina: From everything I’ve seen/read, Anthony Davis is unlikely to play tonight. So expect a lot of Boogie (DeMarcus Cousins) action.

Kris Dunn shot 8-of-8 in the paint against Denver. It seemed like all of Dallas’ guards got to the rim at will. Do the Nuggets have any recourse — schematically or lineup-wise — to get better at containing dribble penetration? Even if their guards get better at it, Mason Plumlee’s lack of deterrence at the rim makes their prospects of improvement seem rather bleak.

Gina: Yeah, Nuggets coach Michael Malone has talked a lot about 1-on-1 containment (aka keeping the player you’re guarding in front of you) over the past couple games. I thought the Nuggets did a good job with it against Lonzo Ball and the Lakers, but Dennis Smith got to the rim with ease the other night. So it starts with whoever is guarding the ball-handler, but it also falls on guys who have to help and then the entire unit to rotate properly to shooters that might get left open on the perimeter in the case of a kick-out. Malone has talked recently about how Jamal Murray’s defense seems to be dictated by his offense in recent games and has implored him to bring energy on that end of the floor no matter what.

With Jokic out, who do you think should take the big shot with the game on the line?

Gina: Well, the other night it was obviously Barton. And I don’t think that’s a bad pick, given he’s so good at getting his own shot off the dribble or the drive. I’d also imagine Malone is more than fine with Harris taking an open 3 at the buzzer. Maybe Murray if he’s hot in that particular game. But with both Millsap and Jokic out, I think Barton is my pick.

Random question, did you get to meet former president Bush the other night? Saw he was courtside at the Nuggets game.

Gina: I unfortunately did not get to meet him, but my spot on press row was basically immediately across from him. And then he was about 10 feet from me when he and Laura when they went around the entire court and shook hands with the servicemen and women at halftime. I may have taken several pictures. Regardless of political affiliation, that was pretty cool.

I doubt Wilson Chandler picks up a basketball over the off season. The Nuggets could really use a SF that could hit an open shot. Are they in the market?

Gina: That’s a fair question, because I think everybody just assumed he’d slide right into that starting SF role and be an X-factor type player. But even before the injuries, his disappointing start was one of the most interesting/under-the-radar developments of the early season. Malone said Chandler is playmaking better than he ever has, and sometimes that goes unnoticed or does not pop up in the box score (think hockey assists). But the scoring has just not been consistent–and they could use him right now. We’ll see how he performs now that he’s had a game to shake some rust off–or if the injury lingers all season. To be fair, if you’ve ever had a back injury, you know it’s no joke.

The 2012-13 Nuggies went 38-3 at home. Think this Nuggets team can challenge that mark? If not, what’s realistic?

Gina: Yeah, that team was incredible at home. Considering this group already has two home losses, I’d say challenging that mark is unrealistic…primarily because they haven’t played the NBA’s best teams at home yet (besides the Warriors–a game they lost). But the Nuggets are going to need to remain GREAT at home in order to make the playoffs if they’re going to keep playing this poorly on the road. I’d have to study the schedule to come up with a concrete prediction on home record for the rest of the season…but maybe 10-12 losses is a reasonable ceiling to shoot for right now?

What do you think is this team’s Achilles heal right now, and can they fix it?

Gina: Even though Denver was much better Monday night, I still think points off turnovers is the biggest thing right now. And that’s also part of another issue–inconsistent point guard play. Or I could go super broad and say that this team just can’t seem to figure out how to win on the road. Are these all correctable? Yes. And a lot of it stems from discipline and maturity. That should naturally take place with young players over the course of a season, but how quickly it happens will go a long way in determining where this team is down the stretch.

Do the Nuggets regret their draft night trade? Second time in recent drafts that the Nuggets have gifted the Jazz.

Gina: Man, Donovan Mitchell is good, huh? I obviously was not here on draft night, but I think it’s safe to say that it did not go the way the Nuggets had planned or hoped. If Mitchell was currently on this roster, he’d probably be starting. With all that said, though, Denver has needed Trey Lyles without Millsap and Jokic, and he’s played well when given the opportunity.

Do you have any insight into Jamal Murray’s interest in signing a long term deal with the Nuggets?

Gina: I actually do not, but that’s a fair question. It’s pretty clear the organization believes in him as a long-term piece, though, given the reports that they haven’t been willing to include him in potential trades.

Which Nuggets would you say play the best defense?

Gina: When he was healthy, Paul Millsap was obviously a steady anchor inside. And Gary Harris is top 5 in the NBA in steals and is so pesky on the perimeter. Those would be my two picks.

Will Malik Beasley get the chance to spread his wings some more? He’s played in a lot of lineups that have killed teams offensively (albeit in small sample sizes). He and Plumlee/Lyles/Juancho/Mudiay are plus-92.3 (!!!) per 100 possessions, though they’ve only played 12 minutes together.

Gina: Yeah, the key words there are “small sample size.” But the only way to get a larger sample size is to give him some more run, right? When this team is fully healthy, though, I just don’t see a lot of opportunities for Beasley to get extended minutes. Malone is balancing wanting to keep a consistent nine-man rotation (though it has fluctuated recently with all the injuries) with allowing a young guy like Beasley to get a chance to develop. Malone did make a point to praise Beasley’s energy in the Dallas game.

What do you think we could get for a trade of DA and Chandler? Also, do you think Faried will be traded?

Gina: I’ll be honest — I’m not the best at trade hypotheticals. The Nuggets obviously need Faried right now — and he’s starting and playing well — but the logjam at power forward will return once Millsap comes back from his injury.

Too bad about the NOLA weather. You asked for restaurant recommendations on Twitter. Any winners?

Gina: Yeah, total bummer. Then we are essentially following this storm to Orlando, and then will go to three cold-weather cities. Oh well. As far as food recs, yes! I went to Cochon Butcher and had a terrific bacon melt sandwich. Then I caught some live jazz at a spot near my hotel. So it was a good off night, even with the crummy weather and my dislike of seafood.


Find the full chat transcript below:

Mobile users, if you don’t see the live chat, tap here.

OK, everybody. I think we’ll wrap it up there. Thanks as always for your questions. You can continue to follow all our coverage on denverpost,com. Should be an interesting game in New Orleans tonight. Enjoy your Wednesday!Yeah, total bummer. Then we are essentially following this storm to Orlando, and then will go to three cold-weather cities. Oh well. As far as food recs, yes! I went to Cochon Butcher and had a terrific bacon melt sandwich. Then I caught some live jazz at a spot near my hotel. So it was a good off night, even with the crummy weather and my dislike of seafood.Too bad about the NOLA weather. You asked for restaurant recommendations on Twitter. Any winners?I’ll be honest — I’m not the best at trade hypotheticals. The Nuggets obviously need Faried right now — and he’s starting and playing well — but the logjam at power forward will return once Millsap comes back from his injury.What do you think we could get for a trade of DA and Chandler? Also, do you think Faried will be traded?Yeah, the key words there are “small sample size.” But the only way to get a larger sample size is to give him some more run, right? When this team is fully healthy, though, I just don’t see a lot of opportunities for Beasley to get extended minutes. Malone is balancing wanting to keep a consistent nine-man rotation (though it has fluctuated recently with all the injuries) with allowing a young guy like Beasley to get a chance to develop. Malone did make a point to praise Beasley’s energy in the Dallas game.Will Beasley get the chance to spread his wings some more? He’s played in a lot of lineups that have killed teams offensively (albeit in small sample sizes). He and Plumlee/Lyles/Juancho/Mudiay are plus-92.3 (!!!) per 100 possessions, though they’ve only played 12 minutes together.When he was healthy, Paul Millsap was obviously a steady anchor inside. And Gary Harris is top 5 in the NBA in steals and is so pesky on the perimeter. Those would be my two picks.Which Nuggets would you say play the best defense?I actually do not, but that’s a fair question. It’s pretty clear the organization believes in him as a long-term piece, though, given the reports that they haven’t been willing to include him in potential trades.Do you have any insight into Jamal Murray’s interest in signing a long term deal with the Nuggets>Man, Donovan Mitchell is good, huh? I obviously was not here on draft night, but I think it’s safe to say that it did not go the way the Nuggets had planned or hoped. If Mitchell was currently on this roster, he’d probably be starting. With all that said, though, Denver has needed Trey Lyles without Millsap and Jokic, and he’s played well when given the opportunity.Do the Nuggets regret their draft night trade? Second time in recent drafts that the Nuggets have gifted the Jazz…Even though Denver was much better Monday night, I still think points off turnovers is the biggest thing right now. And that’s also part of another issue–inconsistent point guard play. Or I could go super broad and say that this team just can’t seem to figure out how to win on the road. Are these all correctable? Yes. And a lot of it stems from discipline and maturity. That should naturally take place with young players over the course of a season, but how quickly it happens will go a long way in determining where this team is down the stretch.What do you think is this team’s achilles heal right now, and can they fix it?Yeah, that team was incredible at home. Considering this group already has two home losses, I’d say challenging that mark is unrealistic…primarily because they haven’t played the NBA’s best teams at home yet (besides the Warriors–a game they lost). But the Nuggets are going to need to remain GREAT at home in order to make the playoffs if they’re going to keep playing this poorly on the road. I’d have to study the schedule to come up with a concrete prediction on home record for the rest of the season…but maybe 10-12 losses is a reasonable ceiling to shoot for right now?The 2012-13 Nuggies went 38-3 at home (and then George Karl got fired that offseason, because duh.) Think this Nuggets team can challenge that mark? If not, what’s realistic?That’s a fair question, because I think everybody just assumed he’d slide right into that starting SF role and be an X-factor type player. But even before the injuries, his disappointing start was one of the most interesting/under-the-radar developments of the early season. Malone said Chandler is playmaking better than he ever has, and sometimes that goes unnoticed or does not pop up in the box score (think hockey assists). But the scoring has just not been consistent–and they could use him right now. We’ll see how he performs now that he’s had a game to shake some rust off–or if the injury lingers all season. To be fair, if you’ve ever had a back injury, you know it’s no joke.I doubt Wilson Chandler picks up a basketball over the off season. The Nuggets could really use a SF that could hit an open shot. Are they in the market?Sorry if I missed this, but do you see any help coming at SF position? Wilson Chandler does not seem to be the same player he was in the pastI unfortunately did not get to meet him, but my spot on press row was basically immediately across from him. And then he was about 10 feet from me when he and Laura when they went around the entire court and shook hands with the servicemen and women at halftime. I may have taken several pictures. Regardless of political affiliation, that was pretty cool.Random question – did you get to meet former president Bush the other night? Saw he was courtside at the Nuggets game.Well, the other night it was obviously Barton. And I don’t think that’s a bad pick, given he’s so good at getting his own shot off the dribble or the drive. I’d also imagine Malone is more than fine with Harris taking an open 3 at the buzzer. Maybe Murray if he’s hot in that particular game. But with both Millsap and Jokic out, I think Barton is my pick.With Jokic out, who do you think should take the big shot with the game on the line?OK, back to the Nuggets 🙂

Haha, well played. It’s been wild following that whole saga from afar. I watched Jonathan Smith’s intro press conference the other day (clearly I lead a very exciting social life during the season). In all seriousness, Kyle Fredrickson could give you a much better rundown on his impact at CU. But I was particularly impressed with how well Steven Montez stepped in when Sefo Liufau was hurt last season. A good chunk of credit goes to the OC in that situation because he called plays Montez could handle and execute well. 

(Side note: It’s raining and 47 degrees in New Orleans right now. Feels like PDX. Good thing I still own a Columbia jacket!)

So… Brian Lindgren as the new OC. Any insight? Good move for the Beavs? (OK, I’ll show myself the door now.)

Yeah, Malone has talked a lot about 1-on-1 containment (aka keeping the player you’re guarding in front of you) over the past couple games. I thought the Nuggets did a good job with it against Lonzo Ball and the Lakers, but Dennis Smith got to the rim with ease the other night. So it starts with whoever is guarding the ball-handler, but it also falls on guys who have to help and then the entire unit to rotate properly to shooters that might get left open on the perimeter in the case of a kick-out. Malone has talked recently about how Jamal Murray’s defense seems to be dictated by his offense in recent games and has implored him to bring energy on that end of the floor no matter what. 

Kris Dunn and his .486 TS% shot 8-of-8 in the paint against Denver. It seemed like all of Dallas’ guards got to the rim at will. Do the Nuggets have any recourse — schematically or lineup-wise — to get better at containing dribble penetration? Even if their guards get better at it, Plumlee’s lack of deterrence at the rim makes their prospects of improvement seem rather bleak.Whoops, sorry, didn’t notice this similar question until just now. From everything I’ve seen/read, Anthony Davis is unlikely to play tonight. So expect a lot of Boogie action.Is Anthony Davis playing tonight? Also, how’s Jokic doing? Do you think he will play on this road trip?I didn’t get a chance to talk to him at shootaround today, but he seemed pretty optimistic when I caught up with him in Dallas on Monday. As we reported then, he’s returned to some light jogging and such, so it doesn’t seem like Malone’s hope that Jokic could come back at some point on this road trip is very far off. Of course, setbacks can happen, and they’ve been clear that they don’t want to rush him back. But I’ll obviously keep monitoring that on this trip.Hi Gina, if you had to guess, when do you think Nikola Jokic will be back?Yep, they’re fourth right now, though that can fluctuate a lot given Denver, Portland, Minnesota, Utah, New Orleans and OKC are all very close together record-wise (the Blazers were fourth yesterday and just dropped to sixth, for instance). Getting home court would be a HUGE accomplishment for this team, particularly given the Millsap injury situation. But a couple things need to happen for that to remain a possibility in the second half of the season. One, Denver obviously has to figure out how to play better on the road. And two, the Nuggets need to beat good teams. They have only beaten two opponents also currently in the playoffs (New Orleans and Toronto). There’s something to be said for taking care of the teams you should beat at home, but this team still has some maturing to do in order to have a chance of finishing in the top half of the West.So, last I checked the Nuggets are 4th in the Western Conference standings… is it realistic to think they can finish the season that high and have home court for the first round?Alrighty, we’ve already got some questions lined up, so let’s get going…Hello from New Orleans! I just got back from Nuggets shootaround ahead of tonight’s game at the New Orleans Pelicans. Fire away with your questions, and I’ll be back in about five minutes to start answering.Hey gang, welcome to another edition of the Lunch Special. Today we’re talking Denver Nuggets basketball with beat writer Gina Mizell. Gina is joining us at noon from New Orleans, where the Nuggets are getting set to take on the Pelicans. The chat window is open now, so feel free to add your questions to the queue.