Lunch Special: How will the Kenneth Faried “drama” play out for the Nuggets?

Thursday, 05 October 2017, 11:45:40 AM. The Denver Post’s Gina Mizell on Wednesday answered reader questions about the Denver Nuggets in a live chat. Here are the highlights.

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

Gina: Hey, everybody! Before I get to your questions, I just wanted to introduce myself and give a bit of background. First, of all, I’m thrilled to be part of a Denver Post staff I’ve respected for years, and to live in one of my favorite cities in the country. I’ve spent the bulk of my career covering college football at The Oregonian in Portland and The Oklahoman in OKC, but am super excited to jump to an NBA beat and to cover one of the more intriguing teams in the league.

Media day and training camp last week was a great opportunity to meet Nuggets players, coaches, front office folks, etc, and I’m looking forward to building relationships and telling cool stories throughout the season. I grew up in Phoenix, so the early ’90s Suns were one of the first teams I cheered for and the Nash/Stoudemire/7 seconds or less crew was a big part of my HS/college years. But enough about me. Let’s get to your questions.

Who do you think will be the starting point guard for this team?

Gina: That’s one of the biggest questions still facing this team. Before training camp, I probably would have said Jamal Murray, but Emmanuel Mudiay was one of the biggest topics in Boulder. Considering they had alternated running the first team during practices, I wasn’t surprised to see Murray start the preseason opener at Golden State and Mudiay start against the Lakers.

I thought Mudiay played well against Golden State (he was explosive to the basket and looked confident in his jumper, which has obviously been a huge issue) and that Murray made some timely shots and played pretty solid defense. Monday night against the Lakers was more of a mixed bag for both guys. Mudiay had a stretch where he had a couple silly turnovers in a row, and Murray did not shoot well. I wonder how the minutes will be distributed tonight, given the four other starters are out. Malone said he’d like to have his lineup set by the final two preseason games, so that’ll give us a clue on who’s won the job.

Who does your gut tell you will be the Nuggets’ starting point guard on opening night?

Gina: My gut still says Murray, but I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if it was Mudiay. How’s that for a cop-out answer? Of course, Jameer Nelson is also still here, but he’s been out with a toe injury. That certainly hasn’t helped him in this competition.

Do you think the Nuggets will make the playoffs this year?

Gina: We are just hitting all the big-time questions right off the bat! I like it. Obviously, the West is tough. Heck, this division is really, really, really tough, with what OKC and Minnesota have added with what Portland already has, etc. I think the Nuggets certainly have the talent — especially if the young corps continues to develop the way they expect —  to get in if they just marginally improve on defense.

I thought it was interesting that the annual preseason GM survey listed Paul Millsap’s signing as the most underrated acquisition of a wild offseason. In the West, I’m curious to see if a team like the Clippers drops off after losing Chris Paul. And injuries are always the most unpredictable part of the season. But I think, barring injury or something catastrophic like that, the Nuggets will be in the playoff race throughout the season and will be playing a fun brand of basketball.

How do you see the minutes being distributed tonight with Millsap, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Wilson Chandler out? Think we see a lot of Juancho Hernangomez, Mason Plumlee, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton, or Trey Lyles? (Maybe all of the above?)

Gina: Yeah…how about that injury report? I’d expect we’ll see a lot of those guys you just mentioned — plus some of the younger players like Craig, Beasley, Lydon, etc. Again, I’ll be interested to see how the PG minutes are distributed, or if we see some time with Mudiay at the 1 and Murray at the 2. I’m also curious if Faried or Lyles starts, since Faired did not play in the preseason opener and Lyles did not play against the Lakers. Also, can we get Josh Childress in a game…just because?!

What kind of minutes do you see for Mason Plumlee this year? Will he just give Jokic a breather or will he have a bigger role?

Gina: I think he’ll have a legitimate role on this team — you don’t sign him that type of contract to only play him sparingly. What they like about Plumlee is he’s also a good facilitator in the post, so the offense won’t change much when Jokic goes to the bench. He’s also athletic and a good rim protector. Malone mentioned in Boulder that he really liked the reserve combination of Plumlee and Lyles because of the way they complement each other. We saw a bit of that against Golden State but obviously not at all against the Lakers because Lyles didn’t play, so I’m curious to see how much we see that tonight with Millsap and Jockic both out. But Plumlee’s been a player the Nuggets were eyeing even before they traded for him last year, so I think they want to see what they have in him.

Initiate a flurry of Kenneth Faried questions in 3…2…

How do you think this Kenneth Faried “drama” plays out? Do they mutually find a way to fit him into the game and keep him happy? Do they trade him early? Does he go full on Jusuf Nurkic and begin tanking while on the court to force a trade during the season?

I see Kenneth Faried was a DNP the other night vs. the Warriors…would hate to see the Nuggets let him get away.

Has Kenneth Faried started to show he can actually compete in this rotation?

Do Kenneth Faried’s media day comments about being able to play for 29 other teams give you concern about what affect he’ll have on the locker room?

Gina: So, this Faried thing is quite the interesting preseason storyline. If you haven’t been following super closely (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t — it’s Rocktober and the Broncos are still a thing), Faried strongly expressed his desire to be a starter at media day, but Millsap obviously holds that role now. Faried did not play in the preseason opener at Golden State (Trey Lyles got those minutes), but played quite a bit against the Lakers while Trey Lyles got zero minutes.

I thought Faired played well against the Lakers — he was active defensively and had four early points and a key tip on a loose ball to keep a possession alive. The types of things that you’ve come to expect from him. But during camp, Malone did not talk about Faried much unless somebody specifically asked about him and would bring up Lyles unprompted. So I’m curious to see how the minutes between Faried and Lyles are distributed for the rest of the preseason — such as, who starts tonight with Millsap out? But Faried is not going to start. And if that’s a major issue for him, then…well, stay tuned.

If Faried doesn’t get to be a starter, will he sabotage the team?

Gina: “Sabatoge” is a strong word, though I understand why people’s minds would go there after the Nurkic drama last season. I’ll also say that I haven’t spoken to Faried 1-on-1 yet, so I don’t know enough about his personality to know how he’ll handle things internally and in the locker room. All I know is his public comments, and that he didn’t play at all against Golden State but played pretty darn well against the Lakers. But it’s a story line we’ll be following throughout the preseason and for however long we need to.

Why not Start Faried at the 3 and Milsap at the 4? Sure, Kenneth is not an outside shooter, but all of the other starter are.

Gina: Malone’s made it pretty clear that Wilson Chandler is the starting 3.

Has what the Nuggets done so far in the preseason been a sign that good things might actually be coming this year?

Gina: Ahhh…the question about how much to read into preseason basketball. It’s honestly hard to tell. But Golden State went 4 of 33 from beyond the arc, which is probably not going to happen in the regular season. Lonzo Ball sprained his ankle Monday night. So there are some opponent variables that were at play. But I think the preseason is valuable for somebody like Millsap, who is still working to get comfortable in this new system. His third quarter in Golden State — particularly the way he shot the ball from 3 — was impressive. I thought Gary Harris’ performance against the Lakers is a sign that he’s still progressing as a young player. Game reps will help sort out this PG battle and other rotation minutes. The defense has looked improved at times and like a work-in-progress at other times. As I said before, I think this is a team that will compete in the West.

Why aren’t there any preseason games in Denver?

Gina: Next week against OKC is at home.But, yeah, four out of five preseason games on the road isn’t ideal. Five of the first seven regular-season games are also on the road.

How does this season’s defensive scheme differ from last year’s, will the new scheme be effective in improving Denver’s defense, and which of their young players are best equipped to contribute to making gains on the defensive end?

Gina: Another big question! I wrote about this last week but the Nuggets are aiming to be more aggressive on the pick and roll. Guys like Millsap and Plumlee are used to playing that way, and it will probably be the toughest on Jokic and his footwork. I think all their young players are capable of improving on that end of the floor. I’m curious to see what type of impact Millsap has on Jockic.  The addition of Millsap is obviously significant on defense, but Malone and teammates have been adamant that it can’t just be about one player. Communication is key and the Nuggets have implemented specific drills to work on that — also wrote about that last week.

Do the moves Houston and OKC made this offseason make acquiring Millsap irrelevant?

Gina: Irrelevant? I don’t think so. Again, the league’s GMs believe Millsap’s signing was the most underrated player acquisition of the offseason. But the West is brutal. You mention Houston and OKC…but the Warriors are still king. Maybe some think that makes the league boring, but I still think it will be fun to watch these young Nuggets develop and to see if they can get back to the playoffs.

I have a question about the two way contracts. Which D-league team will Torrey Craig and Montee Morris play for when they aren’t with the Nuggets? Also, can they split the 45 days throughout different parts of the season and what do you think the chances are that the Nuggets sign Torrey Craig to a normal contract?

Gina: That’s a terrific question, since the Nuggets do not have an affiliate. I will check on that. And as far as I understand, those 45 days can be spread throughout the season. Since this is a new thing, bear with me for not being a total expert yet! Craig earned some high praise from Malone during training camp. I don’t know if there’s a spot for him on the full-time roster this season, but they think he can develop into an NBA player.

How much run do you expect Hernangomez, Plumlee, Barton to get (in terms of minutes)? I wonder how Malone spreads them out.. Any insight is awesome, thanks!

Gina: Tonight or during the regular season? Because those are two very different questions, given all the guys that are missing the preseason game tonight. They could all start tonight, ha! But as far as the regular season…I’d expect Plumlee and Barton to be regular rotation players. Hernangomez is an interesting prospect since he can play the 3 and the 4, but he’s still young and developing. Malone said he ultimately wants a rotation of nine players…and that spot might come down to Faried/Lyles/Juancho/maybe Nelson. We shall see!

Find the full chat transcript here:

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