Nuggets Mailbag: Talking Afflalo, depth and prospects for 2014-15
Late-July is typically a slow time of the year in the NBA. The summer leagues have closed shop. The big-name free agents have found new homes or returned to their previous teams. The draft is but a distant memory.
This year is no different.
USA Basketball is holding training camp in Las Vegas, but otherwise, it’s relatively quiet throughout the NBA as players and coaches make the most of their offseason before they have to report for training camps near the end of September.
The summer lull offers the perfect opportunity to answer your e-mail and Twitter questions about the Denver Nuggets and the NBA.
How will Arron Afflalo’s second stint in Denver under coach Brian Shaw be different than his first time with the Nuggets under George Karl? – Adam Beard, @ABeezy_15
It’s only been two years, but I think a lot has changed for Afflalo in that time. While in Orlando, he was asked to take a bigger leadership role and carry more of the scoring load while still defending the opposition’s top wing player.
He assumed some of those responsibilities under Karl, but I think he’s better-equipped for the role under Shaw. Afflalo is more comfortable as a veteran leader in the locker room and he will set the tone for practice and games with his incredible work ethic.
Will the new big man Jusuf Nurkic play some minutes next year? Also it seems we are guard heavy; how does Brian Shaw see the rotation? – C.O., @MileHighOwen
Thanks for the question, C.O.:
It’s been a great summer for Nurkic, who dominated the competition at the U20 European Championships Division B earlier this month. That being said, the 19-year-old is going to have his hands full when he joins the Nuggets.
He’s going to be behind fellow 7-footers JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov on the depth chart. Both are experienced centers who will be able to match Nurkic’s physicality in the paint. Cracking the rotation as a rookie will be extremely difficult.
As Nuggets GM/Executive VP of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said: “There’s no shame in playing behind those guys.”
Do you think the Nuggets can win 57 games again, like they did two years ago and go to the Western Conference Finals this year? – Shane, Commerce City, CO
Fifty-seven wins is a pretty tall order, no matter if you're the Nuggets or anyone else in the NBA. If Denver can stay healthy, I believe 50 wins are within reason. That would put the Nuggets in line to return to the playoffs, and I think they would be equipped to make some noise in a very balanced Western Conference.
How much playing time will Quincy Miller get? You guys are very deep at small forward. – Skylor, Hudson, FL
Quincy definitely has a challenge ahead of him this season, and it will start from the moment he reports to training camp. Q's contract isn't fully guaranteed, so he is playing for a roster spot. I think his experience last season will help immensely. He's familiar with Brian Shaw's coaching style and knows what the expectations will be from the very start. Quincy put in a lot of work this summer honing his 3-point shot and playmaking skills. He had a small setback when he injured his ankle at summer league, but I expect him to bounce back and be ready to compete.
Do the Nuggets have a legitimate shot at the title with all their depth? – Markus, Norwich, England
A Nuggets fan in England! Very cool. It's probably too early to talk about an NBA title for the Nuggets this season, but I know they will enter the season with a championship mindset. Arron Afflalo said as much when he returned to Denver in June, and I love the fact that he's aiming high. If everyone returns to health, which is looking good at this point, the Nuggets have playoff-caliber talent. They have depth and talent at every position. It's now a matter of accepting roles and making that depth an asset instead of a liability.
Will Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson be ready for the start of the season? - Greg, Clarke Fork, ID
From everything I've heard, Nate and J.J. are ahead of schedule in their rehab programs, but there is no set date for their return. Both are motivated to be ready by the start of the season, and athletic trainer Dan Shimensky; strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess; and assistant strength and conditioning coach Felipe Eichenberger are doing everything they can to help them reach their goal. I spoke with Steve a couple weeks ago and he made it clear that they will not put the players at risk by rushing the process. But he was thrilled with their progress, and Nuggets fans should be excited, too.
You can submit a question for A-Lo's next mailbag here.