By now, most of you are well aware of ESPN’s 5-on-5 segments where, for some reason or another, illustrious sportswriters from across the country team up alongside basement-dwelling bloggers, like yours truly, in order to discuss the NBA’s hottest topics. Because this series was so successful, ESPN has been gracious enough to create an icon (seen above) to go along with an entirely new sub-series titled, “3-on-3″ (also seen above) specifically tailored for its fellow TrueHoop family network of basketball blogs. Instead of five sportswriters, there’s only three and instead of five questions… wait for it… there are only three, as well. Most of the time it’s gonna be Jeremy, Charlie and I conveying our most humble opinions to our loyal readers in all parts of the world (we see you Australia!), however occasionally we’ll be bringing in other TrueHoop bloggers, ESPN writers and even you to the conversation. That’s right, every now and then we’ll invite a member of the Roundball Community to have their voice heard in the 3-on-3 segments, but the only way you’ll know is by following us on Twitter or Google+ (see bottom of page). In the meantime though, we encourage everyone to go ahead and give their own take on the following questions in the comments section anyways, because after all, we do love to hear from you guys. So without further ado, I give you the very first 3-on-3 in Roundball Mining Company history! Be sure and keep an eye out for more in the future as these should become a staple of our blog as times goes by.
1. Fact or fiction, Nene leaving Denver means the Nuggets go into rebuilding mode?
Jeremy: Fact, although I have made it known I believe Denver should rebuild regardless of what Nene wants. If Nene does leave — a move I think is increasingly likely — the roster will complete it’s transformation from what was probably the deepest in the league to one of the most limited. Denver will have a hoard of cash to spend and it is highly unlikely any free agent of substance will want to take some of it. At that point, there is no option other than to rebuild. Despite the talent of Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, Kenneth Fried and whatever average free agents come into town this season, Denver is going to be a lottery team.
Charlie: Indisputable fact. Nene’s actual production wasn’t stellar, and we all knew he didn’t go out and just win games the way most other dominant players do, but still, Nene remains a player who makes sure his team gets the most out of every possession he’s involved in. That’s invaluable to a loose, undisciplined and fast-paced offense like the Nuggets have traditionally had. Defensively the Nuggets were so much better with him on the floor and it’s just very hard to replace an important two-way player like that. Without him I think the Nuggets become a monumentally different team — one that would have to consider adapting the style of play we’ve seen in years past.
Kalen: Fiction. I think people are giving Nene way too much credit for a team that’s almost completely been blown up already. The way I see it, Nene is nothing more than the last remaining piece of the “Thuggets” team, that for many, was the best Nuggets squad of all time. If these long-tenured Nuggets fans see Nene go, flashes of Nikola Tskitishvili will likely flood their brains, to which I’d simply just smile. At some point, the “old timers” simply have to accept the fact that over the last decade the Nuggets have consistently been one of the best franchises in the NBA. When you think of how well we fared in the Melo trade and NBA Draft last year, then add this to the virtually blank slate of cap space the Nuggets posses, its easy to see that we actually have all the makings for a team that’s already on its way back UP instead of down.
2. Who should start at the center position, Mozgov or Koufos?
Jeremy: Mozgov. Koufos has yet to prove that he belongs in this league. Mozgov is limited, but has shown he knows what he is doing and can handle the duty of playing center in the NBA. As long as Mozgov and Birdman can each play 20-24 minutes a night Denver should be able to avoid embarrassment in the post.
Charlie: Timofey Mozgov. He is the more proven player, with a much higher ceiling and a more advanced skill-set than Koufos. It’s not even close in my mind — at 25 Mozgov is in his prime and the Nuggets must find out what they have now. Neither will be an All-Star, but Mozgov has starter potential right now and Koufos has journeyman written all over him. I think healthy competition is good, but the Nuggets will be much better off investing in the more experienced Mozgov. I like Koufos as the next Shelden Williams, a solid contributor but in no way a long term solution to anything.
Kalen: It’s hard to say given the fact that we’ve barely seen either of these guys play for an extended period of time, although I’m gonna have to go with my heart on this one and say Mozgov. I still think Koufos is a more polished player at this point in his career, but Mozgov seems to have that extra bit of “thrust” that will take him to the next level — hopefully. Nevertheless, I’m still extremely excited to see Koufos play this year as he showed great promise near the end of the 2010-11 campaign.
3. Who will be the team’s leading scorer this season?
Jeremy: I think it will certainly be The Rooster. He is the most aggressive player on the team offensively and has the repertoire to carry the load. Ty Lawson is the other candidate, but he lacks the aforementioned aggressiveness of Gallo. The 50-1 shot worth putting $5 on: Andre Miller. He has never been afraid to shoot, a characteristic which vexed me greatly at the end of some games in his first stint with the Nuggets.
Charlie: I still think it’s Danilo Gallinari. However, Ty Lawson is young enough, crazy enough and talented enough to explode with an unprecedented breakout season. At the end of the day Gallo is still by far the team’s best pure scorer. I think the Nuggets will do whatever it takes to get the ball in his hands. He’ll do a lot of work off the dribble in addition to spotting up, and he’s pretty much guaranteed to be the most reliable Nugget in terms of taking and making foul shots. Looking at where the Nuggets are now I think they’re ready to hand the reigns over to Gallo this season.
Kalen: Come on now, really? There is only one answer for this and you already know what it is: Ty Lawson — end of story. I’m sure Gallo would be a popular pick, and all kidding aside, he’s got a great chance to lead the Nuggets in scoring this year, but I’ve been Ty Lawson’s No. 1 supporter since Day 1 and I’m not backing off my claim that he’ll post close to All-Star caliber numbers this year, IF given enough minutes and the unquestioned reigns over the starting point guard duties. You heard it here first, Ty Lawson goes for 18 points per game this year while Gallo goes for 17. Close, but no cigar for the Italian Stallion.
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