3-on-3: Biggest storylines heading into the 2011-12 season

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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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • popex_17

    Guys, great work like always! I always enjoy reading the 5-on-5 columns on ESPN, thus I am thrilled by a 3-on-3 Nuggets exclusive. Here are my personal thoughts regarding the 3 questions:

    1.Fiction. Nene leaving only accelerates the rebuilding phase in which the Nuggets are finding themselves as of right now. I have always liked him and wish him all the best, but I think his time in Denver has come to an end and hope that Masai can orchestrate a sign-and-trade in order to pile up some draft picks for next year’s draft.

    2. Mozgov. Until I can see Koufos doing this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du-H9S2Kx2A
    or this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI8LSEMlTQ0
    I will go with the Moz-God.

    3. Young. Wait, who?? Nick Young? Thad Young? I don’t know, anyone of the 2 Youngs which will end up being a Nugget this season. If neither one is in a Nuggets jersey this season, then I think Gallo will be the leading scorer, just because he’s more confident in his ability to score than Ty is at the moment.

    • Tommy4daNuggz4ever

      About the two videos that you put on here they are simply AMAZING and phonominal and just down right the Aggressivness we will need from him this season

  • http://nugznazty.wordpress.com/ Owen

    1. Faction- we’ve seen what happens when we keep a player around who doesn’t want to be here, it’s infectious and debilitating. However, I think if he does stay he will be much happier than he was before. Denver is a solid option for him in terms of money, personal life, talent, and, most importantly, starting at PF. If it had been anybody but the Thunder in the 1st round….

    2. This is an obvious Mozgov. While Koufos has some weird level of potential, especially if he can get out of puberty and ditch the acne, Mozgov is a full-grown duke of dunk. I don’t see any problem running Koufos solid minutes, and I really like his commitment to our team (see: video of him on Nuggs website where he talks about getting better every day for the fans). Koufos seems to be in position, works hard, and makes shots that surprise you. Concluding, Mozgod is the obvious starter at the moment.

    3. Rooster, because Ty is going to make him look much better. Ty is going to drive the lane like a lesbian in a Prius and assist like Angelina Jolie in Africa. In fact, I think Ty will make everyone look better this year and average 12 points 8 ast. 5 rebs. 1.7 steals. Rooster average 20/game, AAA 14/game.

  • Ernie

    Surprised no one put Afflalo to lead the team in scoring. Everyone seems to expect him back and with no JR there will be many more minutes for him.

    • Charlie

      I considered it, I definitely did. When you look at his numbers, Arron Afflalo improved so dramatically in his first 2 years with the Nuggets, I would not put it past him to make that leap.

      However I came to the conclusion that AAA just doesn’t take enough shots to do it. He has to work very hard on the defensive end and as such a great shooter he is often asked to provide spacing on offense.

      The good point you make is that AAA could probably lead the team in terms of minutes played. So anything is possible, but Arron is so efficient and I see him continuing to only take smart shots even if it means less attempts overall

      • Ernie

        Bill Simmons just predicted AAA goes to Indiana and gets paid $50M for 4 years. I wonder if true that this will lead to Jeremy’s dream of having no players this season but drafting everyone in June 2012 that played in the UNC-Kentucky game last Saturday :)

  • Jason

    1. Fiction – Denver is already in rebuilding mode but not a deep rebuilding mode like we saw 10 years ago. But even without Nene I see this team winning 45 games and fighting for a playoff spot. No team with Lawson, Afflalo, Gallo, Mozgov, and Miller, plus a solid bench will be a team that only wins 20 and gets a high lotto pick. They will have a good year regardless. All that losing Nene does is it breaks up the possibility of this team not just fighting for a playoff spot but actually being a top 4 seed. That is why I don’t understand the folks who want to blow it up and get a high lotto pick. I am sorry, this team is still too talented to be bad enough to get a high lotto pick, so you might as well go the other route which is to try to rebuild on the fly. With out cap space, I think that is entirely possible.

    2. Mozgov and that is a no brainer. He has been a starter in the NBA, albeit brief, but has been a starter in international ball for years and has proven he can play with the big boys. Koufos is a 12th man.

    2. There are 4 candidates that I see – AAA, Ty, Miller, and Gallo. The most obvious choice is Gallo, but I think any of those other 3 have the potential.

  • chronicnugs

    1. Fact – no one on this roster is capable of replacing Nene, despite his shortcomings. While he isn’t a shot blocker, he understands positioning and uses his quickness and his body well to defend the basket. unlikely anyone on the team will replace his offensive numbers (and the effeciency with which he provides them). No Nene equals lottery, and lottery equals rebuilding.

    2. Mozgov starts with Bird and Koufas playing significant roles in the rotation. Nuggets descend back to the pack at the 5 if Nene departs.

    3. Gallo, Lawson, AA and Nene all score in double figures. Gallo leads the way at 18+ per.

  • Charlie

    Keep the responses coming in, I love getting your guys’ take on the young direction the Nuggets are heading

    • Tommy4daNuggz4ever

      We love all the article you all put up keep them coming yall

  • gk4prez

    1. Fact, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the run with the old cast of characters has come to an end. I remember when Camby was traded to the Clippers and everyone thought the Nuggets were going to take a major step back, how did that turn out? Of course this situation is quite a bit different because Kmart is also gone, along with the instant offense off of the bench.

    2. It is Mozzy’s job to lose

    3. I think it will be similar to last year where a different guy leads the team in scoring on a nightly basis. I can see several players hovering around the 15 ppg mark. But, for the sake of picking someone, I will go with the Italian.

  • dagus1976

    1. Fiction. We would first have to MISS the playoffs to say we are rebuilding. If we make or miss the playoffs it will not be because of Nene’s presence or absence. I have always seen him as a non-factor because of his lack of contribution in the 4th quarters. He just disappears in crunch time. I’m actually hoping to get rid of him. I told myself for the last 9 years that he will finally get it, and he will become the beast that we have always hoped. I’ve just lost faith, and I think we’ve seen him play his best basketball.

    2. I’m actually gonna go with Koufos, and not because I’m certain that he is the best choice, but because of who is choosing who the starter is…..George Karl. I just can’t think of a single time in George’s career that he chose the lumbering white guy as the starting center. Koufos just happens to be a little less lumbering.

    3. Gallinari is the obvious choice, because of the volume of shots to passes. This however, is not good for us. I think what made us so good last year after the trade is how unselfish we were. Defenses couldn’t gameplan against us because we had so many weapons. I think the best thing for us is if we have 4 guys average 15 or more. Namely, Gallinari, AAA, Lawson and (insert free agent pick up.)

  • dagus1976

    Btw, I think Faried is more than capable of 15 ppg if he can get 27-33 minutes a night. But will George allow it??

  • Finazz

    Now that teams have to use 85% of the cap this year and 90% in coming years. Is any team really RE-BUILDING any more. The whole point of re-building is to save cap space (and hard cash) and get young talented players which could turn into great players. That’s not possible anymore and if a team is going to spend 85% they are going to want to spend it on the best players not kids straight out of collage.
    We have cap space this year and (which I think everyone is forgetting) we have been a playoff team for the last 5 odd years. Denver might not be a big market but getting top players has to be a chance for us.
    We should be looking at getting Tyson chandlers services. His looking at low teams (Indiana, GS) pay him the same amount and we could get him. And still have enought to retain nene. Yep we would be at the cap limit. But with a young cord and nene at PF and chandler at C we would be in good shape this year and the next few. We show pontenal and we could get a vet cheap in years to come.
    Any thoughts anyone???

    • http://roundballminingcompany.com Kalen

      I’d be all for it, but I don’t know if Chandler would even come here let alone Nene. But yeah, I’m all on board for Chandler.

      • FinazzAus

        My thinking is nene might commit if he plays PF and sees a future in the club. I might be total wrong. But let’s be honest this would be fun if we knew exactlly what everyone was going to do

  • Michael (anotheraussienuggzfan)

    1. Fiction. I think the rebuilding process started with the Melo trade. Nene leaving will be a blow for sure, as would paying him a max contract for more mediocre stats. Losing K-mart, JR and Nene along with the earlier Melo trade, more accurately depicts the cause of the rebuild than just Nene leaving.

    2. I’m going to say say Mozgov, as I know he is most likely to get it. I have previously mentioned my support of Kosta, I think he has a much better jump shot than Moz and possibly better end to end speed but Moz appears to be a better post player. With Gallo playing outside along with our other perimeter players we will need a target down low and Moz seems to be a better fit as Kosta is more of a shooter than post guy.

    3. I’m going with Gallo just over Ty and AAA. I don’t think miller gets close due to the organisation wanting to see what Gallo can accomplish and Ty getting more minutes and having more confidence to take his shot. This means miller will only get the odd 15 ft jumper or inside move/post up on smaller gaurds, while being more of a distributer (hoping to see some old school Oops to Birdman and Manimal). AAA will still be getting his corner 3’s and continue his aggressive drives and pull ups that he showed flashes of last season.