In our second installment of the 3-on-3 series we’ll be examining Nene’s impact on the future of the Nuggets organization now that he has re-signed. Tom Ley, author of our recent Fan Mail feature on J.R. Smith, is back again after being the quickest to respond on Twitter to our request for someone to participate in this week’s 3-on-3. If you want to participate next time be sure and follow all of us on Twitter! And as always, don’t be shy to participate by giving your personal responses to the following questions in the comments section below!
Tom: I’m fairly optimistic about the Nuggets’ chances this year, and I don’t think a repeat as the fifth seed in the West is out of the question. The teams that I currently see as undeniably superior are the Mavericks, Lakers, Clippers, and Thunder. The Spurs and Grizzlies are wildcards in my opinion, whose success or failure could greatly swing the Nuggets chances one way or the other. For now though, I’m hoping for a five seed.
Kalen: The only teams I think Denver won’t be able to top are San Antonio and Oklahoma City, otherwise the West looks pretty wide open. The Lakers just gave away the reigning Sixth Man of the Year for nothing, plus they’re injury-plagued and old, meanwhile Dallas lost by far its most important player outside of Dirk in Tyson Chandler, not to mention J.J. Barea and Caron Bulter. If Afflalo re-signs this team is immediately just as deep, if not more so than the team that finished off the year as the hottest in the NBA in 2010-11.
Jeremy: I believe Denver is a lower level playoff team. San Antonio, the Lakers, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis are all clearly better than Denver. Portland is going to be solid, Houston will be decent and of course now the Clippers are a clear playoff team and I believe they will finish ahead of the Nuggets. Their fantastic depth will help win regular season games, and may help them finish ahead of one or two teams who have more talent. However, come playoff time Denver will struggle to defeat one of the top four teams in the West.
Tom: I’m hoping that a return to his comfort zone will mean Nene becomes a much more aggressive offensive player than he was last year. As much as I love to watch Nene pass the ball, I’d like to see him get it on the block and be assertive in ways that he hasn’t in the past. What’s more, I’d love to see him get out and run the floor with Lawson leading the break. If he does all of these things, I’m confident that he can get above 20 points per game while maintaining his patented excellent shooting percentage.
Kalen: About the same as last year. Because he’ll be playing against smaller competition I could see Nene increasing his numbers across the board, but I don’t expect him to suddenly morph into an All-Star like many Nuggets fans do. After ten years in the league, we simply need to accept Nene for who he is, not who we think he should be. He’s never averaged over 15 points or eights rebounds per game in his career and though I could see this changing with a move to power forward, its just as easy seeing it remain the same given the copious amount of depth the Nuggets have across the board that will likely cut down on his playing time.
Jeremy: I do not believe Nene will be putting in a lot of time at power forward until I see it. The truth is, with the current roster Nene remains the best option at center for Denver. Timofey Mozgov is a big body but he’s not particularly talented; plus, with consistent minutes comes consistent foul trouble. Chris Andersen can play center, but that option has been available to George Karl in the past without being utilized. Karl has constantly had the option of going big or small and he almost exclusively chooses to play small. Nene will certainly play more at power forward than in the past, but I honestly do not think it will be as much as others are projecting and when it’s all said and done, Nene will most likely post his typical 15 and 7.5.
Tom: I’m officially concerned about Faried’s future. Karl’s comments from earlier in the week about Faried’s minutes were less than encouraging, and that was before Nene re-signed. I see Karl sticking to a rotation of Nene/Harrington/Mozgov/Koufos and burying Faried on the bench. This is unfortunate, because I think Faried could be a fantastic energy guy off the bench in the mold of Glen Davis or DeJuan Blair. It’s much more likely that Faried will spend this season acting as the Nuggets token dreadlocked bench warmer, in lieu of the dearly departed Renaldo Balkman.
Kalen: This is a tough pill to swallow for a diehard Manimal fan like me. Though I never, ever, actually wanted Nene to leave, there was always that notion back in the deep, dark caverns of my mind that was OK with it simply so that more playing time would open up for Faried. If Nene gets too comfortable at the power forward spot I pray Faried doesn’t find himself the subject of trade bait. However, I still think once Faried gets going Karl will be forced to forgo his stubborn habit of mistreating rookies, as his energy and rebounding prowess simply cannot be ignored. I fully expect Faried to play a big role this season and for years to come with the Nuggets.
Jeremy: As you may expect from my previous answer I see Faried playing power forward, probably even alongside Nene at times. If Nene has to play center as much as I anticipate he will, Faried is the best option at power forward. He will rebound and plays with great energy. It may take a while for George Karl to warm up to him, but I suspect by the midpoint of the season Faried will be putting in consistent minutes. I cannot see Karl playing Al Harrington more than Faried, at least I hope I do not have to see that. The rookie who has seen his playing time disappear based on the handful of moves over the previous couple of days is Jordan Hamilton. Faried will be fine.
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