3-on-3: Buy or sell?

At this juncture in the season it’s not hard to find yourself wondering which aspects of the Nuggets team are real and which are nothing more than a fleeting trend. In our latest 3-on-3 we’ve decided to tackle some of the most prominent “buy or sell” candidates through the first 17 games of the 2011-12 campaign in order to better gauge Nuggets Nation’s perception and expectations of these issues. As always, we invite you to weigh in on the questions we pose by leaving your answers in the comments section below.

1. Buy or Sell: Al Harrington will maintain his fast start to the season

Charlie: Buy. I have been wrong about Harrington too many times to keep convincing myself he’s a bad player. Is 53 percent shooting a bit much to ask for all season? Absolutely, but the Nuggets won’t need that from him once Harrington’s teammates pick up their share of the scoring load more consistently. Fifteen points, over five rebounds and around two 3-pointers per game is not unreasonable to expect from a motivated Al Buckets. More importantly, he’s embraced a leadership role and seems to be demanding more out of himself despite not being the greatest defender or post player on the team. As long as Karl keeps Harrington in this low-minute, high-usage role I see him continuing to thrive as an important part of the team. Al needs to be careful about derailing himself with his shot selection. The past few games he was asked to do too much and he needs to resist creating for himself except as a last resort. I was wrong about Harrington — and if he keeps working off teammates for great shots those opportunities will continue to be there for him all season.

Jeremy: Sell.  I know I am going to get hammered for being pessimistic, but he is playing at such a high level it boggles my mind how he could continue.  I am not saying Harrington will cease to be effective, I just have to wonder if at his age he can maintain this kind of performance. Only twice in his now 14-year career has he posted a PER above 16.  So far this season his PER is 20.49! He is setting career highs in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per minute and rebound rate. His percentages are as out of whack from the rest of his career as his PER. The chances of Al maintaining that level of play are extremely remote. He does have a few things going in his favor: He is in great shape and does not need to play 30 or 35 minutes a night. If he can make it to the All-Star break without falling off much the Nuggets have only two back-to-backs after that point to close out the season, which should help his legs stay fresh. If Harrington maintains this pace all season long, it should be one of the biggest individual stories in the NBA.

Kalen: Buy. I was amazed at how well Harrington started off the season but figured at some point he’d cool down. Well, here we are with the completion of about one-third of the 66-game schedule right around the corner and “Medium Sized Al” has yet to show any signs of regression. His shooting percentage continues to remain the model of efficiency for a small forward in today’s NBA, while his pride, “clutchness” and perpetually optimistic attitude are the exact remedy the doctor ordered for the Nuggets post-Carmelo Anthony. Will his production likely take a hit as exhaustion from such a tumultuous schedule sets in? I think so, but I don’t see it wavering as much as some might like to suggest. At the end of the year, I still fully expect Al Buckets to be shooting above 50 percent from the field all while contending for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

2. Buy or Sell: By the end of the year, Timofey Mozgov will have cemented himself as the Nuggets’ starting center moving forward

Charlie: Buy. Mozgov is not only the best center on the roster (by a nice margin), he is also the best big man prospect Denver has seen in a long time. The job of starting center on this team is for a role player. Similar to Dahntay Jones, Mozgov comes in to set the tone defensively, be a fourth option on offense and keep the game under control while a high powered second unit gets ready to blow the doors off. Mozgov and Nene have started games slowly this year, but both are coming along and a little patience has already gone a long way. It’s no coincidence the two biggest games of the season have featured breakout performances from the young Russian center. Mozgov moves his feet very well for a 7-footer and he can step out and guard the perimeter without being a complete liability. He stays on his feet against jump shooting bigs who routinely bait Birdman out of the middle with ease. His touch around the rim is improving as is his willingness to mix it up with more physical players down low. Nuggets fans have never valued perimeter defense and below-the-rim play over high-flying athletes and box score numbers. The Nuggets will not find a better center outside of a major move via trade or free agency and I just don’t see that happening.

Jeremy: Buy. I do not think Mozgov will be a force deserving of 30 minutes a game, but he has shown that he can raise his game in big match-ups (i.e. against Miami and New York as well as L.A. last season). I do not anticipate Denver being in the position to acquire anyone better than he is. I have been pleasantly surprised with Mozgov’s play this season although I would like to see a higher rebound rate and a lower turnover rate. He has made strides this season and there is no reason not to expect more.

Kalen: Sell. Although Mozgov has recently impressed me, I’m still not sold on him even being a legitimate starting center in the NBA. While he has steadily improved and occasionally shown flashes of athleticism and an ability to score, these moments are heavily outweighed by long stretches of wondering aimlessly about, committing terrible fouls and missing elementary shot attempts. I honestly think Nuggets Nation is fascinated with the idea of having a legitimate, young 7-footer on the roster for the first time in years which leads to an overwhelming leniency with his play on the court. The fact is: Mozgov and the center position in general is by far the weakest link on the team. The Nuggets are sound at every other position on the floor except center and if Denver truly wants to contend for a title this is something that must be upgraded sooner rather than later.

3. Buy or Sell: The Nuggets will finish the year above .500 on the road

Charlie: Buy. The Nuggets have played their most competitive basketball on the road thus far. They haven’t been blown out and have literally been in position to win every one of these games deep into the fourth quarter. This is the year to have a deep, unselfish team playing at a faster pace than everyone else. It’s not like the Nuggets have been playing a cakewalk road schedule either. They haven’t given me a reason to doubt their resolve or their confidence playing on the road. I’ve always thought Karl’s coaching style and methodology wasn’t compatible with success outside of Denver, but I’ll gladly trade some of the usual home dominance for better effort and more consistency on the road. After all, that’s much closer to how “normal” good teams operate.

Jeremy: Buy, but it is going to be very, very close.  As we have discussed, this team is built perfectly for this regular season. Denver has done a reasonably good job of enforcing their pace in games on the road, which is a big key for them as they cannot consistently win games with their defense. Looking at their record and the schedule, they need 11 more road wins to get to 17-16 for the season.  They have anywhere from four to six easy wins depending on how difficult you think it is to play at Golden State, at New Orleans (they cannot be a .100 home team all season can they?) and at Phoenix. Then Denver will have to win half of their other road games against teams like Memphis, the Clippers, Oklahoma City and so on. I believe they can do it and if they take care of home court advantage, it should earn them a top two or three seed at the worst.

Kalen: Although I really, really want to say “buy,” history tells me otherwise, therefore I’m going to have to sell. Yes, the Nuggets have played extremely well on the road this season, and yes, their depth along with a condensed schedule should greatly benefit Denver away from Pepsi Center, but keep in mind, the recent four-game road winning streak was the first one in franchise history! For whatever reason, the Nuggets simply do not play well away from home and it’s too hard for me to believe that trend will cease to continue this year when Denver has had some extremely talented teams in years past that couldn’t get it done before. Plus, Karl just doesn’t value winning on the road like other coaches do. He’s often preached that as long as the Nuggets go .500 away from Denver, that’s acceptable basketball. Until he proves otherwise and until this team takes a monumental step forward in this category, I will continue to remain a skeptic.

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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.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • Aaron

    I’d say it’s more likely that the Nuggets get back to blowing teams out at home. To me, that’s more of a key than winning more on the road. They need to get DIVISION wins at home against Portland and OKC.

    I’m a little worried about the Harrington thing because I think there’s about 4 games this year so far that we don’t win without him going off.

    Who’s going to change that? I’m hoping it’s Afflalo taking up the slack really soon here. He needs to have double figures (10-15 pts) and more of a passing presence each night. Perhaps Gallo will step up more consistently as well. I think that NY game was really big for his confidence and we shouldn’t have anymore no-shows from him.

    We need to stop relying on hero games from Andre Miller and Al.

  • CCH

    Buy on plus 500 for the road. This team doesn’t waste possesions or shot clocks and has a desire to win. Teams are going to have to beat us every night, because this Nuggets squad plays the right way. First time the nuggets have ever had a squad like this.

  • dynamo.joe

    1. Buy. There will probably be a regression to the mean, but I guess I’ve bought in to the narrative that Al’s trouble last year were injury related.

    2. Buy. From what we have seen, barring injury, no one else will get the opportunity, so Moz gets it by default. We have seen flashes of Moz as a legitimate starting center. The biggest knock on him offensively is probably his pass catching ability or his teammates lack of confidence is his pass catching ability. Every game you will see a wide open Moz ignored and i don’t think its his 50% fg% that has his teammates looking to other more closely guarded options.

    3. Buy. Only because of the compressed schedule. This season just aligns too well with the Nugs strengths.

  • http://www.herbalremediesworld.com/index.html sgiustra

    Seems pretty clear that the Nuggets should be a regular season force. As for the playoffs, their success will hinge, not on Nene, or Ty, or Gallo, or even the bench.

    It hinges on Mozgov. If Mozzy continues to improve he will offer a suitable 4th offensive option, lots of easy dunks, will discourage free drives to the basket, work with Nene to assert in the paint and save Nene the wear and tear of banging with the opponents big bruising centers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405407555 Sky

      Thank you for the hntseoy and humor of this post. Let me be the asshole to tell you that the biggest mistake you made was CARING. Put the food in front of them and walk away. No begging at all. No buffet. No angst. It’s that easy. That is a sure-fire way to raise a good eater.

  • Ernie

    I want to believe the road record but this team isn’t blowing anyone out like they did late last season. I enjoyed the 4 game road win streak as much as anyone, but they were all close games including two that went to overtime. Let’s see if they can dominate the Kings tomorrow on the road after being well rested.

    • Luis

      satisfied?

      • Daniel

        I am. :)

        • Luis

          me too

  • Jason

    1. Sell. But this answer depends on how you define maintain. I fully expect Al to maintain his fine, amazing play all year, so in that regard I am a Buy mode. But I agree with Jeremy in that I think it is doubtful he maintains the efficiency he is putting up right now. I definitely do not expect a huge dropoff, but some has to be expected.

    2. Buy. Though I am not sold entirely that he is the long term answer at Center, he is showing that he has a lot of skill to bring to the position. And he is still young. I think if he can become more confident and play with a chip on his shoulder like he did vs. NY, he will be a solid starting Center for us for years. Plus, I think it is doubtful that Denver is able to upgrade that position. It is hard to find a great Center, and Mozgov is more than serviceable, so I think he remains our Center.

    3. Sell. They are 6-3 right now and off to a great start, but…it is a long year. And while I think it is entirely possible, and I hope they prove me wrong, I just think the chances they finish 17-16 or better is going to be hard to achieve. That would require a 11-13 remaining record. Seems doable, but that will be tough.

  • finazzAus

    hay jeremey, i think you were mistaken when you said we only have 2 back2back after the all star weekend. by my records we have 5 back2backs after the all star game.

  • Michael (anotheraussienuggzfan)

    On an unrelated matter… How was Melo’s performance against the Bobcats… 0-7 for a total of 1 point to go with 11 rebounds in 30 mins.

    However the Knicks won easily.

  • finazzaus

    1- buy, he may not maintain this great start thus far this year bbut even if he drops 5ppg, 1-2 rpg and maybe 5% shooting thats basiclly what your gwtting from any other player off the bench in any other team (minus the likes of terry ect ect)

    2- BUY BUY BUY. he isnt the best centre in the world right now but every game shows us soemthing different. his mid range jumper if secound best in the league for a centrre (behind bosh) his running the floor better every night and we are only paying him $2.5mill we are not going to get better C for that. yes i agree he needs to get more agressive but with conferdence comes a more angre player.

    3- buy, but only just we have a really hard road run later in the year and we play some quility teams. i think from here on in we will go just below .500 but with our good record already we will stay over there. the danger games for us are the home games. i know we can win most of them but we are expect to as well. when we play bulls in chicago or thunder there or even orlando away if we lose them no one will sit up and go whooo. but if we lose at home ppl start to look. nail all the home games and we will be set.

  • steve

    Buy – Al is in beast mode and he knows he has to continue or he could get amnestied. He loves playing in Denver. Im sure at times he may get cold but i think for the most part he will continue to be a gamer for us.

    Sell – I do think Moz will be our starting C all year. BUT, we have money to make a move next season and this is the position to upgrade. We have a bunch of guys that should see more PT that others teams will want. Mozgov, Rudy and Brewer all get good run but are either RFA next year or contracts expire after next year. Then you have KK who isnt getting any run but most ppl think should. We also have two young rookies in the waiting. At this point, i cant see us holding onto all these guys and we are going to make a move and my guess is it’s at C.

    Buy – I do think we will go .500 or better. We have the depth to play hard every game. Most teams cant say that. Especially with the lack of back to backs later on in season if that is true. (havent studied schedule that closely). We will catch other teams playing back to backs and even on road we should have more energy.

    Btw, i love these 3 for 3s. Keep them up guys. Great job all around!

  • Max

    As everyone else has said, no way he can stay “that” good, but Al will continue to produce. As a leader, a play-maker, and a scorer Al Buckets has been The Man!

    I like Moz. He’s not a top 3 C but he’s doing what needs to be done. We all think a starting C should get 20 and 10 each night cause that’s what Dwight does, fact is most other C’s don’t. Not to mention Moz plays on a team with a coach that likes “small ball.” Not a ton of need for an elite 7 footer when the style of play is what it is.

    I think the Nugs will go over .500 on the road. Home games are usually blowouts for the home team and road games are the close ones. What has traditionally killed us in the past with close games was when our go-to guy was off (Melo). Now that the whole team could potentially be options depending on the night, I think we’ll win more of these close games which will in turn translate into a better road record.

  • Jeff

    Nice comments about Harrington yall. Glad you have some faith in him now Charlie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405411131 Lars

    Thank you for this alnaizgmy funny narrative. I have almost the same problem except instead of food, it’s books. I am a teacher and my daughter HATES TO READ! So not only am I the world’s worst mother, I am apparently the worst teacher in the world as well. The only reading she ever does is when she is playing her Nintendo DS. But I am confident that in due time my little munchkin, as well as yours, will grow up with healthy eating, reading, sleeping, living, loving and laughing habits. Naysayers be damned.