5-on-5: Second-half predictions

While the 3-on-3 articles have become a popular series here at Roundball Mining Company, every now and then we like to get you, the reader, more involved in the process. Thus, 5-on-5 is born. Though we encourage everyone to give their own opinions on the following questions in the comments section below, a select few who follow us on Twitter have been invited to become an integral part of the article itself. This time around, Nuggets fans Joe Beebe and Mitchell Carroll will join Jeremy, Charlie and I to weigh in on the second half of the 2011-12 Nuggets season. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to ensure the next time we go looking for fan participants, you’ll be there to answer the call.

1. What are the roles of the Nuggets’ rookies moving forward and which player’s minutes will be cut if Karl decides to utilize them more?

Jeremy: The only way the rookies will see consistent minutes for the Nuggets this season is if they continue to be decimated by injuries. With the potential of having a complete roster available and the fact the most physically taxing portions of Denver’s schedule have past, the rookies may be back to cheering from the padded folding chairs. I could see Faried getting some minutes here and there to spark the team, and Stone has shown he could be effective in offensive or defensive situations late in games as a defender. Of course, Karl has shown very little tendency to go that route.

Charlie: Faried is the only one I could see carving out a meaningful role this season. We’ve already seen Birdman’s minutes reduced and it seems like the next step for Faried is to earn that responsibility of backing up Nene full-time. I still doubt Birdman is traded and I think the rest of the season will see him split time with Koufos or Faried depending on the in-game situation. Stone and Hamilton won’t play when the team gets healthy but with Faried’s emergence this month I believe Karl will have a hard time keeping him glued to the bench going forward.

Kalen: Being that Karl recently proclaimed Faried has earned a spot in the rotation, I have no reason to believe otherwise. This should eliminate Birdman almost entirely from the Nuggets rotation, and thus, increases what urgency there is to trade him. Hamilton and Stone, on the other hand, are intriguing for the simple fact that both have shown promise at different times, however, with Fernandez and Miller still around it’s hard to see either of those guys relinquishing their role for a rookie. If the Nuggets continue to falter, Stone and Hamilton could be in line for a few more minutes than they’re used to seeing.

Mitchell: For Faried, being Sixth Man Extraordinaire or the starting power forward at the expense of Birdman, Mozgov and Koufos is possible. The “Manimal” is a double-double machine waiting to happen. As for the other two, I see Julyan Stone playing far more minutes than Jordan Hamilton, and for one reason: depth. Andre Miller won’t be here long (let’s be honest), and Stone is a perfect back-up to Ty Lawson. Jordan Hamilton, unfortunately, plays behind Gallo, Wilson Chandler (when he gets here), Harrington and Corey Brewer, and thus will remain at the end of the bench, a la former Nuggets, Sonny Weems and Gary Forbes.

Joe: I think the Nuggets rookies are in three completely different roles with George Karl. Kenneth Faried is a sure-fire rotation player. Look for Karl to put Nene back in the center spot and utilize Mozgov and Birdman less and less as he develops. It’s unfortunate Julyan Stone is backing up Andre Miller because Karl barely knows anyone else exists at the point guard position. Jordan Hamilton’s shot selection and lack of defensive intensity will continue to hamper his playing time but we’ll see if Karl can coach him up, because as we saw in the Clipper game, he’s a real talent.

2. What lies ahead for the Nuggets on the other side of the All-Star break, more struggles or a return to its winning ways?

Jeremy: I fully expect to see Denver get back to playing the kind of ball that had them as the second best team in the West over the first two months of the season. The good news is they are playing hard, just not particularly well. Once their offensive weapons are back, their defensive shortcomings are not as costly, at least until the Playoffs arrive.

Charlie: I don’t believe the Nuggets are going to return to the team that was 14-5 to start the year. My main concern is the defense which has been spiraling downward as the season wears on with no evidence to suggest it will improve. The Nuggets are struggling to win at home and I don’t see them flipping a switch and reverting to dominance overnight. Realistically I think the Nuggets will play a little better than .500 ball the rest of the way and fight a close race down the stretch for one of the final playoff seeds.

Kalen: It all depends on injuries in conjunction with Wilson Chandler. If the Nuggets continue to remain banged up, even with Chandler, wins will be hard to come by. However, if the team can somehow manage to regain its health, then add Chandler on top of what is an already dangerous lineup, I suspect wins could pile up rapidly in March and April. Sadly, in order for this to happen the Nuggets must virtually win the lottery considering how bad its luck has been this year.

Mitchell: The Nuggets will trend upward unless for some reason injuries continue to haunt the team. With close losses lately, the addition of Nene and Gallinari can only help the Nuggets chances in tight games. Adding Wilson Chandler will benefit the Nuggets greatly, and if Masai Ujiri can package Miller and Birdman for an athletic big (perhaps a Jason Thompson type), the Nuggets will finish the season as the contenders they were at the start of it.

Joe: I think time is the best remedy for the Nuggets woes as we can tell this team is worn down. Al Harrington CANNOT be the best player on the court for a playoff team so when Gallinari, Ty, and Nene regain strength, the team will as well. You’ve got to look for positives as we’ve seen some great upside from Afflalo and Faried recently. I believe by the end of March, this Nuggets team will be more and more recognizable from the team we saw start on such a hot streak.

3. If re-signed, what type of deal do you see Wilson Chandler receiving from the Nuggets and how will he fit in upon his return?

Jeremy: At this point I believe it is a 50-50 proposition that Chandler will sign with Denver this season. I have believed a middle-of-the-road deal such as a three year, $21 million contract makes the most sense for both sides. Should Chandler sign, he will start at small forward as long as Gallinari remains out. And while I would like to see him playing shooting guard in a big lineup, most likely he will be a power forward in a small one. He is not as good of a scorer as Gallinari, but can surely provide a more well-rounded backup role once he returns.

Charlie: I think a three-year deal for Chandler is the most likely as it will allow him to get back to the league now and keep his options open going forward. In a long-term sense, Chandler’s addition replaces the need for Harrington and opens up minutes for the talented young bigs. In the short-term, I think he’ll cut into Rudy and Brewer’s minutes primarily as Karl adjusts to the team being healthy again. He should work fine next to Harrington for now and he’ll help Karl ease Gallinari back into the rotation and perhaps rely on him less, especially in the ultra-small lineups where Gallinari has struggled.

Kalen: As Masai Ujiri stated just a few days ago, the Nuggets are only interested in a long-term deal with Chandler. By long-term, I’m thinking roughly four years at around $32 million. This is basically what Chandler is worth on the open market and unless Ujiri can somehow manage to get Chandler and his agent to give in to a cheaper deal (not likely), this is probably what he’ll get. If he does return, it’s hard to imagine him fitting in perfectly right away. He’ll have some adjusting to do, but within a few weeks, he should settle into a solid backup role.

Mitchell: Wilson Chandler is exactly what this Nuggets squad needs: defense and scoring. For salary cap flexibility in the future, I would imagine Chandler would get a deal somewhere in the realm of three or four years at around nine or 10 million per year. As well as Brewer has played, I like Chandler better in almost every aspect of the game, except maybe energy. It will be interesting to see the internal competition for playing time on the wing moving forward. A five of Ty, Chandler, Gallinari, Faried and Nene would be tough for any team to match up with.

Joe: Wilson Chandler is my soft spot. I believe he is worth six-to-eight million a year but the Nuggets have no reason to panic with the price tag. Every team with interest (Toronto) can only sign him to a cheap deal which is a STEAL for the Nuggets, especially when you realize Birdman would have to be amnestied. Look for Wilson to either sit the season out and play the restricted market, or for the Nuggets to lock him up for a great, inexpensive price. Wilson Chandler can make his own shot, defend four different positions and be a stud in the role Al Harrington is playing now.

4. What is the one thing George Karl can do (besides magically cure his players’ injuries) to ensure the Nuggets get back to winning basketball games?

Jeremy: Hold them accountable to high expectations. The primary weapon a coach has available to him is playing time. It is difficult to sit a player down for not doing what is expected of him when everyone needs to play due to the injuries. We have seen instances where Birdman or Faried has been removed from the game and not reinserted, but on a team with depth and versatility more players need to know, if I do not do what is expected of me, I may not get back in the game. It is a difficult line to hold as you do not want players looking over their shoulder at the coach every time they make a mistake, but they need to know if they are not getting the job done, someone else will.

Charlie: Tighten up the execution in close games. I can think of at least three or four times off the top of my head where the Nuggets have given up a layup late in a game where one stop seals the win. Offensively they aren’t much better as almost every game winning attempt has ended in some kind of isolation with the guards taking forever to get things moving. Improving the defense must be the focus going forward and I think Karl has to realize that — even if it means reduced roles for his “trust” guys in Miller and Harrington.

Kalen: Stop making excuses. I’m tired of always hearing why the Nuggets lost. To fans, it doesn’t matter why they lost, it’s the simple fact THAT they lost! It seems with the Nuggets right now, winning and losing (the entire goal of playing sports in the first place) have become a bit blurry. There are far too many “moral victories” that are being passed off as actual victories. Karl needs to get his team’s mindset back to winning by any means necessary. This requires playing defense, executing plays and finishing games like a professional basketball team — not a pickup squad.

Mitchell: Keep doing what he’s doing no matter what the media says. This team was as hot as any early in the season, but a rash of injuries coupled with a tough schedule made for a couple of rough weeks for Nuggets fan. Once this team is healthy, and if they can keep on running and stay focused on defense, it can, and will, get back to winning ball games.

Joe: George needs to forget his allegiances. If I see Harrington and Miller dominate the ball for 15 seconds every shot clock, I’m not going to be surprised when the Nuggets lose. George needs to put guys on the floor who can move the ball and let the hot hand take over. Much has been said by Nuggets fans about Karl’s deficiencies but to say he hasn’t made this young roster better even with minimal practice is a lie. He just needs to let the young guys have fun again and implore less dribbling.

5. In the end, where do the Nuggets end up being seeded come playoff time and how far can they go depending on that position?

Jeremy: I think it will be very difficult for Denver to get a top four seed with the way Oklahoma City, Dallas, San Antonio and the Clippers are playing. Still, all it would take is one injury for the tables to be turned. Ultimately I expect to see Denver finish fifth and lose in the first round, although they would give any of those teams a difficult series.

Charlie: I’m no longer sold on the Nuggets making the playoffs. There’s been about five or six games where the Nuggets have completely failed to show up and never had a chance at winning. I’m not sure those habits and the poor defense can change overnight. The other thing to worry about is another stretch of bad luck and adversity derailing the team all over again. It’s going to be very close and run down to the wire but assuming the Nuggets do stay healthy they’ll compete for the seven or eight seed. Playoff basketball seems to be Kryptonite for the Nuggets style this year and I think they need more time and experience to win in that slow-down, half-court style of play. A series win as a low seed is out of the question.

Kalen: Like I said, it all depends on injuries and Wilson Chandler, although if I had to bet, I’d say the Nuggets make a strong push for the Playoffs in the second half of the season and ultimately end up being seeded anywhere from eight to four. As long as the Nuggets can get healthy come Playoff time and avoid either the Spurs or Thunder, I think anything is possible. HOW-EVA… if you want my honest opinion, I see the Nuggets once again drawing the Thunder or Spurs and being bounce in the first round — for the millionth time.

Mitchell: The Nuggets need to avoid that dreaded eighth spot at all costs. A first-round matchup with the Thunder will most likely result in a sweep. The Nuggets just cannot match up with them at all. However, I could see them beating a team like the Clippers or the Mavericks without home-court advantage. A visit to the second-round would be overachieving for the team at this point.

Joe: The Nuggets, as constructed, are a playoff team. Whether they achieve this goal is all based on health. At 100 percent (including my boy, Chandler) they are a top four seed in the West. Unfortunately, that promises you nothing in the Playoffs. The Nuggets half-court offense is like watching paint dry and every bit as exciting. Good teams will make you beat them with your offensive sets and force your defense to stop the pick-and-roll which the Nuggets can’t. I unfortunately see an early playoff exit unless we see a major development cycle which is all up to Karl who needs to re-earn his respect with the front office and fan base.

  • Cody

    Wow charlie great optimism, your not sold on denver making the playoffs? did you not watch them when they were healthy? good to see you know what your talking about

    • Dubz

      He’s been debbie downer all year

  • Zachm219

    They said I was coming to the dark side, but I don’t know, I think I’m going to like it over here

  • Charlie

    I predicted the Nuggets would make the playoffs with a healthy roster. The only reason I emphasized not being sold is because there’s this sense out there that the Nuggets are guaranteed to get in and it’s basically unthinkable that the Nuggets might not be good enough to make it.

    Based on what I have seen this season, I don’t get that. Of course this team is good and would make the playoffs if nothing ever went wrong, but whose to say that happens? The fundamental play on the court is inconsistent and has had ongoing problems since the season began which have not been fixed.

    Just put it this way, let’s say Gallo comes back, plays great for 10 games and then has a freak toe injury – out 2-3 more weeks. Isn’t the season over then? Based on what we’ve seen in the past few weeks, it’s a good enough excuse for the team to drop quite a few. You can’t just assume this recent losing streak was all bad luck and now the rest of the season will be free of injuries and adversity.

  • evan

    Nuggets get 2nd in the west and beat the Bulls in the finals..

    Just wait. You’ll see.

    • Zach

      It could happen?

  • james

    pass that stuff this way evan

    • Andrew

      Mm Hmm, yeah, I want some too.

  • Thomas

    With Karl as coach, you will still see a lot of Andre Miller (two guard rotation), a lot of Rudy and a lot of Harrington, therefore a lot of mediocrity moving forward. You won’t see Faried earning starter minutes and Stone will get garbage time only, therefore our defense will continue to be atrocious. You won’t see KK playing as much as he should. You will see Chandler most of the time playing behind Gallo, instead of along him.

    Don’t you see why he rides the old guys, or the European dude? He is old and mediocre. The players he counts on therefore are old and mediocre as he thinks he has to prove that “old” can be succesfull. He doesn’t want to risk anything, he wants to collect his fat paycheck and accumulate victories (and a lot of losses) to be up there in the statistics versus other coaches.

    Analyze his comments and you will understand that a championship is not his objective. Do you think you will ever see Pop saying “if we win 5 out of the next 10 we will be in good shape” or “this was a good loss” or “our shots are just not falling” time and time again.

    Wake up, guys. Focus on the disease, not the symptoms.

    • Andrew

      Totally agree on the problem here.

    • Dubz

      I have a feeling Karl has a poster in his bedroom with the total amount of REGULAR SEASON victories he has won. He seems more than content with being a great REGULAR SEASON coach, and a pathetic playoff coach. It’s sad and unfortunate.

  • steve

    honestly we need to continue making the most of our future. Andre Miller, Birdman and most likely Rudy F are not a part of it. I hope our GM sees this as well and isn’t afraid to make a move that might upset GK.

    I’d love to see us trade Andre Miller to the Lakers for Darius Morris and the 1st they received from Dallas. Rumors have it that LA wants an upgrade at PG and with an expiring deal in dre, they might do it. LA has the trade exception they received from the odom deal that wouldn’t count towards the cap. If we did this trade, i wouldnt mind spinning the 1st for Jason Thompson in Sactown like i read earlier. I have mentioned JT several times when i’ve posted trades on here. He’s an athletic 6’11 big man that has some range on his jump shot and doesnt seem to be in their plans. He’s a RFA and could probably bring him back in a 3-5 mill per year range.

    I’d love to trade birdman as well but that will be tough. He or Al are the amnesty candidates at the end of the year. If we bring back chandler, why have Al honestly? No need for both.

  • ParkHillNative

    I really really hate to say it, but I think the Spurs would absolutely destroy the Nuggets in a playoff series. They have an extremely efficient offense and I think their 3-point shooters would torch the Nuggets over and over and over. And I don’t think the Nuggets would have an easy time scoring on them, either.

    I’m trying to get in the mindset that this is basically a new team. It’s gotten pretty tiresome watching the Nuggets lose in the first round almost every year, but right now we’re in the same place as we were around 2004 or 2005. A new team, one that’s doing well just to make the playoffs, and will have to build from there.

  • Eddie

    “Wilson Chandler is exactly what this Nuggets squad needs: defense and scoring.”

    Isn’t that what every team needs?

  • eddi0

    Someone on Yahoo Sports is saying Chandler is thinking of playing the rest of the season in Italy to “keep him in game-shape”. Not sure if he realizes it but Nugs have the upperhand in this situation, with his restricted free-agency. Gut tells me he doesn’t want to sign a long-term deal with DEN otherwise it would already be done. He likely will test the waters in (restricted) free agency this summer and we’ll do a sign/trade for some compensation for him.

    • Kalen

      I’m starting to think Chandler signing in Italy might actually be a good thing. That way the Nuggets can do a straight up sign-and-trade this summer.

  • Andrew

    1. Faried will get some playing time, reduced once Gallo and Nene are back…and if Chandler signs. Sadly, Hamilton and Stone will mostly ride the pine once Ty Law, Rudy, Gallo are back.
    2. Assuming healthy, they will play better against the easier schedule, but not like they were at the beginning of the season.
    3. 3 year deal.
    4. Start coaching at the end of games and resist the temptation to keep Miller and Al in even when they are exhausted and/or ineffective.
    5. Anywhere between 6-8. They won’t be lucky enough to finish out of the playoffs and get a shot at the lottery. They also won’t be lucky enough to catch the top 4 teams, even though they will play better once healthy. Those teams won’t use enough to allow it.

  • Dubz

    With this team it never seems to be about ability, but execution. I have a feeling they will find a way to make it into the playoffs, and Karl will pronounce this as a “victory” for the franchise and they’ll get destroyed in the 1st round. The only way they don’t lose in the first round is if they play the Clippers, probably the only other playoff team with a HC who’s on GK’s level (The rest way out class GK) I believe Nene isn’t going to be fully healthy for the rest of the season so it gives Karl a good excuse to keep playing Faried. I hope Chandler comes to the Nuggets long term, but he absolutely should not play SG. He’s a SF that can play the PF really well. I agree that he should play alongside Gallo, not simply back him up. This team has all the pieces, I just have no confidence in Karl taking them to the next level. He’s done a brilliant job keeping this team more or less together, but we’ve seen Karl’s full potential. He will NEVER WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP.

  • J-Money

    Agree with the takes above, love RMC, read it every day. Loved the guy Mitchell’s takes on the questions, you guys should add him as a fourth distributor. It’d be nice to have more content, Thanks for the time and effort RMC.
    .

  • Thomas

    Can we use the amnesty clause on Karl? Now that would be the sure fire way to kick start this team.

  • Juan

    Karl should use Nene faried gallo(chandler) arron and ty in the starting lineup, he need to trust in the youd talent cuz the old ones are not going to give a championship to denver in the future, we know miller is probably to left in the next season. Also i think denver should trade kk for some draft picks taking into account that his spot easy could be replaced by Faried cuz manimal had shown that he have a lot of talent and energy. I’ll like to continue seeing a fast denver team.

    • allAround

      @juan

      Faried cannot be placed as C that KK is .
      Plus I see no difference between Faried and KK in terms of productivity . (Personally, I think that KK can be more productive in terms of scoring as long as he gets balls . KK has more moves )
      Anyway, for nuggets is very good to both have them , and what is even better is that both are quite young ( same age ) and talented. What sucks is that should play around 20 – 24 minutes and be given some trust but ahhhhh