Everybody Ask Chris: July Edition
With summer league in the rearview mirror and the Nuggets’ major roster transactions all done, it’s time to answer some questions about the team. In the July edition of Everybody Ask Chris, we answer six questions, ranging from new addition Isaiah Thomas to updates on Trey Lyles and Juancho Hernangomez.
Q: Will the Nuggets trade for a 3-D wing? – alfredolauria (@alfredolauria)
A: alfredolauria – I highly doubt this will happen. In fact, I’m going to go to a flat-out no on this one, unless injuries force the team to have to make a move like that. The Nuggets were one of the NBA’s better – and more prolific – 3-point shooting teams last season, ranking sixth in treys made per game (11.5), eighth in attempts (30.9), and seventh in 3-point percentage (37.1). The most major loss to the Nuggets’ 3-point shooting from a year ago was Wilson Chandler, who made 88 from beyond the arc and shot 35.8 percent. And, to a certain extent Devin Harris, who made 35 threes and shot 34.3 percent.
These four players made the majority of the Nuggets 3-pointers last season: Jamal Murray (165), Gary Harris (156), Will Barton (156), and Nikola Jokic (111). I expect the totals for all four to rise in the upcoming season. Add to that Trey Lyles, who will get many more opportunities this season. He made 83 in 2017-18, and shot 38.1 percent from the arc. And there are many more players capable of hitting from deep. That leaves the defense part of the equation. On the perimeter, the Nuggets are hoping for continued defensive improvement from Murray and Barton to boost the team’s profile there. Harris should stay steady as a very good perimeter defender, and Torrey Craig will be on the court more next season, which gives the Nuggets more solid perimeter defense.
Q: Will Trey Lyles actually get to play this year? – Mac Miller (@macsmith215)
A: Mac Miller – Yes, he will. And the Nuggets are going to need him. This will be one of my favorite things to watch this season. In 2017-18, Lyles’ Per 36 averages were 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Even more intriguing? In traditional stats, when he played at least 25 minutes in a game, which occurred 23 times, he averaged 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from the 3-point line. So, both in a realistic sense and in a projected sense, Lyles is a player that profiles to being a highly productive player the more he is on the court.
And I fully expect he will be. Even though the Nuggets signed guard Isaiah Thomas, who will help bench scoring without Will Barton – who moves to the starting lineup – they still need other players to step up as well. Lyles could find that he’s leaned on heavily to provide scoring punch off the bench. I had a chance to see him and really briefly chat with him in Las Vegas during summer league. He’s in phenomenal shape; really lean, and looks ready to embrace a bigger role.
Q: What do you think our bench unit will look like? – Malik Beasley Szn (@petepizza03)
A: Malik Beasley Szn – This is a good question. Right now, I can see the most consistent reserve minutes going to Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles and Torrey Craig. That would put the Nuggets overall rotation at nine players – a number coach Michael Malone has said in the past that he’s comfortable with. Obviously, we’ll see some Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley sprinkle in as well. But I’d say Plumlee, Thomas, Lyles and Craig will get the first crack at being the regulars off the bench.
Q: Didn’t Barton re-sign to be the starting PF as promised? – Papa Thebirdmaann (@Mwerlinger11)
A: Papa Thebirdmaann – I’m glad you asked this. I’ve gotten a couple of variations of this question, and for those wondering, it is in reference to a roster breakdown I tweeted earlier this month. In it, I had Will Barton listed as a guard, though he will be the team’s starting small forward this fall.
The reason is this: Barton is listed as a SF because he’s versatile enough to handle defensive responsibilities there, but what the Nuggets are really playing offensively is a three-guard lineup. Barton, who is a shooting guard by trade, offers the offense another dynamic ball-handler who can get to the rim, shoot from range and make plays for others. What you’ll see during games over the course of the season is a constant rotation of ball-handlers, and interchangeable pieces playing the SF role from possession-to-possession between Barton and Gary Harris. Essentially, whoever is handling the ball, the other two guards get to the deep corners while the offense is initiated up top. They will all have to know what to do in each situation, as well as what they are doing on the many occasions when Nikola Jokic is initiating offense.
Q: What’s up with Juancho? Does he have a chance to play at all this year? – corey shellenberger (@stnwal)
A: corey shellenberger – Absolutely he does. And he’ll be a player to watch during training camp. It will be a quick window into answering the question how ready he is for playing time this season. Last season was an unfortunate circumstance for Hernangomez. He missed a lot of time with mono early on and could never fully recover. Nuggets coach Michael Malone visited Juancho in Spain recently to reinforce that he believes the third-year forward can still play a sizable role on the team. For his part, Juancho has been hitting the weights hard, and is probably the strongest version of himself since entering the league in 2016. He’ll lean out a bit, but his good health is the best news and will give him a chance to get right back on track after a solid rookie season in 16-17.
Q: Is Isaiah Thomas gonna be around long term? – CJ (@cjespinoza18)
A: This is a good question, and it is near impossible to answer now. There are so many variables – Thomas’s health, his good play, the team’s needs, what the future price tag would be, his personal preferences on teams and roles, etc. I couldn’t even put a good guess to it right now. All we can all do is watch the season play out. Things will be a lot clearer in March/April/May. And in my conversation with him upon his arrival in Denver, of utmost importance to Isaiah right now is just establishing he’s healthy, can log significant minutes on a nightly basis, and gets back to how he was playing prior to his hip injury.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter