This is the latest installment of Dempsey’s Deliveries, a Nuggets mailbag. Continue to keep the questions coming on Twitter using the hashtag #DempseysDeliveries or by submitting a question using the form.
A: CJ – In a word: Carefully. I think you’re already seeing some of the building blocks being put in place to not only get the Nuggets back to a playoff level, but to have staying power once they get there. They’ve filled the major piece any team needs to compete at the highest level – finding a star player. That’s center Nikola Jokić, and he’s only getting warmed up in his career. Surrounding him are good young players – Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, etc. – and a host of solid veterans with experience. Yes, the Nuggets need to continue to tinker and improve in areas like defense, and that’s where we are now: In the next phase where they can start filling in the details that take them from one level to the next. And think about this: The Nuggets won 22 games at home in the regular season. If that number is 30 next season, which is reasonable, with road wins staying exactly the same at 18, this is now a 48-win team. Now, catching up to Golden State and San Antonio is the ultimate goal, and the only way the Nuggets or any other team gets out of the Western Conference and into the NBA Finals. But they are trending in the right direction. And the Nuggets are not willing to cut corners in order to get there, so don’t expect any drastic moves that might compromise their future.
Q: I’ve seen tweets about Jamal Murray now working out after surgery. How did the surgery go? I’m guessing successful. — John Lang
A: John — Yes, not only was the surgery successful but Murray is already back doing some light work on the basketball court. He’s expected to be ready to roll by the time training camp comes around in the fall.
Q: Can Malik (Beasley) be a factor in the future? I think he’s got potential to be good like Jimmy Butler. — Halil Ibrahim Ucar
A: Halil — Malik Beasley is one of the most intriguing players in the upcoming season. He finished the regular season with two stellar games, setting himself up for a solid summer. He’s already been back in the weight room, working out. We’re going to see a lot more of him on the Nuggets summer league team, so that will be a good chance to see his progress. But overall he showed the ability to score from anywhere on the court, and the willingness to get down and really defend. He’s got good size and great athleticism. Last season he not only showed a solid work ethic, but was very coachable. His future is bright.
Q: With the drafting of guards in the last three drafts, and of course Nikola Jokić, where do you think the Nuggets should go in this year’s draft when they pick at No. 13? — Ron White
A: Ron – It is most likely that if the Nuggets use that pick, then it will be on the best player available on the board at the time. However, if they wanted to get specific with the selection in order to fill a need, the easiest area to do that will be in shot blocking. The Nuggets, who finished 27th in the NBA in blocks per game (3.9) during the regular season, need rim protection, and here are a lot of players that can block and alter shots. Almost all of them will still be available when the Nuggets’ pick comes up.
Q: With players chasing rings and not having to sacrifice much money, would a lower hard salary cap help small and mid-market teams? What concessions could the league give in return to the players union to make this change? — Tim Barton
A: Tim – I understand where you’re coming from with this, but the best scenario for small and mid-market teams is to have as much money as possible to spend and the ability to be able to pay the most to their own free agents. Remember, a large part of what was happening prior to the new CBA was big market teams simply outbidding everyone else – even if it meant paying the luxury tax. Few other teams could even compete for free agents in that climate. Now, the playing field is a lot more even and that matters. There’s only been one high-profile example of a player leaving major money on the table to move to a different team – Golden State’s Kevin Durant. Moves like Durant’s are likely to be the exception, not the norm, as the dollars are so large it becomes a simple bad business decision for players to leave tens of millions of dollars over the life of a contract on the table. They would be sacrificing a lot of money and I can’t see many players willing to do that.