Top Bloggers: Adam Mares On The Nuggets

Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors with a feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow. Last time, we spoke about the Hawks with Kris Willis, managing editor of SB Nation’s Peachtree HoopsClick here to see the entire Top Bloggers series.

Next up is Adam Mares, site manager of SB Nation’s Denver Stiffs, a Nuggets blog. He’s also a contributor to Nylon Calculus and Hardwood ParoxysmYou can follow Adam on Twitter at @Adam_Mares. Check out his stories here, here and here.

Hoops Rumors: Kenneth Faried‘s production has been steady but unspectacular the past few seasons. Is it time for the team to move on from Faried, or will the remaining three years on his deal be a bargain given the financial feeding frenzy that the increase in the salary cap will likely bring this offseason?

Adam Mares: I think both things are true. $13MM per year for three years doesn’t seem nearly as bad as it did in 2014 when he signed the extension, and by next year’s trade deadline, there will probably be a handful of teams interested in picking him up at that price. Especially since he had something of a bounce-back season this year despite playing the 2nd lowest MPG of his career.

That being said, I’m not sure he fits Denver’s timeline, and he might be a bad fit alongside Emmanuel Mudiay. Neither player has a consistent jump shot, which means the team has to find spacing at the other three spots on the court. I don’t think the Nuggets HAVE to trade Faried right away, but I don’t think he’ll be in Denver for the entirety of his contract. My guess is that he’ll be moved sometime between now and the 2017 NBA draft.

Hoops Rumors: From an outsider’s perspective, there appears to be a noticeable and pronounced difference in the culture of the organization this season. How much of that can be attributed to the presence of coach Michael Malone, and how would you grade his first season in Denver?

Adam Mares: The culture inside the locker room couldn’t be any more different from what it was last season. Some of that has to do with getting rid of players that didn’t want to be here (JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson, Ty Lawson, J.J. Hickson) but most of it has to do with Malone. He earned the respect of the roster, and he had the Nuggets playing hard night in and night out. That alone is enough to earn him the A. He’ll be graded on a much steeper curve next season — especially if the team continues to rank in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency — but he’s established a hard-working, no-nonsense culture that the team desperately needed, all while helping all the young players on the roster make big strides throughout the season.

Hoops Rumors: Gary Harris had a solid sophomore campaign, averaging 12.3 points on 46.9% shooting for the season. Has he solidified himself as Denver’s shooting guard moving forward, or does the team need an upgrade at the two spot for 2016/17?

Adam Mares: Harris was one of the big surprises for the Nuggets this season. After hardly getting court time in his rookie season, he led all Nuggets in total minutes played this season and was second on the team in minutes per game. He’s an excellent defender, shooter, and cutter, and he rarely makes mistakes on either end. His biggest issue is that he is a bit too small to defend larger guards and wings. He’d routinely get posted up or out-muscled by tall guards like Kobe Bryant, Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson. His size will probably limit his upside and for that, he might be best suited as a backup shooting guard. He can help his cause by becoming a much better ballhandler and playmaker off the dribble.

Hoops Rumors: Darrell Arthur has said he wants to remain with the Nuggets, adding that he would like to do so with a new three- or four-year deal. If Arthur declines his player option for 2016/17, should the team look to re-sign him to a long-term pact? If so, what terms would be fair for both parties?

Adam Mares: I love Darrell and to be perfectly honest, I’m surprised he wants to stay in Denver seeing as how the Nuggets are at least two or three years away from being a serious contender. Darrell would fit nicely on almost any team since he is a tough, hard-nosed defender and rebounder and has a reliable jump shot. He’s a coaches dream in that he is incredibly consistent and brings it every night. So I’d love him in Denver as a backup power forward, but for his sake, I’d be surprised if he didn’t leave for greener pastures.

Hoops Rumors: Point guard D.J. Augustin played well after having been acquired from the Thunder, and he is set to go into free agency this offseason. Should the team look to re-sign him? Would doing so hinder the growth of Mudiay?

Adam Mares: He won’t hinder Mudiay’s development because the team is content to allow Mudiay to play through his ups and downs. However, I don’t think the Nuggets should re-sign Augustin because his game is very limited. He’s a tough shotmaker, an average distributor and an undersized defender. He’ll be 29 years old by the time next season begins, and the Nuggets already have one veteran point guard capable of playing the backup role in Jameer Nelson.

Hoops Rumors: Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post speculated recently that Denver would be a good landing spot for Kevin Love, should the Cavs decide to part ways with him this offseason. Would landing Love, whose numbers never translated to wins in Minnesota, be a wise move for the Nuggets? What package would the team need to give up to snag Love?

Adam Mares: It’s such a fascinating question because I don’t see the Nuggets front office pushing all of their chips forward this offseason … unless it’s for Love. The front office seems content to let this young core of players develop for another year before they decide which way to go, but Love might be the perfect piece to complement Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic and Mudiay. The Nuggets desperately lack shooting and Mudiay thrived this season in the rare instances that he was surrounded by 3-point shooters. Mudiay, Harris, Will Barton and Wilson Chandler are all excellent cutters with high basketball IQs and would thrive cutting off of Love in the post or spacing the floor. The same goes for Jokic, who is already one of the best passing big men in the NBA. Nurkic could be the rim protector that hides some of Love’s defensive deficiencies.

Danilo Gallinari and Barton would both fit nicely in Cleveland. Throw in one of Denver’s three first-round draft picks and Cleveland might be willing to make that deal. But Denver would lose a lot of depth, especially if Chandler continues to miss games with injuries. They’d also have to find a home for Faried, since he probably wouldn’t accept a bench role. There are lots of pros and cons to such a deal, but ultimately I think Love would be a good fit in Denver. The young Nuggets roster complements Love’s skill set much better than Love’s teams in Minnesota, and the Nuggets have enough assets, youth and draft picks to add even more pieces around him in the years to come. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s intriguing.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this interview.

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