January 18, 2022

INDAC

Keep Fit & Healthy

Will Denver look to add someone in wake of devastating injuries?

8 min read

Beat writer Mike Singer opens up the Nuggets Mailbag periodically during the season. Pose a Nuggets — or NBA — related question here.

What is the purpose of keeping Bol Bol on the roster at this point? Is the front office holding out for a trade? Why let him hold down a spot when the Nuggets could recruit some healthy bodies?
— Gareth O’Brien, Portlaoise, Ireland

Before the season started, there was mounting hope that Bol had turned a corner in terms of his professionalism and his investment. His potential, while untapped, was still intact. The Nuggets had no interest/may still have no interest in trading him to a team in the Western Conference because of that vast potential.

Nearly a quarter of the way into the regular season, despite recent injuries to Nikola Jokic and Zeke Nnaji and substantial struggles from JaMychal Green, Bol remains glued to the bench. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of trust between him and Malone, and it’s unclear if there ever will be. One play Tuesday night offered a window into Malone’s frustration. With the game out of hand, Bol had a beat on Portland’s Greg Brown in transition yet gave up on the play. Brown threw down a between-the-legs dunk that could’ve been avoided. The insult play didn’t sit well with Bol’s teammates and, you can be sure, stung Malone as the sequence played out just a few feet in front of him. If Bol had designs on changing perceptions about him, hustling, no matter what, would be a good place to start.

Coach Michael Malone recently said it’s crazy that DeMarcus Cousins is not in the league right now. With all the Nuggets injuries, would it be smart to reunite Malone and Cousins in Denver?
— Carson Huelle, Fort Collins

I agree with Malone in that Boogie can still be a problem in spurts, I just question if he’s what they need right now. Last May, with the Clippers, Cousins had 16 points in 14 minutes … against the Nuggets. But if the Nuggets were going to address their dearth of size, I think they’d want a more traditional backup five and one who’s more of a rim deterrent than Cousins.

Should the Nuggets install Zeke Nnaji in the starting five for the added defensive presence and versatility he brings? Moving Jeff Green to the bench allows him to play less minutes and keeps him fresh for the season. Also, with season-ending injuries to P.J. Dozier and Michael Porter Jr. most likely, what players are you aware of the Nuggets looking into?
— Dragan, Sydney, Australia

Lance Stephenson seems to be the obvious call-up target for a guard spot having lost P.J. Dozier, but are there any other names you think might be on the Nuggets’ radar?
— @j_middles via Twitter

Do you see the Nuggets targeting or acquiring anybody with these injuries mounting?
— Jason Butler. Richmond, Va.

There’s a lot here, so let’s try to break it down. Not that anyone is ever rooting for injuries, but certain players stand to benefit if others are out. Zeke Nnaji has a giant opportunity in front of him. As long as Porter is out, Nnaji should get forward minutes. Malone has even used Dozier at the four in small-ball lineups, meaning even more potential Nnaji minutes. He may have more to gain than anyone this season in terms of developmental minutes. The more he plays, the more confident he’s going to get. Defensively, Nnaji can already hold his own on both guards and wings. Offensively, the game will slow for him with more reps. I don’t mind the idea of starting him since it could push Jeff Green to the bench, where he’d be a focal point. The second unit, as of now, looks like Facundo Campazzo/Bones Hyland and, perhaps Vlatko Cančar? It could use more direction.

Like everyone else, of course I’m intrigued to see what, or if, Lance Stephenson can contribute to the Nuggets. Stephenson hasn’t played organized basketball in 18 months. He was last seen playing in China, then nearly came back to the NBA before COVID hit. I’m told he’s in great shape and motivated as ever to get back to the league. If he can add nothing else but defense, there’s probably value in giving him a shot.

In terms of outside players, one league source outside of the Nuggets floated a list of potential targets to fill the wing: Garrett Temple (New Orleans), Ty Jerome (Oklahoma City), Troy Brown (Chicago), Delon Wright (Atlanta). I have no idea whether any of these guys would pique Denver’s interest.

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