In Paul Millsap’s first season in town, Adam Mares sees clear contributions on both sides of the ball. He also believes the forward’s teammates are still adjusting to their new roles (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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The 5-5 Denver Nuggets are currently about as good as their record would suggest, according to this week’s guest, Adam Mares, host of the Locked on Nuggets podcast and site manager for SB Nation’s Denver Stiffs. He argues that despite the team’s considerable continuity, many players are still adjusting to new roles this season. In addition, the Nuggets are still incorporating Paul Millsap into their game plan, particularly on the offensive end. Adam discusses this process, Denver’s many young guards and much more in this action-packed episode. He strikes gold throughout, but here are some examples (the exact time stamps slightly vary from user to user depending on the length of one’s customized ads):

7:28-8:23: “[Nikola] Jokic really quarterbacked the offense last year from the center position – he was a point-center. And that wasn’t just a cliché. He really was the facilitator on offense…Steve Kerr was in town yesterday with the Warriors, and he said that the Nuggets’ offense last season was like a pinwheel where Jokic was the center of that and everybody’s kind of operating and cutting and spacing around him. Well, this season, they haven’t really gotten to that yet – I think they’re moving in that direction. They’re playing through Paul Millsap a lot as I think you would expect – he’s a four-time All-Star – and guys are just kind of figuring out new roles around Millsap, Millsap’s learning how to play off of Jokic and Jokic off of Millsap. And so, right now, in particular, their half-court offense has been pretty bad. Not just a little bit of a step back, but I think a huge step back.”

11:21-12:41: “I think you look at Gallinari, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic…they’re very, very unique players, all three of them. And so I think losing Gallo and adding Millsap, you’re not just kind of adding your standard power forward or anything like that; it’s a unique skill-set. So those pieces, I don’t think it’s correct to look at it like, ‘Oh, it’s just one guy,’ because it really is a big addition and subtraction…It really is three new starters that all have new roles and responsibilities, and I think that’s why despite their roster having continuity 1-15, there’s some discontinuity in terms of the roles people have.”

16:09-16:40: “Last season, one of the more remarkable things about the run that he [Jokic] had was that in a four and a half month period where he was the starting center and the focal point of the offense, he had maybe one or two bad games in that entire stretch. He was incredibly consistent, both with his shooting percentages and his assist numbers; all of those things were remarkably steady. This season, he started the season in a very weird place. And I think actually kind of, maybe not sulking but letting some of the frustrations of ceding so much of the offense to Millsap, I think it got to him.”

23:43-24:18: “He [Will Barton] is huge [for the team], and he’s in a contract year. He was a guy that was buried on Portland’s bench for several years, I think two and a half years, and then Denver picked him up, he got a chance and he’s really shined. He’s one of the most important players on the team…You’ve got a lot of guys that play within the system and pass and cut and execute, but you don’t have a lot of guys that just one-on-one can get around their man and make something happen. Will Barton’s great at that. He’s a one-on-one player, and he’s not a selfish one-on-one player.”

26:19-27:03: “The offense hasn’t really been flowing other than that Toronto game, and he [Wilson Chandler] is a guy that I think has been the casualty of that…To his credit, his usage has gone down, his shots have gone down, all these things…he’s one of the players on that front unit that has made that such a good starting unit defensively.”

31:06-31:33: “I think part of signing Mike Miller for the last couple years and now signing Richard Jefferson is those are guys that are connected to a lot of people around the league, including a lot of your top talent. I think he’s mainly here to be a mentor, but part of the idea is kind of to show Richard Jefferson, ‘Hey, this is an organization that’s trying to throw their hat in the ring as one of the up-and-coming organizations around the league,’ and, ‘go and tell your friends. Let them know.’”


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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod