Nail item before each paper item (7)
CLIPPER = nail item, (paper)CLIP before PER (= each)
After shooter’s return, receive big chunk (6)
NUGGET = big chunk, GUN< (= shooter) + GET (= receive)
Encourage bone disease (4)
SPUR = encourage, = bone disease
Lost charge of gold and silver - lies! (4)
BULL = lies, BULLION (gold and silver) - ION (charge)
Theater costume’s warmth (4)
HEAT = warmth, hidden in tHEATer
These are all
Singulars of NBA team names.
In #2, the composer's name "Gerri H. Dern"
...anagrams to RED HERRING.
M Oehm and Quuxplusone found the answers to #2:
ROCKET, NET, JAZZ.
The hint to #3:
_____ depression (5)
MANIC, which is MAGIC with one letter changed
Generic reptile (6)
LIZARD -> WIZARD
Oregon player (4)
DUCK (Oregon Ducks) -> BUCK
“Gotcha!” guy (6)
This could be CAPTOR -> RAPTOR (from LeppyR64 in the comments)
LSD part (3)
This is SIA (singer of the band LSD). With one change whis makes SIX, referring to the (Philadelphia Seventy) Sixers.
What to do with a dirt road (4)
PAVE -> PACE (Pacers)
What’s left over when you get closer? (3)
In the comments, arbitrahj pointed out that this could refer to the spare letters from each clue after the necessary changes. So with C, A and V left over this one would be the CAV(aliers).
Quuxplusone and Zimonze figured out the meta:
When you place the cities on a map, they form letters.
#1 is Los Angeles (Clippers), Denver (Nuggets), San Antonio (Spurs), Chicago (Bulls) and Miami (Heat).
#2 is New York (Nets), Houston (Rockets) and Salt Lake City (Jazz).
#3 is Toronto (Raptors), Philadelphia (76ers), Indianapolis (Pacers) and Cleveland (Cavaliers).
The lines spell the letters MVP, answering the question:
What kind of a puzzle solver are you? – A most valuable puzzle solver!