Nuggets vs Cavaliers preview: Andrew Bynum next big test for J.J. Hickson, Timofey Mozgov

Andrew Bynum is a big boy. - David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

After playing against the high-scoring Brook Lopez last night in Brooklyn, the Nuggets get another big time scorer tonight in Andrew Bynum. But is Bynum the same player he was with the Lakers?

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Game 18: 2013-2014 NBA Season
Denver Nuggets (1977 - 1981)
@
Cleveland Cavaliers (1971 - 1983)
11-6 (5-4 road)
Series 0-0
5-12 (4-3 home)
December 4th, 2013
Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, OH
5:00 PM MT
Altitude TV / 104.3 FM / 950 AM
Starters
Ty Lawson PG Kyrie Irving
Randy Foye SG C.J. Miles
Wilson Chandler SF Alonzo Gee
Kenneth Faried PF Tristan Thompson
J.J. Hickson C Andrew Bynum
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Fear the Sword
Danilo Gallinari (ACL), JaVale McGee (stress fracture, leg) are both out Injuries None
The Nuggets have won 7 in a row, but are 0-2 on the second night of back-to-backs Stat Bynum has appeared in 13 games and started 8 of those contests

The Cavaliers snapped a five game losing streak on Nov. 30th against the Chicago Bulls, 97-93, in their most recent contest. Yes, the Cavs have been resting since Saturday as the Nuggets head to Quicken Loans Arena for the second of a back-to-back. Denver has yet to win the second contest of a back-to-back set and tonight will be a difficult one.

Sure, the Cavs are just 5-12, but with Andrew Bynum getting healthy and coming off a 20 point, 10 rebound, and 5 block performance against said Bulls - they might be starting to find their identity. There are exciting match-ups all over the court tonight so I exchanged emails with Cavs guru Conrad Kaczmarek of Fear the Sword to get a better take on tonight's opposition.

Nate Timmons: What gives with the 5-12 Cavaliers? They have some good young talent and I keep wanting to make them my "second favorite team", but it sounds like more problems keep coming up instead of progress? Please explain what is going on!

Conrad Kaczmarek: It's a combination of a lot of things. The pieces on the roster aren't a perfect fit. They're trying to learn a new system under a new coach with lots of new pieces. They're the youngest (or second youngest?) team in the league. Kyrie Irving is in a horrible shooting slump. I've said before that I don't think there's any one person to blame, it's just a perfect combination of factors that have led to a crappy start. Will things turn around? I don't know. We'll see.

Timmons: One of my favorite guys on the Cavs team is Tristan Thompson, he averages 10.8 points and 9.5 rebounds. How is he doing in your eyes? Any player that has surprised you thus far?

Kaczmarek: Tristan Thompson started off great, but has struggled since the first few games. Now that Andrew Bynum is in the starting lineup, I think Tristan is having a hard time figuring out how he fits within the offense. He's certainly improved as a player, but I'm not sure that the current situation is one that will give him the best opportunity to put up impressive numbers. His midrange jumper is still very much a work in progress and it's a weapon that the Cavs desperately need him to develop in order to accomplish proper spacing on offense.

If there's a player that has surprised me in a good way, it's Andrew Bynum. When he was signed by the Cavaliers, nobody really thought he was going to be able to contribute anything significant until at least after the all star break, if at all. Now, he has played up to 30 minutes in a game and even plays on the second night of back to backs. The Miami Heat are holding Dwyane Wade out of the second night of a lot of back to backs. Think about that. It's ridiculous that Bynum is healthy and he's slowly getting his touch back. There's a lot of season to go, so we'll see if the team can fully adjust to having a traditional big man in the lineup and start looking better on offense.

Timmons: I have liked Hickson since his N.C. State days, what are your thoughts on him?

Kaczmarek: I don't care for JJ Hickson. When he was in Cleveland, he was a decent player but not a particularly smart one. He's obviously super athletic, but I always found that he lacked the focus to be a really useful player on a good team. His defensive effort left something to be desired. I'm very pleased that the Cavs opted to go with Thompson at power forward instead of Hickson. But I know he was productive in Portland, so I'll be interested to see how Hickson has improved since his time in Cleveland.

Timmons: Was the dust up between Mike Brown and Kyrie Irving a cause for concern? Has Irving responded to Brown with his play on the floor? Who wins tonight? Are you a game-by-game prediction guy?

Kaczmarek: The dust up was nothing as far as I'm concerned. Both Mike Brown and Kyrie said it was just a player and a coach interacting on the sidelines during the heat of a game. I haven't seen any carry over from that confrontation since it initially happened. If there's tension between the two of them, it's happening behind closed doors. Whether or not Kyrie responded to it is a good question. Kyrie makes a point to say that he is the leader of this team and that everything starts with effort and focus from him. I really believe that he wants that to be true, but right now he hasn't really stepped up.

It's important to remember that Kyrie is just 21 years old and is getting used to committing himself to the defensive end of the floor while scoring efficiently and being a leader. I think he'll figure it out, it's just going to take some time.

All of my logic says that the Cavs should win tonight. The Nuggets are on the second night of a back-to-back and on the road. The Cavs are at home and have been off since Saturday but literally nothing is a sure thing with this Cavs team. I'll predict a win for the Cavs, but I have zero confidence in that pick.

**

Big thanks to Conrad for joining us.

Read more: Emailing with Denver Stiffs on Fear the Sword

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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