Following a long weekend in sunny Los Angeles, the Denver Nuggets return to preseason action in their fourth road game, this time in Nebraska. The Nuggets spent training camp in Omaha at the end of September but this time around they find themselves about an hour west in Lincoln as the NBA looks to expand viewership by playing preseason games in smaller cities.
The Nuggets will look to bounce back following a Sunday night loss to the Los Angeles Lakers after taking the first of two games on Friday. Minnesota fell to the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night 98-86 despite a 30 point effort by Zach LaVine.
Tonight's contest could be synonymous with a "future stars" game as it features two of the more talented, younger teams in the NBA. The Timberwolves are loaded with young players like rookie of the year Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, LaVine and fifth-overall pick Kris Dunn. The Nuggets, of course, boast an impressive young roster of their own with Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez and the currently injured Gary Harris all on the rise. The matchup between Nurkic/Jokic (whoever starts at center) and Towns will be interesting. Nurkic has by far looked like the most polished Nugget during the preseason, posting a double-double in all three games. Jokic, who finished third in rookie of the year voting, will look to prove he belongs in the conversation with the much-heralded Towns.
Who: Denver Nuggets vs Minnesota Timberwolves
When: 6:00 PM MT
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska
How to watch: Somewhere deep in the bowels of the internet
Rival blog: Canis Hoopus
|Denver Nuggets||Minnesota Timberwolves||Advantage|
|PG||Emmanuel Mudiay||Ricky Rubio||Wolves|
|SG||Will Barton||Zach LaVine||None|
|SF||Danilo Gallinari||Andrew Wiggins||Nuggets|
|PF||Nikola Jokic||Gorgui Dieng||Nuggets|
|C||Jusuf Nurkic||Karl-Anthony Towns||Wolves|
|Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez||Kris Dunn, Cole Aldrich, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica, Jordan Hill, Tyus Jones||Nuggets|
Injuries: Gary Harris (groin), Darrell Arthur (knee), Nikola Pekovich (ankle)
Q&A with David Naylor of Canis Hoopus
David Naylor, one of our friends over at Canis Hoopus, has been very gracious to answer some questions about the Timberwolves and Nuggets heading into tonight's game. Be sure to thank him and give him a follow on Twitter: @ProfCedar.
Last season Minnesota finished 29-53. What are the expectations this year for the Timberwolves? Are they a playoff team in 2016-17 or still a year or two out?
This is the great question of the offseason. Most of the predictions from major outlets have put the Timberwolves right around .500, which seems about right. They have significantly upgraded in the coaching staff with the addition of Tom Thibodeau, and their young core of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine (and the bevy of other players with less than three NBA seasons under their belts) has another year of experience to work with. I expect the Wolves to be within touching distance of the playoffs this season, but getting in depends on the fates of several other Western Conference teams.
How would you grade the Timberwolves offseason? Which player was the biggest addition to the team?
I was very content with the Wolves' activity over the offseason after the dust settled. Kris Dunn looks like he will have a bright future in the league in one way or another, and the front office (as of now) has not been too hasty to elevate him to a starting position or trade him away for other picks. I am extremely excited about the Wolves' addition of Brandon Rush. It's been way too long since the Wolves had that reliable of a three-point shooter, and Rush should be able to punish opposing second units, and can be a valuable weapon in crunch time if the Wolves are trailing.
Karl-Anthony Towns unanimously won the rookie of the year award, but Nikola Jokic was a distant third. What is your opinion of Jokic? Do you think he is also a future All-Star?
It's a wonderful time to watch young big men in the NBA. I love watching Jokic play and am excited to see if Mike Malone really unleashes him this year. The common comment around the Rookie of the Year voting last year looked at Jokic's minutes (21.7 to Towns' 32.0 per game). They are both skilled big men who bring a more diverse skillset to the game than many others in the league, and both could easily be future All-Stars. Jokic is awesome, and getting to watch he and Towns play head-to-head four times a year for the next few years will be a delight.
How do you see the Northwest division playing out this year?
The Northwest has three likely playoff teams in the Thunder (even without Kevin Durant), the Blazers, and the Jazz. However, none of the three are without question marks; the Blazers' moves this offseason were not my favorite, the Thunder are totally screwed if Russell Westbrook gets hurt, and while the Jazz have a lot of potential and made several smart moves, what if they turn into this year's Pelicans? Then there are the Wolves and Nuggets, both full of young talent, backed by intelligent coaching, but still perhaps a year or two away. I buy the Jazz, and think both the Thunder and Blazers will take steps back. In order (with a little confidence): Utah, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Portland, Denver.
What is your prediction for tonight's game?
The Wolves are 1-1 so far in the preseason, with a strong showing by Zach LaVine in Saturday's loss to Charlotte. I have long been a believer in LaVine's game and will take LaVine scoring 30+, but this time in a win for the Wolves.