As the Denver Nuggets roll into Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves, we could (huge amount of stress on could) be looking at the future of the Western Conference, and perhaps the NBA. Both teams are stocked with young and exciting talent. Both teams through last season showed flashes of dominance. Both teams are, however, not being viewed in the same manner as to their outlook - mainly due to Karl-Anthony Towns. Quite a few NBA pundits have picked not only for the 'Wolves to make the playoffs, but to win as high as 50+ games this season. In contrast, most predictions have the Nuggets making modest strides over last year during this season, winning between 36 and 40 games.
Both teams also come in with identical 1-2 records this young season, but arrived there in pretty different manners. Denver's path has been well documented around these parts. Minny lost their two first games on the road to the Grizz and the Kings, then took revenge against Memphis by crushing them by 36 points. If there is such a thing as momentum, then the 'Wolves have it coming into this contest.
Three things I'm looking for:
Murray the starter?
At the time of this writing, no starter had been announced for Denver at the two. I'm really hoping we see the debut of Jamal Murray in the starting line up. I personally think it makes a lot more sense than the other options (Jameer Nelson, Wilson Chandler). I also think that starting might just get Murray off the whole "first basket in the NBA" shneid.
Fourth quarter woes
In all three games this season, the Nuggets have struggled to close games down the stretch. Whether it's rotations, execution, or for some other reason, Denver has looked lost in the last part of all four fourth quarters. It seems clear that this team is still figuring out what it takes to consistently win NBA games. I don't expect this to necessarily turn around immediately, but I'm hopeful that over the course of the season, this trend will turn around.
I, like many others, are very high on how good Towns could be. I am going to be watching his performance closely. I want to see if he's added to his game over the off season, or if he's still at the same level as last season - which is really, really, really good.