The Denver Nuggets 2018-19 schedule is out and that means it’s time to make premature and wild predictions about what the team’s record will be at different junctures. Which games do the Stiffs have circled on the calendar? What are the toughest and easiest stretches of the season? And can the team get off to a hot start?
Let’s find out in this week’s schedule release edition of the roundtable.
What one date/game do you have circled on the calendar?
Adam Mares: Friday, November 30th. At Portland, on ESPN. The Denver-Portland rivalry is still alive and well. Both teams are in the same tier, both competing for a playoff spot in the western conference. This is also the first nationally televised game for the Nuggets and the first game of a season-long 5-game road trip.
Brendan Vogt: Wednesday, April 10th. Home, with the Wolves in town, on ESPN. The West will be just as tight as last season and the final seeding and playoff berths may come down to the final week again. Perhaps these two teams are playing for a spot in the postseason, maybe it’s about securing home court—either way, it’s redemption time.
Zach Mikash: October 25th, at Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are desperate to get to the Nuggets level, and while they signed LeBron, somehow that made the rest of their roster get worse. They have quite possibly the most overrated young core in the league who thinks they can run with the Nuggets youth so I’m looking forward to the Nuggets putting them in their place early.
Gordon Gross: Whatever day Michael Porter Jr makes his debut. If we’re talking early-season games then give me the Boston Celtics on November 5th. Isaiah Thomas is gonna be keyed up for that and it’ll be a nice early bellwether for how good Denver can be this year. The Western Conference is gonna be tough this year, so Denver needs to take it to the East if they’re gonna crack 50 wins and make the playoffs.
Denver will play 5 games on TNT and 9 on ESPN. Is 14 games too few, too many, or just right?
Mares: I think it’s about right. It’s an improvement from last season. Unfortunately, there are a lot of stars in the western conference so the national tv pie gets cut a lot of ways. 13 is pretty good for a team that still has everything to prove.
Vogt: I would have been shocked if they played anymore than 14 for the reasons Adam listed above, but this is still great news. This will be the most they’ve been in the national spotlight since the 2012-13 season. This is the season we’ve been waiting for.
Mikash: Selfishly I’ll say too many. It’s very awesome that the Nuggets are getting exposure but I have work at 7am and that’s going to be a lot of post midnight exits from the Pepsi Center
Gross: It doesn’t matter to me; I have to struggle to watch games no matter what network they’re on. It’ll mean a bunch more games where commentators can’t pronounce Nikola Jokic’s name correctly and talk about Wilson Chandler being the team’s best defender even though he’s no longer in Denver, but I can survive that. At least it will let the rest of the nation get a better look at the impressive offensive show Denver is putting out there.
What will Denver’s record be after 10 games?
Mares: 7-3. It’s August so I’ll take the optimistic approach and say that Denver will get off to a hot start thanks in large part to their home heavy open to the year. Losses to the Warriors (on the 2nd night of a back-to-back), the Celtics, and on the road to the Lakers as the only three losses.
Vogt: 7-3 sounds right. I broke down the first 10 in the exact same way that Mares did, but I promise I did that before I read his paragraph. The home game against Utah is far from guaranteed though.
Mikash: I think it’ll be 6-4. I think dropping that opener in LA against the Clippers will be extremely Nugg Life. After that they’ll probably lose to Golden State, drop another road game somewhere in there and then lose one of the two against Utah and Boston.
Gross: 6-4. Denver has not made the most of their early schedule in the Malone era, so I expect to drop a painful game or two in the first 10.
What is the most difficult stretch of the schedule for the Nuggets?
Mares: The last 9 games of the season are absolutely brutal. All 9 games will be against playoff teams with 8 of the 9 coming against western conference teams who will have every incentive to play their best. Miraculously, the Nuggets have somehow managed to miss matching up against tanking teams in March and April for the third year in a row.
Vogt: I mean, pretty much all of March and April? There’s a couple of breaks in there with games against Detroit and New York, but for the most part, this looks eerily like the final stretch of last season. A hot start is as important as ever.
Mikash: Post-All-Star break is just a ridiculous gauntlet that will truly test if the Nuggets have grown as a team. Two years in a row they’ve fell out of playoff position late in the season and the schedule is priming them to do it again. We’ll see if the outcome is any different.
Gross: What they said. I think getting off to a hot start might be more crucial, but the most difficult stretches look to be down the stretch. Luckily Denver should have its rotations solidified by then, and may even have reinforcements from trades or young players ready to step up by then.
Where will the Nuggets begin their longest winning streak and how many games will it be?
Mares: The Nuggets close out the pre all-star break portion of the season with home games against the Heat and Kings, two very winnable games. They’ll take a quick stop in Dallas (who might be tanking by that point) before returning for 4 more home games against good but not unbeatable teams from out west. There’s a 7-game winning steak in there if Denver can focus at the start of the most critical part of the season.
Vogt: I kept looking for stretches that I loved, but every time I foresaw a potential streak, Houston popped up. I really hate the Rockets. I think Denver can win the back three of their four game road trip in February—games at Detroit, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia—the tough one is obviously that Sixers game. But if they win they’re bringing momentum back to those home games Adam mentioned, before one in Dallas and one in Denver against the Clippers. 7-8 games in late February is possible, though I wouldn’t be shocked if their longest streak is just 4-5 games.
Mikash: I think it will happen sometime in December and at most will be 6 games. The Nuggets open the month on a long road trip but after the Raptors on the 3rd there isn’t much in the way of tough competition on the roadie. Then they’ll get one of their longest home stands and some extremely meh competition for the rest of the month with a few quality teams sprinkled in.’
Gross: I’m with Brendan, I feel like the longest winning streak may be 4 or 5 games but I expect a few seven-wins-in-nine-games or things of that nature. I’ll go five games, starting in Atlanta on December 8th and then going home to face Memphis, Oklahoma City, Toronto (who will be on the last game of a four-game West Coast swing) and Dallas. That might be a nice spot to put a string of wins together.