With the introduction of a new NBA season comes new styles of Denver Nuggets content. With Zach Mikash introducing a new weekly series titled “Denver Nuggets week in review” it was only fair to add a connected piece titled “This week in Nuggets” which will serve as a preview of the week’s events. Monday will feature a weekly preview, and Sunday will feature a weekly recap.
We hope Stiffs readers are enjoying the new content, style, and writing from our group!
Nuggets games this week:
Monday, 10/14: Nuggets @ Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Ricky Rubio each sat out the previous preseason game against the Portland Trail Blazers, and it would surprise me if all three sat out against Denver tonight. The Nuggets should get a nice sample against what projects to be a quality offensive team to test their defense. In addition, Phoenix has had troubles defensively, and the Nuggets need some time to get their offense going again after two subpar performances to begin the preseason.
Thursday, 10/17: Nuggets vs Portland Trail Blazers
With the Nuggets and Blazers having clashed one this preseason and set to open the regular season on ESPN on Wednesday, 10/23, I would expect both teams to play their starters in the first half Thursday night and feature their bench players for the rest of the game. These two teams have too much to play for and will protect the rotation players in every case.
Expect starters minutes to go from the low 20s, where they’ve been in the first two preseason games, to the “high 20s” in the last two, Malone said. But he will not push them too much in any of these preseason games.— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) October 13, 2019
Paul Millsap - right calf tightness (Questionable)
Malik Beasley - right quad contusion (Questionable)
With two nagging injuries that will seemingly improve with rest, it wouldn’t surprise me if both Millsap and Beasley sit out the final two preseason games for a number of reasons. First and foremost is to be as healthy as possible for next Wednesday’s regular season opener. Second, the Nuggets have an opportunity to see different player combinations in games that don’t matter if Millsap and Beasley sit out.
Backup power forward Jerami Grant projects to be an impactful player next to Nikola Jokic but will need time and repetition to become accustomed to Jokic’s style of play. Torrey Craig, who sat out the second preseason game, could start at small forward tonight and play extensive minutes with the starters while Barton operates as a backup guard on the second unit.
The Nuggets know what they have with Millsap and Beasley, two guaranteed contributors this year that project to play a high volume of minutes this season. Figuring out the rest of the picture outside of Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris remains high on the priority list.
Nuggets bet of the week: OVER vs Phoenix Suns Monday night
The Suns have done a good job of forcing turnovers against teams dominated by guard play thus far as well as in the minutes Karl-Anthony Towns sat when the Minnesota Timberwolves faced the Suns themselves; however, in the minutes Towns played, the Wolves were plus-19 in the box score. With Nikola Jokic set to suit up for 20+ minutes tonight, I expect the Nuggets offense to figure things out against a Suns team with a young center still figuring things out in Ayton. Murray and Harris are in line for bounce back games while Jerami Grant should see some time with the starters and provide a new dynamic of spacing and athleticism at the rim.
Nuggets DFS player of the week: Jerami Grant
Grant should see an increase in minutes this week with Millsap appearing on the injury report. While he must continue to establish chemistry with Jokic in order for the rapport to see sound, I expect Grant to excel in his minutes against the Suns’ Dario Saric and whoever Portland slots at power forward on Thursday night. Grant has shot the ball well from the perimeter and should see additional spacing next to Jokic in the starting lineup. Look for an increase in minutes, points, and rebounds from him.
Spotlight on: Michael Porter Jr. and Juancho Hernangomez
Despite head coach Michael Malone reiterating that the small forward competition remains open, it appears that Will Barton and Torrey Craig remain the favorites for both the starting and backup small forward spots. Barton started the first two games, and Malone made it clear that Craig would see plenty of minutes tonight against the Suns. Denver’s two playoff starters last year are the incumbent veterans, and going away from them would represent a major shift in present and future.
The last two preseason games represent the last two chances for Porter and Hernangomez to make an impression in a live game. Thus far, Porter has been very efficient as a scorer but contributed little else to the overall product. Hernangomez has spaced the floor well for others and contributed positive team offense while on the court (five assists in 37 minutes played) but hasn’t shot the ball well and remains a question mark defensively.
Porter and Hernangomez should each play significant minutes in the final two games to judge how close they are to being ready for a full season. Both players are wildcards and will likely produce up and down results, while the veterans Barton and Craig provide a steadier hand with more consistency. Porter’s talent level has shown brightly in the first two games, and the next two could certainly produce similar results. He will have his opportunities to justify rotation minutes this year, which will likely be determined by how quickly he understands everything besides the scoring side of basketball. He can definitely do that.
Keep an eye on the Denver Stiffs podcast channel this week. Today and tomorrow feature the normal Pickaxe and Nuggets Numbers schedule, but on Wednesday, a new piece of podcast content will be dropping that you don’t want to miss!