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Denver Stiffs 2019-20 NBA Season Staff Predictions

Stiffs writers and contributors predict Nuggets season, award races, and championship contenders in 2019-20

With the 2019-20 NBA season beginning tomorrow, Denver Stiffs writers decided to undergo another tradition: predicting how the year will unfold. From national awards, to the winningest teams, to Denver Nuggets specific awards, the NBA has so many great storylines to offer (and bet on) that will shape its landscape for years to come. Will the Nuggets improve their record and playoff performance? Will Giannis Antetokounmpo repeat and win an MVP award? Who will represent the Eastern and Western Conferences in the NBA Finals after Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant departed from the previous representatives in the 2018-19 season?

Contributors for this piece included, in alphabetical order:

  • Brandon Ewing - Lead Writer, Voice of The Denver Stiffs Show
  • Daniel Lewis - Contributing Writer
  • Evan Fiala - Contributing Writer
  • Gage Bridgford - Contributing Writer
  • Gordon Gross - Lead Writer, Host of The Pickaxe
  • Jena Garcia - Social Media Director, Voice of The Denver Stiffs Show
  • Jeremy Poley - Social Media Manager, Host of The Dig
  • Kayla Osby - Contributing Writer
  • Mark Grimaldi - Contributing Moderator
  • Nick Hertzog - Contributing Writer, Host of The Dig
  • Reid Howard - Contributing Moderator
  • Ryan Blackburn - Site Manager, Host of Nuggets Numbers, Host of The Denver Stiffs Show
  • Zach Mikash - Deputy Manager, Host of The Pickaxe, Voice of The Denver Stiffs Show

Check out what the Denver Stiffs experts are predicting this season, starting with MVP.

Who will win the 2019-20 Most Valuable Player award?

Analysis: The Houston Rockets are well-positioned to excel during the regular season. With two high usage playmakers and a strong supporting cast of off-ball role players, the Rockets should win a high number of games behind James Harden and Russell Westbrook. After missing out on the MVP award last year to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who dominated on a team with the best record in the NBA, Harden should follow that model and be the best player on close to the best regular season team.

- Ryan Blackburn

Who will win the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year award?

Analysis: As long as Zion Williamson is able to stay healthy, he’s going to be given every opportunity to be successful this year. The Rookie of the Year voting often comes down to guys that play a high volume of minutes. Williamson should lead rookies in minutes this year, and he could help his cause if he could push the New Orleans Pelicans out of the Western Conference basement. His defensive efforts combined with his highlight-reel offense will give him a great case.

- Gage Bridgford

Who will win the 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year award?

Analysis: Only two players have won the DPOY and the MVP in the same season. If Kawhi takes the Clippers to a top seed while playing his trademark defense - without Paul George for much of the year - then Kawhi could be the third. He’ll have the spotlight, and we know he has the chops. I expect Gobert to compete heavily for this as well, but Kawhi is in line to have several trophies in his extremely large hands by the end of the season.

- Gordon Gross

Who will win the 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year award?

Analysis: Any team with Lonzo Ball playing heavy minutes is going to need shooting. That’s where JJ Redick comes in. While he won’t be playing 31 minutes a game like he did in Philadelphia, he’s likely to be regularly mixed and matched with the starting guards—Ball and Holiday—quite a bit. And when he’s playing with the rather shallow bench, he’ll be the #1 shooting option, something that he never was in a 76ers lineup. All while his main competition, 33-year-old Lou Williams, finds himself on a team less dependent on him than ever before.

- Jeremy Poley

Who will win the 2019-20 Most Improved Player award?

Analysis: This is always one of the biggest crapshoots of the predictions article, but I feel better about picking Harrell than I have any pick prior. People love the idea of a “Big Three,” so the media will be trying to figure out who is that guy that goes with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Harrell will get plenty of attention because of his outstanding energy and defense. With two star players taking up all the attention on offense, it won’t be a shock to see a boost in his efficiency and scoring numbers. Add in the fact that the Clippers will get national coverage 24/7, and I like Harrell’s chance at winning this award.

- Zach Mikash

Who will win the 2019-20 Coach of the Year award?

Analysis: The Toronto Raptors, fresh off their 2018-19 NBA Championship, have an uphill battle to climb this season. They lost their finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, in addition to Danny Green, in free agency. These losses will surely affect their win total, and I don’t think anybody expects the Raptors to defend their title from last season. However, the Coach of the Year award should be designated to coaches that help their team overachieve, much like Michael Malone did last season with the Nuggets. If the Raptors can somehow manage to come even somewhat close in regular season win totals to teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, then Nurse should be a candidate for coach of the year.

- Kayla Osby

Who will win the 2019-20 Executive of the Year award?

Analysis: Barring a meltdown between Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Jerry West of the LA Clippers is a near-lock for this award. After making the playoffs as an eight seed last year, Jerry West went to work this offseason by grabbing two players that bordered on the top five last year, and he didn’t exactly give up a ton of crucial pieces to do it. The Clippers are instant contenders, and it’s all because of the work that West did.

- Gage Bridgford

What will the Denver Nuggets win-loss record be in 2019-20?

Analysis: The West is going to be incredibly deep again. Golden State will have a fall-off thanks to departures and injuries, but the bottom is coming up and most of the good teams have just gotten better. Sacramento, Minnesota, New Orleans and Dallas might all miss the playoffs in the West while fielding teams that would have made the top-8 in the East. There aren’t going to be a lot of breaks for the top teams to feast on, or to take it easy, and road trips will take their toll. I don’t think any team breaks 60 wins in the West this year and with the expected parity among the top teams there will be a mid-50s bottleneck. I think Denver gets a top-3 seed again, but will repeat their win total despite fielding a better team than last year.

- Gordon Gross

Who will lead the Nuggets in points per game?

Analysis: It’s very tempting to pick Jokic here. He led the team in scoring by a pretty wide margin last year, and that’s with Murray playing 75 of 82 games. The two-man game that Nikola and Jamal developed last year should be in full force this season though, and I think despite what has been seen early in the preseason, Jamal is still going to get up to speed quicker than he has in the past. It’s going to be a close competition between these guys all year, but with Jokic being so willing to defer and Jamal eager to show he’s worth every penny of his shiny new contract, I think Murray will edge out Jokic for the scoring title.

- Zach Mikash

Who will lead the Nuggets in assists per game?

Analysis: Not only does Nikola Jokic touch the basketball on almost every single Nuggets possession, but he is a basketball wizard once the ball is finally in his hands. Jokic averaged a career high 7.3 assists per game last season, and that number looks ready to rise with the addition of Jerami Grant on the Nuggets roster. Jamal Murray was second on the Nuggets last season with 4.8 assists per game, and even though he has grown as a passer, Jokic still takes the crown as the best quarterback in Denver.

- Brandon Ewing

Who will lead the Nuggets in rebounds per game?

Analysis: Jerami Grant is going to be great for the Nuggets this year, but rebounding numbers are not his forte. Paul Millsap is in a similar boat. Nikola Jokic grabbed almost 11 boards a game last year, fully 33% more boards than Millsap. This is one of the easiest locks of the year—Jokic will clean the glass for Denver once again, leading them in both offensive and defensive rebounds.

- Gordon Gross

Make one bold Nuggets prediction:

Analysis: Even I’m not sure this is that hot of a take. The Nuggets are bringing back so many of the same players, and they finished with the second best record in the Western Conference last season. Jerami Grant looks like an incredible fit, not just next to Jokic, but next to everyone on the team. Gary Harris is healthy. Jamal Murray has another year of experience. Michael Porter Jr. looks like he’s going to be a contributor from day one. This is a really good team, with a great coach.

- Daniel Lewis

Who will win the Atlantic Division in 2019-20?

Analysis: The Atlantic Division has seen a lot of change this past offseason, including Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant joining the Brooklyn Nets and Kawhi Leonard leaving the defending champion Toronto Raptors to join the Los Angeles Clippers. Although the Nets will be a force to be reckoned with in the future, Durant will miss extended time this season to rehab his achilles injury. The Raptors losing Leonard will surely affect their success, and the Boston Celtics losing Irving and obtaining Kemba Walker means they will have to figure out their identity this season. Meanwhile, the 76ers, with their abundance of young talent including Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, should take another leap this season. Re-signing Tobias Harris will certainly help their chances, as they will once again have one of the best starting lineups in the league.

- Kayla Osby

Who will win the Central Division in 2019-20?

Analysis: It’s hard to go against the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks are set up to repeat as division champs after posting 60 wins last year. The Indiana Pacers hope to push them with Victor Oladipo recovering from injury and available for more games this year, but with the uncertainty about Domantas Sabonis it’s a safe bet to go with a repeat for the Bucks. Assuming health, any struggles for the Bucks would wait for the post-season.

- Gordon Gross

Who will win the Southeast Division in 2019-20?

Analysis: I love what the Heat did in the offseason, and I think they have another move in their pocket to make during the regular season to try to become an even more dangerous team. Jimmy Butler is a great fit for the organization, having been sold on the culture there by his former teammate Dwyane Wade. Watch Bam Adebayo have a big year, and look for Justise Winslow to continue to develop into a a heavyweight point guard.

- Daniel Lewis

Who will win the Southwest Division in 2019-20?

Analysis: This is the Rockets division to lose. It doesn’t look like the Spurs have the horses to be able to hit 50 wins this season, and the Mavericks with Luka Doncic aren’t quite ready to reach that plateau as well. I think there are going to be some really rough games to start the season with Westbrook and Harden, but I’m counting on them to figure it out by Christmas. An X-factor for them this year is Eric Gordon — if their Sixth Man can stay healthy, they’ll have enough scorers to win the division.

- Daniel Lewis

Who will win the Pacific Division in 2019-20?

Analysis: Basically we hate the Lakers. I don’t know what to tell you. Picking the Clippers who will be missing Paul George for a chunk of the season over the Lakers who should have LeBron James and Anthony Davis from the jump seems ambitious regardless of the depth the Clippers have put together. That said, the odds are good that AD will miss time this season - he’s played fewer than 70 games in 5 of his 7 seasons - and if load management comes into play for LeBron then there’s plenty of opportunity for LA’s second team to become number one in the regular season and beyond.

- Gordon Gross

Who will win the Northwest Division in 2019-20?

Analysis: This division is one of the most competitive in the NBA, with three true contenders for a division title and two additional teams that will be competitive. With Utah making some strong additions in Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, they are the sexy choice to lead the pack; however, the Nuggets made some strong additions too and didn’t lose anybody important. Jerami Grant will be an impact player, while Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and the rest of the young Nuggets will continue to take steps forward. Expect a tight race with Denver separating themselves at the end.

- Ryan Blackburn

Which three teams will have the worst win-loss records in 2019-20?

Analysis: You never want to say what teams are going to be bad, but the team’s on here are just flat out going to be awful. The Charlotte Hornets had Kemba Walker, an All-NBA guard last season, and they replaced him with Terry Rozier from the Boston Celtics. They’ll also be without Jeremy Lamb, Tony Parker and others. They went 39-43 last season, and the argument can be made that everyone below them, especially in the East, got better this offseason. It’s going to be a long year for Charlotte fans.

- Gage Bridgford

Who will win the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019-20?

Analysis: Yes, hello, it’s the Bucks skeptic checking in to inform the masses that I’m worried about the Bucks in the playoffs. Yes, Giannis is the reigning MVP. But I’m not sold on the supporting cast being good enough in April and May to get the Bucks to the Conference Finals. I think the Pacers have a shot, no matter what happens this season, to be good enough to be one of the final two teams in the conference at the end of the season. I’m also pretty sold on the Sixers being the other representative. I’m not sold on their head coach being able to design the best offense for the pieces they have, but their defense can carry them when their offense gets clunky. I trust the process.

- Daniel Lewis

Who will win the Western Conference Finals in 2019-20?

Analysis: The Clippers have two versatile superstars, depth, and a Hall-of-Fame coaching staff and front office — they are the favorites. The other L.A. team should be competitive, too, pending Anthony Davis’ shaky health and LeBron James’ level of super-humanness. After that, the Rockets, Jazz, Blazers, Nuggets, and Warriors are all likely contenders, but each could be derailed and out of the playoffs if things don’t break quite right in the loaded Western Conference. When the dust settles, the Nuggets’ depth and continuity could be enough to get them through to their first Finals. Really.

- Nick Hertzog

Who will win the NBA Finals in 2019-20?

Analysis: What’s that? The Denver Nuggets? If the Nuggets win a championship, but no one is able to watch it in the Denver area due to League Pass blackouts and contract negotiations, will it still count? I honestly think the Nuggets have the ability to win a championship this season. I think they’ll be able to finish with the top seed in the conference, taking advantage of their depth to survive injuries and stay fresh for the postseason. I think their core pieces will have elevated their game to a point where they’ll be able to have a top 10 offense and defense. I think they can beat the Clippers, despite all the perimeter defenders they have, because I don’t think they have someone that can stop Jokic. I picked them to beat the Sixers, because even though Philadelphia can match their size, I don’t think their offense would be good enough to outscore the Denver offense four times in a seven game series. Embiid and Horford would be a formidable challenge for Jokic, but I think they’d be able to handle them.

- Daniel Lewis