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This week in Nuggets: October 21st to 27th

Here’s what Nuggets fans can expect this week

NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Nuggets games this week:

Wednesday, 10/23: Nuggets @ Portland Trail Blazers

The first game of the season is always the most exciting, and the Nuggets will play a familiar opponent. In the Nuggets’ last 11 games (including the preseason), they have faced the Blazers nine times. These teams don’t like each other which should make for a highly entertaining game on ESPN. The Nuggets will be underdogs, but anything can happen in the season opener, and Denver will certainly have reason for revenge against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Friday, 10/25: Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns

The second straight year the Nuggets will have faced the Suns in the home opener should be an interesting affair. This is one that the Nuggets should hope goes something like last year’s home opener, save for one major difference. Will Barton exited with a groin injury and was forced out for three months of the regular season. When he returned, his patented shiftiness and athleticism didn’t come with him, and he was less effective. The Nuggets should be motivated though and will be big favorites.

Injury Report:

Vlatko Cancar - ankle sprain (Unknown)

Bol Bol - left foot surgery (Out)

Other than what amounts to Denver’s 15th and 16th players in the rotation right now, the Nuggets are as healthy as they can be heading into the regular season. Paul Millsap and Malik Beasley showed up on the injury report for a few days last week but eventually played in the preseason finale against the Blazers last Thursday.

Cancar will likely take a bit to get his ankle perfectly stabilized and strengthened again, but his isn’t a long term injury and he should be available to contribute shortly. Of course, he’s unlikely to do so. Bol is a longer term play. He participated in shooting drills last week with the team, but so did Michael Porter Jr. reasonably early in the 2018-19 season. Bol is likely on the Jarred Vanderbilt track of getting his body perfectly healthy and strong before being subjected to professional competition, so don’t expect him early on this season.

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Nuggets bet of the week: NUGGETS and the points vs Suns on Friday

This is the game to bet on for sure. Never bet on a season opener. There are too many factors that change how teams will play against each other when they play for real for the first time. That leaves the Suns, and the Suns defense is awful. While I have misgivings on Denver’s offense to begin the year, their defense appears strong, especially at full strength. Phoenix will need some time for Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker to grow accustomed to sharing the ball, and the Nuggets have offensive matchup advantages at most positions, including Jokic over Deandre Ayton.

Nuggets DFS player of the week: Nikola Jokic

Jokic will be matched up with Hassan Whiteside against the Blazers and Ayton against the Suns this week. I like those matchups for Jokic, who will be fresh and readily deployed as Denver’s first option once again this season. Jokic’s first two games last year generated statistical lines of 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Los Angeles Clippers and 35, 11, 11 against the Suns. He will have similar opportunities this year, and he’s a year older, a bit better, and hungry to start winning again.

Spotlight on: Will Barton

It appears that backup point guard Monte Morris may have let slip that the Nuggets are planning on starting Will Barton at small forward to open the year by NOT mentioning him among players that he is developing a comfort level with on the second unit.

If that’s the case, then the Nuggets will return to the starting lineup they used most frequently during the 2018-19 season of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic, a formidable unit with holes but enough talent to match up with most teams. Barton will be asked to defend many of the best players on the opposing team, which happen to be small forwards.

Even if Barton doesn’t start, the spotlight will be on him and how he reacts to a different role. Barton has worked hard to regain his athleticism and burst, looking good athletically in the preseason but struggling to be efficient as a scorer. If he returns to form, he will be a major asset for the Nuggets this season with his scoring and passing off the dribble. If he struggles to find his stride, Denver may be forced to go a different direction quickly. Even if Barton returns to form, his weaknesses will limit Denver in a playoff setting, so the Nuggets must keep other options open regardless of what happens on Game 1.

Stiffs tidbit:

The Denver Stiffs Staff Predictions were released today, with a variety of questions, answers, graphs, and analysis from our writers. I’m proud of it, from the graphic design work by Nick Hertzog to the contributions of our writers. I formulated all of the answers into uniformed charts as well, so give it a click and see what the Stiffs have to say about the 2019-20 NBA season!