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Roundtable: What to watch for in the first Denver Nuggets preseason game

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Stiffs writers discuss preseason and give their predictions

Denver Nuggets Training Camp Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The first game of the 2019-20 (pre)season is tonight! How much does the result of tonight’s game matter, and should Denver Nuggets fans be concerned if things go awry?

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): The Nuggets will go into this game with certain goals. None of them pertain to the final score, but generally, if the Nuggets dominate the game, it means their goals were met. With Nikola Jokic not suiting up for the first preseason contest, it will create a new wrinkle for Denver’s other starters to operate a similar offense around backup center Mason Plumlee. As long as the Nuggets execute their sets properly and showcase the talent that has analysts so high on their outlook, the final score of tonight’s game shouldn’t matter.

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): The result in terms of who scores more points than who doesn’t matter at all. In fact, pretty much all results don’t matter. Jusuf Nurkic can go for 30 and 30 and they can write a 30 for 30 about it and it still won’t matter. It’s game one of the preseason, the only thing that really truly matters is that no one gets hurt. If the Nuggets get blown out, consider my concern at a zero.

Evan Fiala (@eefiala): The score and outcome are essentially meaningless but what happens during those 48 minutes is not. I’d like to see the team play well together, hit some shots and of course not get hurt. That said, it being the first preseason game I’m not going to lose any sleep if most everyone is still shaking off the rust.

Nick Hertzog (@NickHertzogSBN): The result of the game doesn’t matter. It’s preseason, and Jokic is sitting. But individual performances could be a mild cause of optimism or concern. As with most Nuggets’ fans, I’m SO antsy to see what MPJ finally looks like against NBA competition. I’m also curious to see what Malone does with his starting lineup. It could be an indication of where his head is at with the SF competition and his rotations.

2019-20 Denver Nuggets Media Day Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Who do you think will start at small forward and who will be the first small forward off the bench?

Blackburn: There’s definitely an argument to start Torrey Craig, but I would expect Will Barton to get the first crack at retaining the job. Michael Malone made it clear that every player outside of Bol Bol is healthy and should be ready to suit up, putting to rest any speculation that Barton’s hamstring injury was anything more serious than precautionary rest. Malone is a player’s coach, and I expect him to give Barton, a contributor to Denver’s roster for over four seasons, the first look to retain his starting position.

Mikash: I will play it safe and say Will Barton will start and Torrey Craig will be the first person off the bench. Obviously the question is how much will Michael Porter Jr. play and when. The thing to keep in mind is tonight is not a true representation of what the Nuggets will do on the first night of the regular season so don’t read a ton into who plays where and when.

Fiala: I think Malone will keep it straight and go with Craig to start and Barton will be first off the bench. However, I still expect Michael Porter Jr. and Juancho Hernangomez to get some burn, so I bet the rotations will be kind of all over the place.

Hertzog: I think we may see MPJ start tonight’s game. Why not? The fans are excited; the team is excited; I’m excited. We’ve waited over a year to see what he can do against NBA competition, and he got some run with the starters in training camp. It makes sense for Malone to get MPJ as much time as his health will allow while the games are meaningless. Barton would make sense as the first man up if this happens, unless there is still reason to be cautious with him. And I’m sure we’ll see Juancho get time either at SF or PF.

Denver Nuggets Training Camp Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

What’s one skill you are hoping Michael Porter Jr. shows in his first game?

Blackburn: I want to see how Porter operates as a catch-and-shoot option both from a stationary position and on the move. He’s possibly Denver’s most talented shooter on the roster, and his ability to hit threes from different areas could push him into regular rotation minutes. The Nuggets needed spacing so badly in the playoffs last year, and developing a long distance shooter at either forward position is so important for Denver’s current use of the Jokic-Jamal Murray two-man game.

Mikash: #Buckets. Look there’s a lot of things MPJ will need to do differently than what he’s used to in order to fit with this team, but for tonight let’s just get a glimpse of that scoring prowess that made him the best recruit out of high school since Dwight Howard.

Fiala: Yeah I’m gonna ride with the scoring on this one. Being able to see him score in a Nuggets uniform in live game instead of on a YouTube clip from a few years ago will be incredible.

Hertzog: I’m actually more interested in his defense. Everyone seems pretty confident that the kid can fill it up. What will get him on the floor under this head coach is his commitment to defense. I suspect that MPJ could put up 21 in 18 minutes and not impress Malone if he doesn’t show heart and technique on the other end. And if the Nuggets are going to contend for a championship this year, they need him to be able to guard the long wing players in the West.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Predict the predominant Nuggets storyline after the game tonight:

Blackburn: “The Nuggets aren’t messing around.” The Blazers will be dealing with a couple of nagging injuries to their bigs tomorrow with Hassan Whiteside dealing with an ankle injury and Zach Collins nursing a finger injury. Even with Nikola Jokic sitting, I expect the Nuggets to look great. They have been rearing to go since training camp started with a variety of players excelling. Look for Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, and Jerami Grant to make a big impression and for the Nuggets to roll tomorrow.

Mikash: I’m all in, the storyline will be “MPJ gets buckets...and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Fiala: “Consider this a warning, NBA.”

Hertzog: “Juancho complicates SF battle, outplays Barton and MPJ”