A lot has happened in the world since the day the NBA shut down on March 11th, and the 2019-20 season appeared to be lost. The world has seen (and continues to see) a pandemic caused by coronavirus that has massively impacted the United States. Protests about racial injustice and social change are ongoing and don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. The way of life around the world has turned upside down in many cases.
After last night’s NBA restart featuring narrow wins by the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, it’s fair to say that basketball is officially back. Poetically, Utah center Rudy Gobert scored both the opening basket of the restart and made the game-winning free throws at the very end. LeBron James also made the game-winning basket for the Lakers before denying both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers from getting off a good shot on the final possession. Last night felt almost...normal.
And for that reason, it’s time for Denver Stiffs to give predictions on the NBA restart, specifically about the Denver Nuggets. How many games will the Nuggets win? Who is the X-Factor? Will the Nuggets win in the playoffs? The Denver Stiffs staff answered those questions and more in a mega preview on all things Nuggets heading into the bubble.
The Denver Stiffs staff:
- Brandon Ewing - Senior Writer
- Daniel Lewis - Writer and Contributor
- Evan Fiala - Writer and Contributor
- Gage Bridgford - Writer and Contributor
- Gordon Gross - Senior Writer
- Jena Garcia - Social Media Director
- Jeremy Poley - Social Media Coordinator
- Kayla Osby - Writer and Contributor
- Nick Hertzog - Writer and Contributor
- Quenton Albertie - Writer and Contributor
- Reid Howard - Lead Moderator
- Ryan Blackburn - Site Manager
- Zach Mikash - Deputy Site Manager
Analysis: The Nuggets have an extremely tough schedule in their 8 seeding games. I predict that they will go 5-3 in these games. I don’t think they’ll struggle too hard to pick up wins against Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, the first three games of the re-start. Everybody should be rested and excited just to be playing again, so hopefully that works in their favor. I think it will, as long as they are not too rusty, which is a concern given that they did not have their full roster for any of the exhibition games. The games against Portland, Utah, Toronto, and the LA teams teams will be very tough, but I’m predicting that they will win at least two of those. If I had to guess, I would predict that they win against Toronto and Utah and drop the games against the Lakers, Clippers, and Portland.
- Kayla Osby (@nuggetchica)
Analysis: Denver has the second-hardest projected schedule in the restarted regular season. I’m not sure how much that matters, since it was projected to include travel to other arenas in other cities in front of crowds and now none of that is happening. They have a tough run against playoff teams, but they’ve also managed to get everyone to a much healthier spot than they were in right before the season was paused. Every team will be dealing with rust and ramping players up to full speed before the playoffs, and getting home court advantage for the first round matters much less when the normal home court advantages don’t exist.
No, I do not think the Nuggets maintain the 3rd seed. I expect them to want to iron out their playoff rotation without overworking key players early like Jokic and Murray. In fact, as long as they miss the L.A. teams in the first round I don’t think it will much matter to Denver what their seeding is. The Nuggets are looking to find their groove before the post-season, and that will be their driving force rather than seeding concerns.
- Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs)
Points per game leader
Analysis: Jamal Murray. It’s an interesting question for sure though. Obviously Nikola Jokic needs to be considered here. He did lead Denver in scoring prior to the NBA shutdown. Will Barton and, for the ultra bold, Michael Porter Jr can be considered here as well. In my eyes though it’s essentially a two man race between Jamal and Nikola. Though we only got a brief glimpse of Jamal during the scrimmages, that glimpse was fantastic. He looks stronger, he looks more confident and it looks like the game has really slowed down for him. That’s all well and good in a scrimmage and he’ll need to prove it over these seeding games of course, but color me confident that Murray is ready to make the star leap over these next two months.
- Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash)
Assists per game leader
Analysis: Nikola Jokic. He handles the ball more than anyone else on the roster, and he’s led the team in assists for the past three seasons. The only person that would even threaten for this would be Jamal Murray, and I still have my doubts about that. Based on what we’ve seen in scrimmages, we’re seeing limited offensive production which leads to limited opportunities for assists. I’ll take Jokic pretty easily.
- Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL)
Rebounds per game leader
Analysis: There’s no way it won’t be Jokic. Prior to the NBA hiatus, Jokic averaged nearly four more rebounds than the player ranked second (Will Barton) in rebounds on the team. It’s been that way over the last three seasons. With him guaranteed to get more playing time than just about anybody on the team, you can bet the bank on Jokic having the highest rebound average in the seeding games.
- Quenton Albertie (@qshironalbertie)
Seeding Games Storyline
Analysis: The only answer to this question is of course, Michael Porter Jr.. Whether the story line will be Porter’s stellar play or his limited amount of minutes remains to be seen. If he is playing well, that will be the talk of these final eight games. If Porter is on the bench for most of these games, that will be discussion. Let’s hope for everyone the first option comes to fruition and not the second.
- Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717)
Analysis: The Nuggets will kick, scratch and fight against any team they face in the playoffs. From a first round matchup to a bout against the Lakers or Clippers, Denver will be a tough out for any team; however, the player that really takes the Nuggets over the top if all goes well is Michael Porter Jr., because even if Jamal Murray hits his ceiling, the Lakers and Clippers still each have two elite players to counter Jokic and Murray. If Porter starts hitting shots, dominating the glass, and playing the way the Nuggets know he can, he adds a dimension to those matchups that the Lakers or Clippers may not be ready to handle.
- Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn)
Analysis: Michael Porter Jr. will play significant minutes and the Nuggets are going to need him to if they have any hope of walking out of Orlando with their first NBA title. What Porter provides with his scoring, play making, and rebounding is so unique and valuable to this Nuggets team that you have to play him around 20 minutes a game.
Bol Bol is a different story and I don’t see him playing in the final eight games on into the postseason. Bol certainly showed flashes during those three scrimmage games, but he is still a rookie and it’s really hard to see where he fits into the rotation. I think Bol could play in garbage time here and there, but it’s tough to see him getting a normal spot in the rotation.
- Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717)
The Dynamic Duo
Analysis: Mainstream media eyes will be glued to star pairs such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and even Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as they try to squeak into the postseason. But lest anyone forget, last year’s playoffs were already a breakout performance for the Jokic and Murray duo, Jokic posting his ridiculous 25.1/13/8.4 stat line while Murray averaged a healthy 21.3/4.4/4.7 of his own. Far more than just individual stats go, though, Jokic and Murray’s two-man-game is bread and butter for the Nuggets. It’s not hard to believe that the team will only go as far as these two take them, and if they have any say in it, they’ll be household names by season’s end.
- Evan Fiala (@eefiala)
How will it end?
Analysis: Your Denver Nuggets will eventually be eliminated during Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Having crushed the Thunder 4-1 in the first round, Murray puts up 25 PPG and Jokic posts three triple doubles en route to a 6-game upset of the Los Angeles Clippers (who are without Lou Williams after he gets caught sneaking out of the bubble for a cherry Slurpee). The Lakers get more than they expect in the third round from the young, scrappy squad of rising stars, but ultimately LeBron’s 50-point Game 7 proves too much to overcome. The Nuggets leave Orlando vowing to be back next year—when they will be going to Disney World after their first NBA championship.
- Nick Hertzog (@NickHertzogSBN)