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Preview: Nuggets to play shorthanded preseason finale against Thunder

Is there anything to be gained by playing starters today?

Denver Nuggets v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets will wrap up their preseason schedule today against the Oklahoma City Thunder on a back to back, a strange occurrence for the preseason that will likely have ramifications for who does and doesn’t play. Nikola Jokić, Michael Porter Jr., and Monte Morris all showed up on the injury report, while several other Nuggets, including Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green, are out due to rest.

The Nuggets are being cautious here, and it will give the rest of the team an opportunity for extended minutes. We should see the likes of Davon Reed, Tarik Black, and newcomer Giorgi Behzanishvili to the rotation, along with extensive minutes for players like Bol Bol and Zeke Nnaji.

Can the Nuggets bounce back after an ugly performance on Wednesday night? We will see.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

When: 6:00 PM MST

How to Watch: NBA League Pass

Three Things to Watch

Who’s actually playing?

Nikola Jokić, Michael Porter Jr., and Monte Morris are all questionable for tonight’s game. Aaron Gordon, P.J. Dozier, Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and of course Jamal Murray are all out. That’s eight total players, including Denver’s core four and the guards helping to replace the injured Murray.

Assuming Morris sits out, expect Facundo Campazzo and Bones Hyland to start in the backcourt next to Will Barton, who’s still working his way back from an ankle injury suffered some time back. That should be a good preview for some of the guard pairings Denver will utilize in the regular season.

The two big man spots get dicey if Jokić and Porter sit too. Bol Bol, Zeke Nnaji, and Vlatko Čančar would seem to be next in line for playing time in some order, followed by two-way contract Petr Cornelie.

Can Denver find some rhythm from their presumed bench contributors?

Facu Campazzo has had a rough preseason. He’s shooting 22.2% from the field and 18.8% from three-point range in four games. None of the performances can be characterized as awe-inspiring, and though it seems like he’s in line to be the backup point guard, his position is not set in stone. He needs to show something today.

Bones Hyland has been solid to very good in each of his four games, making mistakes here or there but mostly finding ways to be productive and impactful. If he does get his first start today, how he responds will be very interesting.

Finally, Austin Rivers has also had a rough preseason. He has shot even more poorly than Campazzo, and though he had good defensive moments against Golden State, he looked out of place in each of the last two games against Minnesota and Oklahoma City. Let’s see if he can bounce back.

Can one of Bol Bol, Zeke Nnaji, Vlatko Čančar step up permanently?

The Nuggets’ regular rotation likely won’t feature any of the above three players, but if there’s an injury to any of Jokić, Porter, Gordon, Green, or Green, it would stand to reason that the primary replacement would feature one of the trio above. Rather than go that direction last game though, Malone made a conscious decision to play four guards plus Jeff Green with the second unit instead of finding a replacement big for the injured JaMychal Green. That says a lot about Malone’s confidence in the young trio.

Can any of Bol, Nnaji, or Vlatko earn Malone’s trust? Do any of them deserve it based on up-and-down (or simply down) preseason performances? Today would be a great opportunity to right the ship.