We made it Nuggets nation! The Denver Nuggets are officially back in action tonight at home opening preseason play in a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is the first Nuggets game since April 27, 2022 when Denver was eliminated from the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors.
Following a season full of injury, the Nuggets are finally healthy and ready to push for their first title in franchise history. Tonight, we should get our first look at Jamal Murray since suffering an ACL injury back on April 12, 2021. After missing all of last season to recover, Murray feels poised and ready to get back to the player we all saw shine in the Nuggets run to the Western Conference Finals just three years ago.
Murray is not the only player set to make his return from injury as Michael Porter Jr. is also expected to suit up for Denver. Porter has not seen the floor since November 6th of last season when he suffered a back injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the year. Like Murray, Porter has looked good in the videos we’ve seen coming out of training camp and it will be exciting to see him along with Murray back in the starting five.
Who: Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
When: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
How to Watch/Listen: Altitude, Altitude Sports Radio 92.5FM
Rival Blog: Loud City
Projected Starting Lineups:
Thunder — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lou Dort, Darius Bazley, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Nuggets — Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic
Three Things to Watch
How does the Nuggets starting five look?
There is no doubt the Nuggets could have one of the best starting fives in the entire NBA, but does that mean they are going to mesh right away? Murray missed an entire season and Porter missed most of last season, so growing pains certainly may come between the Nuggets starting five.
Alongside Murray and Porter will of course be back-to-back NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, who is the one driving the success of the Nuggets starting unit. In addition to the Nuggets big three, they have Aaron Gordon, who really started to come into his own on both ends of the floor to close the season last year.
Rounding out the starting five is newcomer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who the Nuggets acquired in an offseason deal from the Washington Wizards. Caldwell-Pope is a near perfect fit with the Nuggets starting five and should excel in his role as a cutter, spot up shooter, and will provide the Nuggets a massive upgrade on the defensive end of the floor.
How all these players mesh together is the biggest question and it’s the main thing I’ll be keeping an eye on when the Nuggets take the floor tonight.
What does the Nuggets bench look like?
On the flip side of that, what do the Nuggets look like when the starters are off the floor? It feels like Bones Hyland is the one who will really be driving the success of the Nuggets second unit this year and has already showcased that throughout training camp. Hyland feels poised to take that second year leap and lead the Nuggets second unit to success, which is something we haven’t always been able to say in the past.
Alongside Hyland will more than likely be Bruce Brown Jr., Davon Reed, Zeke Nnaji, and newcomer DeAndre Jordan. How that unit meshes is the biggest thing I’m looking for to see whether the Nuggets might need to tinker by staggering one of their starters with the bench unit.
There of course will always be some crossover, but if the Nuggets can have a true second unit that meshes well together it will be key for their success this season.
How does the rest of the team look?
When it comes to the rest of the Nuggets roster, the two players I’ll really be keeping an eye on are both first round picks, Christian Braun and Peyton Watson. Both players had moments where they shined during summer league and seeing that carry over into the preseason could be huge.
One area Braun struggled at during summer league was three-point shooting, which is something that hopefully won’t be an issue anymore. In regards to Watson, his explosiveness and length is something that stood out at summer league, which is something you would like to see more of in the preseason on into the season.
There is no telling how much playing time Braun or Watson are going to get in the regular season, so making the most of their preseason minutes could be huge for their development.