With the release of the NBA regular season schedule, it is finally time to begin looking towards how the Nuggets could perform during the 2022-23 NBA season. To do so, I broke down the schedule in two sections; 2022 and 2023.
In this story, we will look at the 2022 portion of the regular season.
Regardless of what section of the season we are discussing, there are three types of wins in particular which will do the most good for the Nuggets postseason odds.
The first is obvious: beat teams under .500 consistently. If Denver can just take care of bad teams, it will do wonders for their record by the end of the season. Nearly every team who claims a top-four seed in the playoffs and home court advantage took care of business against teams inferior to them.
The second thing is accumulate wins at home as often as possible. Again, it might seem obvious, but those random February nights at home are the perfect opportunity to either put space between themselves and teams behind them or catch another team to earn a higher seed.
The last type of win is arguably the most important: winning games against division opponents. Most tiebreakers in the NBA relate directly to performance within your own division. Simply stated, division leaders claim tiebreakers over opponents who did not win their division regardless of which division either team is in. In a loaded Western Conference, having that tiebreaker is key when fighting for optimal playoff seeding.
Beyond needing to win those three types of games, there are some other basics about the Nuggets schedule to get out of the way.
- The Nuggets do travel more total miles than any other team in the NBA, but that is far from unexpected. Outside of the Utah Jazz, there are no NBA franchises anywhere near Denver which inherently makes the Nuggets average flight further than other teams.
- Denver is tied for the lowest number of back-to-back sets in the league with 12 which is a wonderful sight for Malone and his team who are trying to bring back Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. from injury.
- The Nuggets are right at league average with 11 rest advantages and 11 rest disadvantages this season.
- According to Positive Residual, the website used for the majority of the statistics in this story, the Nuggets have the easiest schedule in the league. This can be a faulty statistic because all of these teams have changed and there could be unexpected surprises, but it does show that the Nuggets schedule this year seems to be more forgiving than years prior.
- The Nuggets will have 16 nationally televised games this season with eight on ESPN, seven on TNT and one on ABC including a Christmas night game.
With all of that said, let’s dive into the first half of the schedule.
Of Denver’s first 19 games, 13 are on the road
October 19th-November 25th
It is never good to start the season with so many games on the road, but this particular situation for the Nuggets could be much worse.
- Denver will only have two back-to-back sets during this road-heavy beginning to the season and they are far apart on the calendar — October 21st in San Fransisco against the Golden State Warriors and October 22nd at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder which comes a full month before the second set begins on November 22nd at home against the Detroit Pistons and concludes November 23rd in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.
- Denver will have more games with a rest advantage (3) than games with a rest disadvantage (2) despite traveling so much.
- They will embark on their second-longest road trip of the season (four games) from November 7th-November 13th against the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls.
All things considered, the Nuggets have a pretty even start to the season full of winnable games and easier division battles.
The most notable aspect of this stretch of games without a doubt will be the return of both Murray and Porter. Still, there are a few interesting moments outside of tiebreaker-watching the first week of the season.
- To officially start the Nuggets 2022-23 regular season, the Nuggets will fly to Utah to take on the Jazz for what should be the return for both Murray and Porter after their respective injuries. The odds are high that Utah will be looking to tank this season which only helps Denver’s chances to begin the season with a division win on the road while getting back their second and third best players from long stints on the injury report.
- The Nuggets follow their first game of the season with their first back-to-back of the year. On the first night, the Nuggets will take on the reigning NBA Champion Warriors in San Fransisco on October 21st before heading back to Denver to battle with the Thunder for the Nuggets first home game of the season.
- The Nuggets have two games on national television during their first 19 matchups. They play Golden State on October 21st on ESPN and the Los Angeles Lakers on October 26th on ESPN.
The back to back against the Warriors and Thunder provides an interesting question. With Murray — and possibly Porter — easing back into their roles after missing essentially all of last season, will one or both rest against the Warriors on national television or would they elect to rest one of both of them for the first home game of the season? Will Denver throw caution to the wind and play both players in both games? Also, how does the fact that Murray tore his ACL in Chase Center in San Fransisco change or not change that decision? Only time will tell how the start of the season will unfold.
The Nuggets will have a whopping five division battles in their first eight games as well as their sixth divisional matchup later in November.
- Denver is in Utah ton take on the Jazz on October 19th to begin the season.
- Denver will host the Thunder on October 22nd for the Nuggets home opener.
- The Nuggets will travel to Portland for their first game against the new-look Trail Blazers on October 24th.
- The Nuggets will battle against Utah in Denver on October 28th for their second matchup of the season.
- Denver will go on the road to Oklahoma City for a game against the Thunder on November 3rd for the second matchup of the season.
- Later in the month, Denver will again travel to Oklahoma City to face off against the Thunder on November 23rd for the third matchup of the season.
That means Denver will play nearly one-third of their division games in the first eight games of the season. If the Nuggets do not take the start of the season with a serious approach, they could dig themselves into a hole for their pursuit of a Northwest Division title. Inversely, they could take an early lead if they come out of the gates with ferocity and a strong attention to detail.
Denver is better than all three of Oklahoma City, Portland and Utah. While one loss may sneak in, Denver should have no reason to win less than five of their first six division games.
Denver will have just six home games in their first 19 matchups of the season, but all are winnable games — if not outright expected wins — even if Denver is not at home for more than two gamest at a time. Here are those six home games:
- The Nuggets home opener against the Thunder will be on October 22nd, but it is the second night of a back-to-back.
- Denver will welcome the Lakers to Denver on October 26th on ESPN.
- The Nuggets will host the Jazz on October 28th for their second matchup of the season.
- Denver will battle with the San Antonio Spurs in Denver on November 5th.
- The Nuggets will take on the New York Knicks in Ball Arena on November 16th.
- Denver will take on the Detroit Pistons in the Mile High City on November 22nd.
Denver should have little-to-no issue with each of those games outside of the Lakers which, to be frank, could also be an expected win unless things dramatically change in Los Angeles.
Despite so many games on the road to begin the year, the few times Denver is at home are opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of. Denver should go no worse than 5-1 in their first six home games.
Games against inferior teams
In those first 19 games, the Nuggets will face a plethora of teams with glaring question marks surrounding the potential of their seasons. At first glance, 13 of their first 19 games should be against teams who are at best fringe playoff teams.
- In those thirteen games against teams worse than them, the Nuggets will take on Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Lakers (twice), Knicks, Thunder (three times), Trail Blazers, Spurs (twice), and the Jazz (twice).
- Denver has six of those games at home against the Thunder, Lakers, Jazz, Spurs, Knicks, and Pistons.
- Denver has seven of those games on the road against the Jazz, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Thunder (twice), Spurs, and Pacers.
- Additionally, six of them are divisional matchups against the Jazz (twice) Thunder (three times) and Trail Blazers.
If the Nuggets can simply beat teams they are better than, they should sprint out to a good record to begin the regular season and give their win total against the Northwest Division a nice boost.
When it is all said and done, Denver should approach 13 wins in their first 19 games with five division wins mixed in. That would mean they beat the teams they are better than while on the road and take care of business at home.
If so, that would leave the Nuggets with a potential record of 13-6 after their first 19 games.
Nuggets 16-game sprint to the end of 2022
November 26th-December 31st
After a long stretch of road games to begin the season, the Nuggets will have 10 games at home out of their final 16 games of 2022. During that stretch of games, the Nuggets have the schedule working for them and not against them; even if their competition is a bit tougher.
- Denver has just one back-to-back to deal with on December 27th and 28th when they face the Sacramento Kings on consecutive nights with both games being played in Sacramento.
- The Nuggets will have no rest disadvantage in those 16 games, but will have two games with a rest advantage.
- Denver will have their second-longest home stand of the season between December 18th and Christmas against the Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns.
- The Nuggets will have arguably their most national exposure during these 16 games with four of their matchups being nationally televised including their Christmas matchup with the Suns on ESPN.
- Denver’s six road games in their final 16 games of 2022 — against the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Kings (twice) — are all winnable games.
While it won't be easy, the Nuggets have a schedule that could allow them to close the year out on a high note. They are likely to be favored to win 12 of those 16 games which opens the door to Denver stringing together wins if they can play at a high level.
Denver has four games on national television during these sixteen matchups to end 2022 including their Christmas night game against the Suns. That is in addition to three divisional battles. There will be no shortage of meaningful games as the year comes to a close.
- Denver will host the Dallas Mavericks on December 6th for their third matchup of the season which could have tiebreaker and playoff seeding implications. The game will air on TNT.
- Denver will host the Washington Wizards on December 14th which will be the first time Monte Morris and Will Barton III return to Denver or played against their former team since being dealt this offseason.
- Denver will take on the Lakers in Los Angeles on December 16th for their third matchup against one another this season which could have tiebreaker and playoff seeding implications. That game will air on TNT.
- The Nuggets’ TNT matchup with the Grizzlies on December 20th is their first matchup of the season and could end up having playoff seeding and tiebreaker implications.
- The Nuggets Christmas night game against the Suns on ESPN is their first matchup of the season and could end up having playoff seeding and tiebreaker implications.
Those are a lot of high-profile games with plenty of playoff seeding possibilities in play. Denver will have to bring their best basketball to the table during the holiday season if they hope to secure tiebreakers against other Western Conference titans and keep winning games.
Denver will have just three division games in those 16 games, but two of them will be their third of four total matchups this season. That will increase the importance of the Nuggets battle with the Jazz on December 10th as well as their December 23rd matchup with the Trail Blazers.
- Denver will be in Portland to take on the Trail Blazers on December 8th for their second matchup of the season between both teams.
- The Nuggets will be at home against the Jazz for the third matchup of the season on December 10th.
- Denver will be at home against the Trail Blazers on December 23rd for the third matchup between the two division opponents.
The Nuggets should not lose a single one of these three games. They will be rested for each of them and are simply more talented. This should be the first major step to the Nuggets winning the Northwest Division.
Denver having 10 home games in their final 16 games of 2022 is a blessing, but that does not mean it will be easy. There are true contenders standing in Denver’s way of carrying momentum into 2023.
- Four of those 10 home games are against teams projected as playoff locks — Mavericks, Grizzlies, Suns and the Miami Heat — as well as two teams who might sneak into the postseason — Hornets and Trail Blazers — so the competition is tough despite Denver’s long stretch of home games.
- Outside of those six potential playoff-caliber opponents, the Nuggets will face the Houston Rockets at home twice on November 28th and 30th, the Jazz on December 10th, and the Wizards on December 14th which are all winnable games.
Still, the Nuggets have plenty of talent to win a good chunk of those games. They have the talent to keep up with the Suns, Grizzles and Heat and they should be favored over the Mavericks in most matchups. Denver might have to dig deep, but those wins are achievable if Denver plays at the level they are capable of.
Games against inferior teams
Denver’s schedule is tougher for these 16 games than the first 19, but that does not mean every night there is another contender waiting. There are more than a few winnable games for the Nuggets to secure.
- 11 of their 16 games will come against teams who are fringe playoff teams or worse.
- Six of those teams — Rockets (twice), Jazz, Wizards, Hornets, and Trail Blazers — will battle the Nuggets in Denver.
- Denver will be on the road for the remaining five of their games against those teams. They will play the New Orleans Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Lakers and Kings (twice) as their opponents.
It is hard to imagine the Nuggets losing any of their home games against the teams they are better than, but on the road they could have some difficulty. The Pelicans and Lakers could push the Nuggets and it is always hard to beat a team when you play them twice in three days. Overall, Denver should still win eight or nine of their 11 games against the teams who are fringe playoff teams at best.
Denver could and should win about 11 of their final 16 games of 2022 if nothing dramatic takes place. Denver has a soft enough schedule and enough home games to go 11-5 in that stretch bringing their projected record for the season up to 24-11 as 2023 arrives.