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 2023 portion of the regular season. To read part one, click here.
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 stack 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.
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 last year.
- The Nuggets will have 16 nationally televised games this season with eight on ESPN, seven on TNT and one on ABC.
With all of that said, let’s dive into the 2023 section of the schedule.
Denver kicks off 2023 with 10 of their 12 games at home, but against tough competition
January 1st-January 22nd
The start of 2023 should be a fun stretch for the Nuggets with ten of their 12 games coming at Ball Arena in downtown Denver including their season-long five-game home stand, but their competition only continues to get tougher.
- Denver will face nine teams — Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves (twice), Los Angeles Clippers (twice), Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, and Portland Trail Blazers — who all have a realistic shot at being in the postseason during this 12-game stretch.
- The Nuggets will have three back-to-back sets — January 1st at home against the Celtics and January 2nd in Minnesota battling with the Timberwolves; January 5th at home against the Clippers and January 6th at home against the Cavaliers; January 17th at home against the Trail Blazers and January 18th at home against the Timberwolves — and they will have a rest disadvantage in all three.
- Denver’s season-long five-game home stand will be from January 15th to January 22nd and the Nuggets will take on the Orlando Magic, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
- The only two road games are still meaningful. Denver will take on the Timberwolves on January 2nd which will have playoff seeding and tiebreaker implications while the Nuggets game against the Clippers in Los Angeles on January 13th has the same possible repercussions.
- Denver will have three nationally televised games during this 12-game stretch: January 5th at home against the Clippers on TNT, January 13th in Los Angeles against the Clippers on ESPN, and January 18th in Denver against the Timberwolves on ESPN.
This is one of the Nuggets tougher stretches of games and it will serve well as a litmus test for just how good they are. If Denver can kick off 2023 with wins over teams like the Celtics, Clippers, Suns and Timberwolves, it will go a long way towards solidifying their resume as true contenders to win the NBA title.
There are multiple games in this block that carry importance. In addition to the playoff seeding and tiebreaker implications at risk, this stretch of games is the beginning of the Nuggets schedule getting tougher as the year continues. Playing good basketball entering the one of the harder portions of the season could pay huge dividends once the regular season concludes.
- Not only could the Nuggets and Timberwolves be competing for the Northwest Division title, but they could also be fighting for seeding which makes their two games hyper-important. Denver is in Minnesota on January 2nd and the Timberwolves will visit Denver on January 18th for an ESPN televised game.
- Denver also has two matchups with the Clippers — one in Denver on January 5th on TNT and one in Los Angeles on January 13th on ESPN — over these 12 games. The Clippers are also projected to be up near the top of the Western Conference and could be fighting with Denver for seeding so securing wins against them will only help lock up the tiebreaker. This will be the second and third of four matchups between them.
- The Nuggets will take on the Lakers in Denver on January 9th for the fourth and final matchup of the season. This game could have tiebreaker and playoff seeding implications.
- The Nuggets will host the Suns in Denver on January 11th for the second of four matchups which could have playoff and seeding implications.
With so many playoff tiebreakers in limbo, this will be one of the more important stretches of games when looking back on the Nuggets season. A win or loss here could mean the difference between home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and going on the road in the first round.
With so many of the Nuggets division games coming early in the season, they have to take these matchups seriously even if the playoffs are still months away.
- Denver will take on the Timberwolves on January 2nd in Minnesota for their first matchup of the season. It will also be the first time the Nuggets face off against the new team of their former president of basketball operations Tim Connelly since he left the Nuggets this offseason for Minnesota. This will be the second night of a back-to-back for Denver.
- The Nuggets will host the Trail Blazers on January 17th for their fourth and final matchup of the season with the tiebreaker between them potentially at risk which could lead to possible playoff seeding implications.
- The Nuggets will host the Timberwolves on January 18th for the second matchup between the two teams vying for the Northwest Division title.
- Denver will head to Oklahoma City for the fourth and final matchup of the season on January 22nd with the tiebreaker between them potentially on the line.
By January 22nd, the Northwest Division race will become much more clear. The Nuggets will have all of their games against both the Trail Blazers and Thunder completed with just one battle with Utah and two games against Minnesota remaining on the schedule. With 13 of the 16 division games completed, Denver will know if they have a shot to win the division or not no later than that night.
Normally home games would feel like an easy pathway to more wins, but this might be a different circumstance. Denver does have ten home games in the first 12 games of 2023, but seven of their opponents are potential playoff teams. Denver will have to beat tougher competition at home in order to keep a strong home record.
- First, the Celtics will head to Denver for a battle against the Nuggets on New Year’s Day.
- The Nuggets have a four-game home stand, which is tied for second-longest of the season, from January 5th to January 11th against the Clippers, Cavaliers, Lakers and Suns.
- Just one game after their four-game home stand, the Nuggets have their season-long five-game home stand against the Magic, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Pacers and Thunder which spans from January 15th-January 22nd.
It will be tougher to take care of these competitive teams during this long stretch of home games, but with this part of the year being the doldrums of the season, will the Nuggets win as many as they should? That will be the big question for this section of season.
Games against inferior teams
Once again, beating teams you are better than is one of the most important and most simplistic ways to contend for a top-four seed. Even if there are only a few games against teams worse than Denver over these 12 games, each one has to be taken seriously or the Nuggets risk being upset; an issue that has plagued them over the years.
- Of these 12 games, only five teams are borderline playoff teams or worse.
- Denver will be home for all five of the games against teams worse than them which features the Lakers, Magic, Trail Blazers, Pacers, and Thunder.
- Denver should win four of these five games at worst if everything is going smoothly to this point in the season.
With all of these games coming at home, there is a risk of the Nuggets overlooking teams, but if that does not happen and the Nuggets play at the level they are capable of, these should be somewhat easy victories to obtain.
Denver, conservatively speaking, should win at least seven of these 12 games, but they have the capability to win many more than that. This could be a season-defining stretch of games if the Nuggets go on a winning streak against such quality opponents.
If Denver went 7-5 in these 12 games, that would bring their projected record to 31-16 after 47 games.
The toughest stretch of the season
January 23rd-Febuary 28th
This 16-game span is a contender for toughest stretch of the season. Denver plays a glut of talented teams and there are only a couple easy victories. Denver’s 2023 continues with its tough schedule, but this time Denver will be going out on the road.
- The Nuggets have three sets of back-to-backs: in New Orleans against the Pelicans on January 24th and in Milwaukee versus the Bucks January 25th; at home against the Atlanta Hawks on February 4th and in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on February 5th; in Memphis against the Grizzlies on February 25th and at home against the Clippers on February 26th.
- Denver will have three games with a rest disadvantage due to their three back-to-backs, but they will also have three games at a rest advantage as well.
- Out of these 16 games, seven of them will be against Eastern Conference teams with six of them being played away from Denver. Games against the Eastern Conference have the least impact on playoff seeding so if Denver were to drop games or consider resting their core rotation players, this would be a good time to do so.
- The Nuggets have four national TV games over these 16 games. They will be against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 28th in Philadelphia on ABC, at home against the Pelicans on January 31st on TNT, at home against the Timberwolves on February 7th on TNT, and at home against the Clippers on February 26th on ESPN.
With a few back-to-backs and so many quality opponents, it will not be wasy for the Nuggets to win at a high level, but this is a perfect challenge before the final push to the playoffs arrives.
There is so much going on during this stretch and all of it carries importance.
From participating in the league’s Rivalry Week, having two separate three-game road trips, multiple games against tough Western Conference opponents like the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies as well as a slew of games against the Eastern Conference, there is no lack of excitement for these 16 games.
- The Nuggets battle with the 76ers in Philadelphia on January 28th will be a part of the league’s Rivalry Week and will be played on ABC.
- Denver’s home game against the Warriors on February 2nd will be the second of three games between them and it could have tiebreaker and playoff seeding ramifications.
- Denver has two separate three-game road trips over these 16 games. Their first three-game road trip is from January 24th to January 28th against the Pelicans, Bucks and 76ers. Their second is from February 9th to February 13th against the Magic, Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat.
- Denver’s game hosting the Dallas Mavericks on February 15th is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams and will potentially decide the tiebreaker between them as well as impact the playoff seeding.
- The Nuggets road game in Memphis against the Grizzlies on February 25th is the second of three meetings between them and could have playoff seeding and tiebreaker repercussions.
- The Nuggets will face the Clippers in Denver on February 26th for the fourth and final time which could lead to this game deciding the tiebreaker between them and impact playoff seeding.
This will be the Nuggets toughest stretch and each game is meaningful for some reason or another.
This is likely when the team who will win the Northwest Division will lock in that title. It is widely expected to be a two-team race between the Nuggets and Timberwolves and, with them each playing each other twice in three days to close out their head-to-head matchups, it could all come down to those two meetings.
- The Nuggets play the Timberwolves consecutively; once in Minnesota on February 5th and once in Denver on February 7th. These are the two final games in the four matchups between them this season and will decide the head-to-head tiebreaker and potentially crown the Northwest Division winner. This game could have major repercussions on the Western Conference playoff seeding and are the only two division matchups of this 12-game stretch.
After these two meetings between Denver and Minnesota, there will be just one division game left on the schedule for the Nuggets.
Normally home games are the matchups you can enter with an edge, but against the teams Denver will be facing, it will take more than the comfort of home to win. Nearly every opponent is projected to be a serious playoff threat vying for position with the Nuggets.
- Almost all of the Nuggets six home games over these 16 games are against teams who project to be nearly locks as playoff teams. They will play the Pelicans on January 31st, Warriors on February 2nd, Hawks on February 4th, Timberwolves on February 7th, Mavericks on February 15th and Clippers on February 26th.
- Each of those games will be tough to win even at home and will carry significant playoff seeding and tiebreaker ramifications.
These home games may not be a walk in the park, but Denver has the means to win them anyway. By this time, the Nuggets should begin solidifying their playoff rotation and fine-tune aspects of their schemes on both ends. This tougher schedule should be a strong rehearsal for what is to come in the postseason.
Games against inferior teams
Over this stretch of games, the only two identifiable easy wins are February 9th against the Magic in Orlando and February 28th in Houston against the Rockets. Every other game is against a team with a realistic chance to make the playoffs.
The next easiest opponents would be the Pelicans, Hawks, Hornets, or Cavaliers; all of whom have reason to believe they will have success next season. Buckle up.
This section was not called “the toughest stretch of the season” on a whim. There are almost no easy pickings and every game will carry some amount of importance.
If Denver was to win nine of these 16 games, it would be quite the accomplishment and would put their projected record at 40-23; a 52-win pace.
Denver’s push to the postseason
March 1st-April 9th
It could all come down to the final 19 games of the season for the Nuggets. With so many talented and cohesive teams in the Western Conference, there is no telling how tight the seeding could be in the final month or so of the season. Can Denver finish strong and emerge as one of the favorites out west?
- Denver has three back-to-backs in their final 19 games — March 18th in Manhattan against the New York Knicks and March 19th in Brooklyn against Nets; March 30th at home against the Pelicans and March 31st on the road in Phoenix; April 8th in Utah against the Jazz and April 9th at home against the Sacramento Kings for the final two games of the season.
- 10 of their games will be on the road to finish the season with one five-game road trip, one three-game road trip, and a couple other jaunts away from the Mile High City included. Over those ten games, the Nuggets will face off with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Knicks, Nets, Washington Wizards, Suns, Rockets and Jazz.
- The other nine games will be played at Ball Arena in downtown Denver featuring two separate three-game home stands and three other home games spread throughout.
- The Nuggets will have a rest advantage in two games and a rest disadvantage in three games due to their three back-to-backs.
- Denver will have their final three nationally televised games starting on March 3rd in Denver against the Grizzlies on ESPN, March 30th at home against New Orleans on TNT, and finishing April 6th in Phoenix against the Suns on TNT.
How the Nuggets finish the season could dictate how the start of the playoffs proceed. This will be an important stretch of games for the Nuggets as they prepare for the games that matter.
There is still plenty of stakes as the Nuggets finish out the regular season. With so many games against Western Conference playoff hopefuls, the Nuggets might have to avoid looking ahead to the playoffs and focus on the teams ahead.
- The Nuggets March 3rd matchup with the Grizzlies will be their third and final matchup of the season which could mean playoff seeding and tiebreakers could be impacted.
- The Nuggets home game against the Pelicans on March 30th is the final of four meetings between them which could impact playoff seeding and tiebreakers.
- The Nuggets final two games against the Suns — both of which are in Phoenix on March 31st and April 6th — are the last two matchups of the season between them.
- The Nuggets matchup with the Warriors in Denver on April 2nd is the final of three matchups between them which could decide the tiebreaker and impact playoff positioning.
In order to lock in as many tiebreakers as possible, most if not all of these games will be important matchups.
Denver’s final division game will come against the Jazz in Utah on April 8th, the second-to-last game of the regular season.
While the Northwest Division winner might already be locked up by the Nuggets or Timberwolves, if that race is not over, this game could be the deciding factor in who wins the division and earns the division winner tiebreaker.
If the race to win the Northwest Division is already tied up and completed, this matchup is a good candidate for the Nuggets to rest players with the playoffs looming just two games away.
The last nine home games of the season features three games that could decide tiebreakers and playoff seeding and a whole lot of matchups with Eastern Conference opponents.
- Denver has two separate three-game home stands over these last 19 games. The first is against the Grizzlies, Raptors and Chicago Bulls from March 3rd to March 8th and the second home stand spans from March 25th to March 30th and features games against the Bucks, 76ers, and Pelicans.
- Denver has three other home games on the rest of their schedule; against the Nets on March 12th, against the Warriors on April 2nd and against the Kings on April 9th which is the last day of the season.
These final home games could be very influential on the final standings at the end of the regular season or provide time for the Nuggets to rest players. Only the situation can dictate the answer.
Games against inferior teams
Just seven of the final 19 games of the season are against teams who are fringe playoff teams or worse not giving the Nuggets much room for error as the season gets closer to its end point.
- The first six games against teams Denver should beat are all on the road; in San Antonio on March 10th, in Detroit on March 16th, in New York against the Knicks on March 18th, in Washington on March 22nd, in Houston on April 4th, and in Utah April 8th.
- The final game of the year is against the Sacramento Kings — Nuggets head coach Michael Malone’s former team — on April 9th will be the Nuggets last chance to secure a win if needed.
The Nuggets hope is collecting wins this late in the season is meaningless because they have already locked up a top-four seed. If that is true, these are the ideal games to rest core rotation players. Otherwise, this is all they have to work with.
If each of these games matter and the Nuggets do not rest with their playoff seeding already set in stone, 12 wins over the final 19 games would be a strong mark to reach.
If Denver can accomplish that, it would bring their projected win total for the season to 52 wins against 30 losses; a strong record considering how tough the Western Conference is expected to be this season.
Whether or not 52 wins is enough for a top-four seed is still to be determined. It would be a four-win improvement from Denver’s 48-34 record last season, but many teams in the Western Conference are expected to make a leap. It will not be easy to emerge as a contending Western Conference playoff team, but Denver has the talent, cohesion and star power to make it happen.
Now all that is left is to get the season started.