The New York Knicks are in Denver to play the Nuggets. That sentence carries some extra weight to it. Ever since the Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks when the two teams meet there’s a little extra juice to it, especially when the match up takes place in Denver. Outside of the emotions though there isn’t much to get excited about as both teams are destined for the draft lottery, again and neither has been exactly renowned for their execution on the court. The silver lining though is the young talent that will be on display.

There certainly was a case to be made for the Knicks to draft Emmanuel Mudiay. He was the best point guard on the board and New York had (and still has) a massive need at the position. However, they passed on Mudiay for the seven foot three inch Latvian sensation Kristaps Porzingis and he has no doubt delivered. The Zinger not only has re-energized the New York fan base, he’s plain and simple played some outstanding ball this season. He’s a high flying, three point shooting, rim rattling put back machine. The downside is he’s been dealing with a leg bruise and is a game time decision tonight.

Outside of Porzingis the Knicks utilize an odd smattering of veterans. Anthony is still a potent offensive weapon but he’s surrounded by a series of cast offs. There’s Arron Afflalo, a two guard who’s not explosive enough to be a consistent scoring threat on the wing but also is a negative defender; Jose Calderon is an aging point guard whose best days are behind him (they weren’t that good to start with) and Derrick Williams is a tweener forward who has fallen well short of the expectations that made him the second overall pick in 2011. Still, despite a somewhat peculiar roster build, the Knicks have a nearly identical record as the young Nuggets as thus its anyone’s guess as to who the superior team is tonight.

The Basics:

Who: New York Knicks (26-38) at Denver Nuggets (25-38)

When: 7PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KRWZ AM 950

Rival blog: Posting and Toasting

New York Knicks Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Jose Calderon Emmanuel Mudiay Nuggets
SG Arron Afflalo Gary Harris Even
SF Carmelo Anthony Jakarr Sampson Knicks
PF Kristaps Porzingis Kenneth Faried Even
C Robin Lopez Nikola Jokic Nuggets
Bench Derrick Williams, Kyle O’Quinn, Lance Thomas, Jerian Grant, Langston Galloway, Sasha Vujacic, Lou Amundson, Kevin Seraphin Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic, Darrell Arthur,D.J. Augustin, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller,Jameer Nelson, Axel Toupane Even

Injured players: Danilo Gallinari – out (ankle), Wilson Chandler – out (hip), Kristaps Porzingis – questionable (leg), Cleanthony Early – out (knee)

Key match up: Arron Afflalo vs Gary Harris

Afflalo is an interesting player. He's a volume scorer without an elite offensive skill and a vastly overrated defensive game (by some, most are figuring it out) and yet somehow he still feels like a guy you want on your team. He puts up fourteen points a game and is a decent three point shooter. In many ways Afflalo can be representative of a future Gary Harris. They have very similar skill sets and while Afflalo isn't terrible I can't help but find myself thinking that Harris should be so much better but I'm not quite sure why. Regardless of my indecision, the two are very evenly matched for tonight's contest and thus should make for an intriguing pairing on the court.

Key thing to watch for: Can the young guns keep it up

In the past three games (two wins and one heartbreaking loss to the Nets) Mudiay, Jokic and Harris have averaged a combined 52.7 points a game. When Gallinari went down with his ankle injury everyone questioned who would step up to fill the void and I think we have found our answer. The young core is getting some valuable experience as the group the team leans on for production and they’ll be counted on once again against the Knicks. Mudiay in particular has an advantageous match up and also arguably has been playing the best of the three.

Opening thought: The Zinger is good, but Big Honey might be better

Porzingis is no doubt an exciting player to watch. He has a rare combination of height and athleticism that makes his upside jump through the roof. On top of that he's got a solid shooting touch. He reminds me of a bigger, slightly better shooting Andrei Kirilenko. He's good, but Jokic is every bit as good. Big Honey has shown he's a handful on offense with his ability in the post combined with range out to the three point line, and his defense is a lot better than I think he gets credit for. The two players have different games and Porzingis is by far the more athletic player, but Jokic is every bit as effective. I think he get the better of the two tonight and the Nuggets get the win 112-108.