Quick, without checking, what’s the Nuggets seeding in their division after 11 games.

Fourth? Second? First?

What’s that? They’re 8-3 and in first?

Things could be much worse for the Nuggets. They could be bringing in aged veterans off the street to try to find solutions at their forward positions, but they’re not, because they’re a good team, with a ton of really good players, a really good coach, and even when they’re not playing at their peak, they’re getting wins now that could help them secure homecourt in the first (and maybe beyond) rounds of the playoffs.

These eight wins count just the same at the end of the regular season as a blowout win by 25 in January, or an overtime win in late March. The Nuggets are struggling to figure out what they’re going to look like this season, and they may not be able to find an answer until they’re fully healthy, which isn’t a guarantee at any time.

Do they need to improve on some things? Sure, that’s a given. But this isn’t a bad team, and even with the struggles, they’re finding a way to win. That sounds pretty great to me.

I remember Carmelo Anthony.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (8-3) vs Memphis Grizzlies (5-7)

When: 4:00 PM MT

Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee

How to Watch: DirecTV Altitude, NBA League Pass


PG Jamal Murray Ja Morant Nuggets
SG Gary Harris Dillon Brooks Nuggets
SF Will Barton* Jae Crowder Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Jaren Jackson Jr. Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Jonas Valanciunas Nuggets
BENCH Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr, Juancho Hernangomez, Mason Plumlee, Jarred Vanderbilt Kyle Anderson, Solomon Hill, Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones, Marko Guduric Nuggets

Injuries: Will Barton (questionable – adductor strain); Grayson Allen (out – ankle), Andre Iguodala (out – has a Groupon for a JC Penney portrait session for family Christmas card).

Three things to watch for

The Sun God of Memphis. Who would have thought that when they built the Memphis Pyramid, it was actually a way to worship Ja Morant? The rookie point guard has shown incredible potential for the Grizzlies, helping lead them to a win over the Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz in their last two games. He drives the rim looking for a big he can body, has great court vision and a flair for the dramatic on his passes, and is wiry strong on defense. He looks like an incredible guard already, and he’s still learning what to do. He’s going to be a great player in the league some day if he keeps this up and can stay healthy.

Sucker for big men. The Grizzlies are starting Jonas Valanciunas and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the frontcourt, going with two big men who are eager to prove themselves against Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. Valanciunas isn’t Marc Gasol, but he’s a skilled center who should be able to make things tough for Jokic. Jackson Jr. still fouls too much, but he’s showing flashes more and more often that he’s going to be a cornerstone for the Grizzlies.

Tag in, it’s your fight now. The Nuggets starters rely on the bench unit to do a lot for them. If the starters don’t claim an early lead, they look to the bench to make a rally for them. If they have an early lead, they look to the bench to maintain that while they rest. For the Nuggets to win against the Grizzlies, they’re going to need the bench to take advantage of what should be very favorable matchups. Nothing is guaranteed in the NBA, and if the bench doesn’t take this game seriously, the Nuggets might find it very difficult to escape the Mississippi River valley with a victory.


Nuggets 101 — Grizzlies 97

Make it happen Nuggets. I’m trusting in you.