Nuggets 2018-19 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 6: Nikola Jokic #15 and Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets box out against Dallas Mavericks on February 6, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

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After just missing out on the playoffs last season, the Denver Nuggets have many reasons to be excited for the start of the 2018-19 campaign. 

The Nuggets have the misfortune of playing in the Northwest Division, where their 46 wins left them in last place and one game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. 

In addition to bringing back their top five scorers from last season, the Nuggets added Michael Porter Jr. to their roster with the No. 14 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He had a second surgery on his back in June, leaving his status for the start of the year unclear at this point. 

Porter’s high-risk, high-reward ceiling made him a worthwhile gamble for a Denver squad that already possesses tremendous talent. If he hits for the team, they could end up being one of the best teams in the Western Conference as soon as this season. 

           

2018-19 Season Details

Season Opener: Oct. 17 at Los Angeles Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET)

Championship Odds: 100-1 (via OddsShark)

Full ScheduleNBA.com

             

Top Matchups

Minnesota Timberwolves: First Matchup at Target Center on Nov. 21

It’s not hard to figure out why the Timberwolves made it to the playoffs ahead of the Nuggets last season.

Minnesota won three of the four meetings between the two teams, including a 112-106 overtime victory in the regular-season finale to secure the postseason berth. 

The Timberwolves were the only team in the Northwest Division that Denver had a losing record against. The Nuggets went a combined 6-2 record against the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. They split four games against the Utah Jazz

While the Nuggets seem like they are trending upward, the Timberwolves appear to be falling apart at the seams. 

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported in July that Jimmy Butler is all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates.” Karl-Anthony Towns, especially, has drawn Butler’s ire. 

If the Nuggets are able to put last year’s struggles against the Timberwolves behind them, combined with their success against the other teams in the division, they could go from worst to first and earn their first playoff berth since 2012-13. 

Golden State Warriors: First Matchup at Pepsi Center on Oct. 21

Any team with aspirations of representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals knows the road goes through the Golden State Warriors. 

The Nuggets fared well against the two-time defending NBA champions last season by splitting their four meetings. Denver’s 96-81 win on Dec. 23 marked Golden State’s worst scoring output of the season at the time. 

While the Western Conference remains the dominant one in the NBA, the teams behind Golden State are in interesting positions. The Houston Rockets won 65 games last season but lost key contributors like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute as free agents. 

The Los Angeles Lakers added LeBron James to a young nucleus that includes Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. They also signed a number of aging veterans like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to one-year deals. 

The San Antonio Spurs seem to be trending downward after dealing Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, though they acquired DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl in the trade. The Oklahoma City Thunder essentially replaced Carmelo Anthony with Dennis Schroder. 

All of this is to say the Nuggets, with their combination of talented young stars like Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray and veterans like Paul Millsap and Gary Harris, have the pieces in place to improve their win total for the fourth straight year. 

The Warriors will be the litmus-test game that tells the Nuggets how much more work they have to do before competing for a title. 

     

Prediction

In case it hasn’t been made clear to this point, there are a lot of reasons to be bullish about what the Nuggets have built. 

Every young team must go through a progression before taking that final step into the ranks of the elite. Denver got its first taste of success last season, had an offseason to tweak things that didn’t work and are ready to make a mark in 2018-19. 

If Porter is able to give the Nuggets anything this season, head coach Mike Malone will seemingly have too much talent. 

The only thing holding Denver back at this point is its defense. The team finished a disappointing 25th in efficiency with 110.0 points allowed per 100 possessions. That area has to improve if the Nuggets are going to reach their full potential. 

The last time Denver won 50 games was during the 2010-11 season. This will be the year that streak comes to an end. 

Record Prediction: 51-31

NBA News

via Bleacher Report – NBA https://ift.tt/2gMI6gF

August 10, 2018 at 01:33PM

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