The Denver Nuggets open the season against the team that ended their hopes of a 2021 NBA Championship. They look to get one back against the Phoenix Suns in the season opener.Embed from Getty Images
The Denver Nuggets get an early chance at revenge for an early exit handed them by the Phoenix Suns in last years playoffs. While the Nuggets made waves by keeping the status quo. The Suns took it to a different level making only 3 transactions total this past offseason. They traded for Landry Shamet on draft night. Then signed JaVale McGee (yes that JaVale), and Elfrid Payton in free agency. With both squads being almost identical to the ones that met 4 months ago, most expect a similar result.
This includes Vegas that has the Suns as pretty heavy favorites. I think they are discounting this squads bench a bit after a 1-4 preseason. I say doubt them at your peril, as this bench might be the best since J.R. Smith was in his prime and leading the charge off the pine as a top-5 Sixth Man. The Nuggets may have found their new Sixth Man in Bones Hyland (whom I highlighted in my season preview here) who led the team in the preseason in points (76), three’s (13), and assists (23).Embed from Getty Images
The playoff matchup was a stark contrast from the regular season meetings between the two. The Denver Nuggets won the season series 2-1. They did nead one and two overtimes to get those victories, and the lone win by the Suns was by only 3 points. Nobody in their right minds had the Suns winning the series before it started, let alone a dominating sweep. So it’s interesting to see so many that are adamant the Suns are going to cover a 6 point spread.
I don’t see the Suns sneaking up, let alone continuing a small sample size dominance after a 4 month hiatus. Chris Paul even has something to say about that.
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“It’s not going to be easy getting back,” he said of a return to the Finals. “Like Coach Monty (Williams) says: We’re not sneaking up on anybody this year.”
Like CP3 said, they will get every team’s best shot, every game. Let alone the team with a personal vendetta and a conference rival. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic wants to prove that wasn’t a one-year fluke. He even opted out of playing for the Serbian National Team of his home country so he could rest and recover for this season. He knows without Jamal Murray to lighten the load he will be leaned on heavily to make this offense go. While also needing to be solid on the defensive end too. He averaged almost a 30 point triple-double (30/16/7) in those 2 regular season wins. If he can do that, and the bench can shoot at least 40% from the field, Nuggets win. If they don’t, Nuggets end up with another one in the nuggs like this.Embed from Getty Images
Players to Watch:
Monte Morris: Can he keep this offense humming while Jamal Murray heals?
Bones Hyland: Can he capitalize on a strong pre-season and maybe even push Monte for a starting spot?
Bol Bol: Does the kid finally earn a bigger role after leading the Nuggets Summer League team in scoring?
JaMychal Green: Can the Vet fulfill his promise as a big man with range?
30 and 40
I kinda gave this away in the last paragraph above. Thirty-plus points for Joker, and 40% from the field from the bench. If those two numbers can be met, the Nuggets win.
That’s the cost of a rookie max extension for 2018 first-rounders. No, Ayton is not Joker or Embiid but he is just a rung below. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Ayton and the Suns were unable to come to an agreement before the deadline. While the world watches Ben Simmons, I’ll be watching the Arizona desert for smoke signals, indicating a possible fire.
Denver Nuggets 120-Pheonix Suns 108
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