Minnesota at Denver
Time: 8 PM CST (NBA LP)
Spread: DEN -10
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Denver Nuggets are 18-8 after defeating the Orlando Magic last outing, in a come-from-behind win. Denver improved to 14-2 at home where it hosts tonight’s opponent, The Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota is 10-16, but it is just 3-10 on the road. Denver enters the game as 10-point favorites with the over/under set at 216.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
The Denver Nuggets are playing better, and as one would guess it mostly relates to a turnaround on the part of its star center Nikola Jokic.
Some have criticized Jokic for his poor conditioning, but it is hard to ignore the fact that he continues to play good basketball overall while using his immense skills to more than makeup for his slow feet. Jokic is averaging 16.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and a team-leading 6.5 assists per game while posting a PER of 21.56. The Nuggets are led in scoring by Jamal Murray, who many expected to make a still-bigger leap following his outstanding postseason performances in 2019.
Instead, Murray is leading the way at 17 points per game, and ranking No. 2 in assists at 4.6 per. Will Barton continues to look like a poor man’s Kevin Durant, providing a lot of shooting on the wing and a fearless trigger. Barton averages 14.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game and is one of six Nuggets with a PER above the league average of 15 (17.03).
The Nuggets are a deep team on paper, but it is still really not testing out the talents of Michael Porter Jr that much, and Malik Beasley has seen his role decline this season as well. Gary Harris and Barton both see over 32 minutes per game, leaving the backups to fight over the remaining minutes, leaving some good talents to sit, naturally. Juancho Hernangomez has had his role decline, though he still averages four points per game in just 13 minutes a night. The Nuggets will eventually likely decided on a shorter rotation, but for the time being there are 11 Nuggets who play at least 14 minutes per game.
The Minnesota Timberwolves enter tonight’s game as losers of its last eight overall. The Wolves have fallen from two games above .500 to six games below it over this streak. The most recent defeat was a loss to the struggling New Orleans Pelicans.
Part of the problem for the T -Wolves is a lot of roster instability. Despite having just one true point guard on its roster, in Jeff Teague, head coach Ryan Saunders has gone away from using Teague as much as logic would dictate he should be. Instead, Saunders has turned to second-year 2-guard Josh Okogie and rookie swingman Jarrett Culver to handle most of the point duties. Andrew Wiggins, too, has seen an increase in his playmaking. But the overall results of this simply have not been good, Minnesota is struggling to get any of its scorers going other than Karl-Anthony Towns and Wiggins.
Towns averages 26.5 points, 11.67 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.3 blocks/steals per game, while posting the best PER of any Wolf at 28.50. Wiggins is having a career year and breaking out, but his 25.1 points and 5.2 rebounds still have not been enough. Teague check-in as the No. 3 scorer, but he still sees under 30 minutes per game, and the Wolves have to get more offense out of both Okogie and Culver, who combine to average just about 15.5 points per game. Ideally, that figure should be over 20. Minnesota still averages 114 points per game, but it has the league’s 4th-worst defense which allows opponents 117.7 points per game. It does not seem as though Minnesota is playing to its true potential, because, on paper, this roster seems to spell .500, but the Wolves are a good bit below that and not even to the midway juncture of the 2019-20 season.