Orlando at Denver
Time: 8 PM CST (NBA LP)
Spread: DEN -9.5
Odds c/o Bovada
The Denver Nuggets are 17-8 on the season and 11-3 at home where it hosts the Orlando Magic Wednesday night at 8 PM (CST) on NBA League Pass. The betting total is set at 203.5 according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
The Orlando Magic have to be somewhat pleased with its internal progress. There are a number of glaring issues that will likely cause Orlando to bow out in the first round of the NBA playoffs for a second straight season, but there are enough bright spots for the Magic to know things are at least headed in the right direction. The Magic possesses the league’s No. 29 ranked offense and only score 102.5 per game, but it has been one of the league’s better defensive teams in holding opponents to 103.8 per. The Magic are a team without a single player who could be a No. 2 option on a contending team, yet have played together in such a way as to maximize the gifts of both Vucevic and star-wing player Evan Fournier. Fournier was outstanding while Vucevic was out, and the Magic are hoping he continues the aggressive play with the starting 5-man back in the fold.
One the season, the Frenchman is averaging 20.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.0 steals per game, while posting the highest PER on the team (outside of Vucevic’s 22.23) of all active players right now. Aaron Gordon has been his usual inconsistent self, and clearly now appears to be hitting something close to his eventual peak—the notion he is going to be a breakout player every year should surely die its slow death finally. Gordon averages 14 points and seven rebounds per game, but he shoots just 43.5 percent from the floor and 31 percent from three this season.
Third-year forward Jonathan Isaac has emerged into one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders, but he is still trying to figure things out on the offensive end, mostly. Isaac averages 12.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 4.0 steal/blocks per game. Isaac also gets 2.7 blocks per contest while doing a good job of avoiding foul trouble. His defense is clean and deadly. Markelle Fultz is rounding into form after battling bizarre injury diagnoses his first two seasons before being traded to the Magic. Fultz is averaging 11.7 points and 4.1 assists per game, but he is really probably just scratching the surface as a once-vaunted former No. 1 overall pick.
Former Texas product and rookie Mo Bamba has shown flashes, including a very efficient and strong three-point shot, but he is not ready for the bulk of the center minutes yet, so Orlando has played Khem Birch extensively due to his sharp defensive institutions and his reliability on both ends of the court. Birch has limited upside comparatively, but Orlando is focused on winning now, returning to the playoffs, and allowing its team to blossom, far more than obtaining another high draft pick. That is especially due to the fact that the best pick of Orlando’s rebuild (Victor Oladipo) is now starring for the Indiana Pacers.
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.