NBA League Pass Picks: Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets

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Sacramento at Denver

Time: 7 PM CST (NBA LP)

Spread: DEN -10

Total: 207.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

DEN NEWS & NOTES:

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. Denver is 22-9 and leads the Northwest division.

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 17.9 points per game, and ranking No. 2 in assists at 4.4 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 14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game and is one of five Nuggets with a PER above the league average of 15 (15.98).

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. It is a team loaded with talent, but both of its top scoring options are probably not true No. 1 options on a contending team, and that includes Jokic. The Nuggets have great team chemistry, but one wonders if its lack of true star power might not hurt it. While Nikola Jokic and Murray function quite well as a tandem, it seems Denver would be better delegating more responsibility to one or the other, to develop a true 1A option, especially late in games.

SACRAMENTO NEWS & NOTES:

The Sacramento Kings are just 12-20 on the season, but the team has dealt with some injuries, and as usual, plenty of underachievement. Sacramento is again probably going to miss the postseason, which has been the case for the past decade-plus for a team that never manages to achieve the potential it seems to have on paper.

Credit injuries to its starting point guard DeAaron Fox and starting center Marvin Bagley for a lot of this failure. Fox has played in just half the games, and Bagley had missed all but one, through the first 20, but he is back albeit not quite in full-form.

That duo really is supposed to represent the cornerstone talents, along with Buddy Field, and Sacto cannot manage to get all even on the court together this season. Hield has certainly thrived and is a borderline emerging star at shooting guard, though probably still a tier away from being an All-Star, particularly since he starts on a sub-.500 team. Richaun Holmes has looked nice after not showing a ton his first five NBA seasons, but he is really seeing time mostly because Bagley is out. As to whether the Kings can manage to keep Holmes in the rotation when its key cog returns, remain to be seen.

Harrison Barnes is having a solid season as a King, and Bodgan Bogdanovic is a solid shooter, but the Kings are lacking the transcendental talents that would make Fox really succeed as the team’s leader in the backcourt. Fox averages seven assists per game, and one can only sense that figure as deflated on a team that is managing to muster just 44 percent shooting.

The Kings are attempting 34.5 threes per game and knocking down a solid 34.8 percent, but the scoring issues persist on a team managing just 105.2 points per game. The Kings need health first, but even a healthy roster this year still sees the Kings strike out on a postseason appearance once again.

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