Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets
Time: 8 PM (CT), NBA LP
Spread: DEN -3
Betting odds c/o Bet Online
The Utah Jazz seem to be coming undone at the point everyone expected it all to come together. Despite getting Gordon Hayward back into its starting lineup, the Jazz have dropped its past three games to fall to 7-7 on the season. Traveling to face the young Denver Nuggets may not bring relief. Denver is 3-point favorites over the struggling Jazz in NBA action Sunday night on NBA League Pass.
Utah fell 111-102 Friday night as James Harden went for 31 points and 10 assists. Rodney Hood had a big game for the Jazz in hitting 8 of 13 from the floor including 5 of 8 from deep to finish with 25 points, four rebounds and three assists. Dante Exum was disappointing, finishing -19 for his 28 minutes while scoring 10 points and garnering a single assist. Trey Lyles did a good job starting at the 4, with 21 points and five rebounds.
The Jazz have been getting solid play from Hayward, in his seven starts since returning from injury. He is averaging 20 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists, but George Hill has been the big reason behind Utah’s early season surge before the difficulities started, and now Hill has been battling a thumb injury. Prior to going down he was averaging 20 points and five assists per game, but Utah is 3-3 without Hill and 4-3 with him. Undoubtedly, though, Utah was a better team before losing its experienced point guard and the Jazz may not get fully on track until Hill resumes playing. There is enough playmaking on Utah’s team that should not really be the case, but Hill had such a great start to his 2017 season and the Jazz need him back on the court to resemble the playoff caliber team it is.
Rudy Gobert has certainly proven himself worthy of the big contract extension he signed. He is averaging 10 points, 10 rebounds and 2.23 blocks per game in 30 minutes a night. Given that Utah has no other good bigs to speak of, Gobert’s play has been imperatively great. Lyles is proving to be a good stretch-4, but Derrick Favors has faded to irrelevance and did not play in the loss last night to the Bulls. After averaging 17 points and 9.5 rebounds in back-to-back games in early November, his minutes and touches have evaporated, and it may be that Favors finds himself on the trade block sooner or later given the play of Lyles and the direction the Jazz seem to be headed in.
The Denver Nuggets are 4-8, but are a pretty exciting bad team. Emmanuel Mudiay is an electric point guard, and the Nuggets have some good wing scorers around him like Gary Harris and Will Barton. Barton leads the team in scoring, but he has played in just three games after sustaining an ankle injury. He is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup, and the Nuggets need his scoring punch back badly. The fourth-year guard averaged 14.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season for the Nuggets, and could reasonably be the team’s No. 1 option.
There is a lot of competition on Denver for that role though, and no one is sure who exactly is Denver’s number one option. At times, Danilo Gallinari turns back the clock and looks like an All-Star who headlined that Carmelo Anthony Deal. At other times, Wilson Chandler appears to be a smooth scoring and unstoppable swingman. Gary Harris can get buckets, but he has been injured. Kenneth Faried is a superb role player and high energy defender. There are so many good pieces on the Nuggets, but it is a team without an alpha dog and for as good as Ty Lawson was in that role, Denver was not particularly good nor competitive with him at the helm either.
The Nuggets have demoted second-year forward Nikola Jokic to the bench, somewhat perplexingly. The All-Rookie selection is averaging just 23 minutes per game and eight points and four rebounds per game. While Faried is considered a top player and nearly averages a double-double, he does it in just 24 minutes per night as well. Denver has the unusual distinction of being deep and crowded, but not particularly good.
There may be a part-harvest at the trade deadline if the Nuggets look to acquire some draft picks in a particularly deep 2017 crop. The Nuggets have some nice pieces intact, but are clearly a roster in need of a superstar and attempting to harvest one from the draft is Denver’s best hope.