Golden State at Denver
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: GSW -12.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Golden State travels to face the Denver Nuggets, in what promises to be a high-scoring affair with the highest over/under of the 2016-17 season thus far at ‘240’ points according to oddsmakers at 5dimes/ How close can the Nuggets keep this though? Denver is 12.5 point underdogs at home where its posted a 14-12 mark this season.
The Nuggets made waves yesterday in trade news in sending Josef Nurkic and a first round pick to obtain the services of Portland Trail Blazers 5-man Mason Plumlee. While Plumlee is not expected to be available for this game, Nurkic had become dead weight on the bench, while continually adding to his own weight in sitting there. The Nuggets move on to Plumlee, a gifted passer with notable defensive shortcomings, but a guy who should be able to generate some passing and playmaking in the second unit.
It will mirror what Jokic does with the starters.
Denver is clearly looking to move into a high-post oriented offense with two centers capable of dropping dimes, and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is still listed as questionable in this game. In his stead, 35-year-old Jameer Nelson has stepped up and played some brilliant basketball, but Denver is still clearly a team now looking to build its offense, and its future, around Jokic.
Jokic has been the breakout player of this season, and there are no close contenders in matching the sophomore’s leap this year. He’s helped guide Denver into the No. 8 spot in the West, a place it looks as though it can retain to finally make the postseason again. The Nuggets lost 125-109 to Cleveland last game, but Jokic was dominant: 9 of 18 from the floor en route to 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocks. He still finished -10 for his 38 minutes of playing time, and tonight could be eerily similar facing the Cavs’ opponent from last year’s Finals.
This is a rough stretch of games for Denver, before going to face Minnesota Wednesday night before the All-Star break. The Nuggets have lost 3 of its past 5 games, but the team is playing competitive basketball and all three losses were to other playoff-caliber teams (Atlanta, San Antonio and the Cavs).
Jokic is one of the craftiest bigs the league has seen, and on the year he is averaging 16.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists while posting a PER of 27.0. His bounce-passes and the precision involved with them approach point guard type skills, yet he is a slow, cumbersome center who gets by on the basis of sheer skills alone.
Denver has now apparently taken this into consideration and begun to build its team around him, and much will be made of what the Nuggets do or do not do this trade deadline with Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari all being useful trade bait and attractive targets for other teams. All but Gallo have already come up in trade rumors.
The Nuggets could land an attractive prospect or some picks out of any of those three veterans, but it is unclear how any of them also could factor into a Nuggets’ rebuild. Of course, calling it a rebuild is somewhat inaccurate: this is a build. Denver is a team on the cusp of becoming much better, but it must address its defensive issues and decide if Mudiay is the floor general it wants to pair with Jokic. It may be better for Denver to pursue a 1 that can hit the triple, which is not Mudiay’s calling card by any stretch of the imagination.
The Nuggets still have their work cut out to keep pace with the Warriors, notwithstanding that Denver gave them a tough game at Oracle last time out, losing by just nine and keeping it close the majority of the way. Both Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston are ruled out, and Zaza Pachulia is still on the injured list.
Expect that to up the usage of Draymond Green some offensively, while Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant may see a slight uptick in shot attempts in their own right. Even so, without Thompson’s 22 points per game the Warriors are hardly bereft of scoring and with simple adjustments, the Warriors should be able to take care of Denver tonight and prevail as double-digit favorites. That said, the fact the Nuggets kept it to single-digits last time, and that they are now at the Pepsi Center, leads us to believe that Denver can, in fact, cover the spread and lose this one in close fashion.
The over/under while it seems precariously high is rightly so, but a line that does not offer a ton of value despite having trended upwards and opening at 238.