New Orleans at Denver
Time: 8 PM CT, NBA League Pass
Spread: DEN -1.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The New Orleans Hornets currently sit No. 7 in the Western Conference and travel to the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado to face the Nuggets at 8 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass. NBA oddsmakers favor the Nuggets by 1.5-points with an over/under set at 222 points according to bookmaker 5dimes.
The Pelicans most recently defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 115-108. New Orleans has won three of its past five games, and though many expected more than 15-14 from New Orleans, all things considered, this team is about where it belongs.
New Orleans, really, is an assortment of talent that hardly seems to click like things do for D’Antoni’s Rockets. Despite having two of the league’s premier big men in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans have plodded around .500 simply because the team lacks complementary parts at nearly all other positions.
Combo guard Jrue Holiday has been too quiet to comprise a realistic “Big Three” as New Orleans hoped he would, and though his play has been solid, it has been nevertheless very unspectacular.
Cousins and Davis have thrived, but the Pelicans lack scoring on the perimeter and really have no starting-caliber small forward at all. Instead, the team has used E’Twaun Moore and Holiday often on the wing, but neither brings the defensive presence required to stop the big bodies that the team encounters so frequently.
That leaves Davis and Cousins scrambling to do so, and the result often is that one or both end up in foul trouble. When teams can find a way to even remove one of those two stars (by attacking the rim), it renders New Orleans in a world of trouble simply because the team really is a two-man squad. One hates to break the argument down to matters so simple, but the Cousins experiment will likely end a relative failure, if only because expectations were simply too high to begin with.
In some senses, it is an exciting treat to see two gifted big men like the Kentucky bigs playing together, but that does not mean the formula is necessarily that of what it takes to build a contending team. Even if New Orleans could re-sign Cousins, adding the right pieces around him and Davis, and Holiday, is a monumental challenge to Dell Demps, and one that the GM has yet to come close to solving.
The Denver Nuggets are 15-13 this season and have won five of its last 10 games to surge to No. 5 in the Western Conference.
It should not really be a surprise to see this Nuggets team playing plus-.500 basketball, though. Center Nikola Jokic is a wizard with the basketball, and he has plenty of talent around him to dish the rock to. Jokic leads the Nuggets in scoring (15.5 points per game), rebounding (10.6) and assists (4.6) while posting a team-best PER of 24.9.
New addition Paul Millsap has thrived alongside him, while giving the Nuggets a legitimate post defender all at the same time. Denver is still several moves away from being a true contender, and it must start with moving some of the backcourt talents. Millsap is currently dealing with a wrist injury, and will be out over two more months.
Denver basically has five shooting guards fighting for time at two positions, without a true point guard in the mix. Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to be that, but appears to be nothing more than an exciting role player after a couple seasons to base such observations upon. Jamal Murray is thriving as a second-year guard from Kentucky, but he is still really playing out of position at the 1-spot.
Murray averages just 2.4 assists per game while turning it over 2.0 times per game, hardly a favorable ratio. For all the talent Denver has, it really needs to consider shopping for a point guard, and with the Orlando Magic struggling while starting Elfrid Payton, that is one option that seems to scream “reclamation project.” Of course, that is just one scenario by which the Nuggets could obtain a true playmaker, but the reliance on Jokic to create almost everything is in some ways detrimental to a league based around strong guard play.