NBA League Pass Betting Preview: Washington Wizards at Denver Nuggets

Danilo Gallinari is the main remaining piece from the deal that sent Carmelo Anthony out of Denver.

Washington at Denver
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: DEN -2
Total: 225.5

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The Washington Wizards are still hot: Washington has won its past two games and seven of its past 10 SU to rally to 38-24 on the season. The Wizards are just 12-15 on the road where they’ll take on the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center tonight as 2-point underdogs. Denver is 17-15 at home and is clinging to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference Playoff picture.

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As to whether Denver can maintain that spot, it is tough to guess. Several teams in the bottom half of the standings are surging, not the least of which is the Dallas Mavericks (who are just two games back), a team far better than its 27-36 record would indicate. Accordingly, this game is big for Denver, and the Nuggets have been fairly mediocre of late, after going 5-5 SU over its past 10 games.

The Nuggets won last time out against the Sacramento Kings 108-96, but that game was preceded by a loss to the lowly Charlotte Hornets. In the win over Sacto, Wilson Chandler scored a 36-point career high and all starters posted positive differentials while scoring in double-figures (except Jameer Nelson’s six points). Chandler took 23 shots, hitting 13, including going 5 of 10 from three-point range, and he also snagged 12 rebounds and dished four assists.

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The Denver starters had 20 assists on 29 collective field goals, illustrative of just how good the ball movement is, even in a game which had Denver without its deft-passing center Nikola Jokic. That was the caveat of snagging Mason Plumlee at the trade deadline, in that now the Nuggets have two playmaking big men and can consistently run a high post offense while playing a shooting point guard (like Nelson, certainly not Emmanuel Mudiay) off the ball to benefit from the double teams and attention shown to the bigs.

Denver has had moderate success with this plan, and it seems to be their focus going forward, given that Plumlee cost them a first round pick and promising big in Jusuf Nurkic. Denver still has a glut of forwards (and guards for that matter) with a roster whose balance is dubious at best. Gary Harris and Will Barton are sheer redunandcies, but Barton is the better player.

Forward Kenneth Faried is seldom healthy and often comes off the bench when he is, which would lend one to thinking that the Nuggets choose to keep either Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler, but doubtfullly both. No matter what, this is a team whose fate is tied heavily into Jokic, and he is the building block, not the talented veteran forwards that seem to proliferate a roster that still has no premier and true scorers.

If Denver can manage to add a playmaking wing (Gordon Hayward and Jimmy Butler both come to mind), that could elevate the team to the next level with the proper balancing of its backcourt. No matter what the case, Denver is a much better team than most wagered it would be, and some form of true contention is probably closer than most expected going into this season. But that is mostly because Jokic has been so much better than we even imagined he would be.

The Wizards have added some great pieces to their bench that should alleviate a lot of the poor second unit play. Trading for Bogan Bogdanovic added some necessary shooting to the lineup, and Brandon Jennings should bring some scoring and playmaking to the second unit too. Washington still is a team far too reliant on its starters, but as long as John Wall and Bradley Beal are reasonably fresh for the postseason, perhaps the wear will not be too great to render the starting-5 any less effective.

To be sure, Washington’s starters rank up with the best in the league, but its bench had been so abysmal all season that all it really took was some tweaking and the emergence of some underachievers (Jason Smith, being one) for Washington to start to turn the corner.

Those who slept on the Wiz in the first half of this season are somewhat regretting those takes now, with the Wizards legitimately looking like the second or third best team in the East behind Cleveland and Boston. The problem is, that the bridge between the Cavaliers and the Celtics, and Wizards, is a rather large chasm and bridging it is something that can only be done by furthering the talent of the second unit.

In other words, Washington is still a (very) successful offseason away from putting much of a scare into LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

But for the time being, Wizards fans are enjoying a hot, strong, competitive team, aware that with a filled out rotation Wall’s minutes could be curtailed so that he is given a better chance to play like the superstar he is. Logging such heavy minutes, and being counted upon so heavily, has reduced his efficiency and he has often gone ignored in discussions of the elite talents in the NBA. With Bogdanovic adding some missing shooting, and Wall already having assisted nine of his baskets through his first five games in Washington, perhaps the Wizards have found the right mix. Or at least part of it.

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