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GAME DAY HAS COME!
The long awaited 2015-16 season opener to what projects to be a magical season has finally arrived. The Denver Nuggets will be looking to get the horrific taste that was the 2014-15 NBA season out of their collective mouths and earning a win over Ty Lawson and the Houston Rockets would be a pretty nice mouthwash. The Nuggets have a very tough schedule early on, the only Eastern Conference team they face before December is the Milwaukee Bucks (twice), so if they truly want to open eyes this season then they need to get to winning right away.
Regular Season Game 1|
6:00 p.m. MT|
Hello old friend.
Emmanuel Mudiay and the Denver Nuggets look to open tonight with a match-up that would be highly anticipated regardless of it being the NBA regular season opener for both programs. The 19-year-old rookie will have his first real NBA test against the very man he is replacing: Lawson. Not only is Mudiay looking to make a statement, but the entire Nuggets organization has been licking its chops for the chance to prove to the NBA world that they’re no joke. What better way to do that then by stunning the championship contending Rockets in their own house?
Anything you can do I can do better.
The match-up of the night can’t be anything other than watching Mudiay go toe to toe with Lawson. The rookie will be looking to make his mark on the NBA while the veteran will be looking to save face by taking the youngster to school. Seeing who comes out on top is the epitome of must-see TV. Mudiay should give Lawson problems all night long with his size and strength:
If Mudiay can do that to Jimmy Butler… you bet your butt Lawson is going to struggle guarding him. Mudiay should be able to get into the lane at will and make the spectacular plays that we’ve already grown accustomed to seeing. The pieces are in place for the rookie to bust out onto the scene strong.
Now playing with something to prove, Lawson will be looking to make his own statement as he goes right at the youngster. It would look terrible if Lawson were outplayed by not only a rookie, but a 19-year-old who essentially took his job. Still, although he didn’t leave Denver on the best of terms, Lawson is no slouch on the basketball court. In preseason Mudiay had a tendency to overplay screens so watch for Lawson to sell the pick then deny, which he’s quite good at.
Haters gonna hate hate hate
The offseason saw the national media slam the Nuggets and project the team as a bottom feeder (Joe House made the Nuggets under of 27.5 wins his lock of the year on Bill Simmons’ new HBO podcast). You can take to the bank that the team hears every word of what’s being said out there and are restlessly waiting for their chance to show just how talented this roster actually is. Lack of national coverage is nothing new to small market teams, but there’s one thing that can change that in a hurry: a star. Mudiay is the Nuggets’ first legitimate prospect since Carmelo Anthony that could become a household name, and if he has any early success he’ll start turning talking heads Denver’s way.
Kenneth Faried is also looking to prove his doubters wrong and if preseason is any indication — the Manimal might be back and here to stay. Head coach Michael Malone looks to be the exact type of coach Faried needs, one who can build him up and see the positives in his game. The Manimal is playing hard and happy again, the recipe for an absolute game-changer of a player.
Gary Harris has been promised a consistent look this season under Malone and he has run away with the starting shooting guard spot with his preseason play. Harris gets his first big test Wednesday guarding 2015 MVP runner-up James Harden. “The Beard” will still get his on offense, but fortunately is still prone to mistakes on the other side of the ball. Harris should look to exploit Harden’s tendency of watching the ball and try to catch him sleeping on some backdoor cuts:
Emmanuel Mudiay (R)
Although the news about Chandler being held out due to his hip is concerning to say the least, the Nuggets should still have the firepower off the bench to get the job done. The Nuggets will have to use small ball a bit less sparingly with Chandler out, which hopefully bodes well for rookie Nikola Jokic‘s minutes. I want to see him on the floor as much as possible.
Danilo Gallinari will be looking to continue his rampage against a plus-defender in Trevor Ariza. Look for him to play aggressively which should result in frequent trips to the line, stealing a page from Harden’s playbook. “The Rooster” has been roasting opponents all summer and looks seemingly unguardable.
Joffrey Lauvergne seems to have won the interim starting center job with his hard play and solid production. A major upgrade over J.J. Hickson, Lauvergne will provide good hustle and will help stretch the floor with his shooting. Also look for Jokic to get ample run so Malone can gauge his production in a real NBA game. He’s earned it.
Lawson and Harden have worked surprisingly well together, with Harden claiming he’s getting the most open shots of his career without the ball in his hands. The Rockets backcourt should come out of the gates firing, putting the Nuggets’ new defensive identity to the test. Lawson has stated that he loves taking the three point shots that the Rockets offense emphasizes, as well as that he’ll be playing primarily off-ball when paired with Patrick Beverley. Expect to see Lawson running around screens and launching 3-pointers throughout the night, as well as Beverley hounding Mudiay on defense when he’s in the game.
Terrence Jones, a player many fans hoped to see come to Denver in the Lawson trade, will be starting in the place of the injured Donatas Motiejunas. Jones is a versatile big who can stretch the floor all the way out to the three point line (35% from deep last season), which will prevent Faried from protecting the rim effectively. Lauvergne might be in for a long night alone in the paint. It’s games like this where the Nuggets miss Jusuf Nurkic.
Clint Capela is an extremely interesting prospect that I considered one of the steals in the 2014 draft. The 21-year-old big man is an athletic, 6-foot-11-inch rim protector with a gargantuan 7-foot-5-inch wingspan. Good luck trying to sneak shots in around the rim against the Swiss born Capela. He came on strong during the 2015 playoffs, averaging 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 7.5 minutes per game (not eye popping stats, but he was effective) and has continued impressing during the preseason where he averaged 8.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in 23.4 minutes per game. Count on Capela’s size and athleticism to give the Nuggets bigs and rim attackers trouble.
The start of a new season and a new era of Nuggets basketball is upon us.