How to fake it: Denver Nuggets 22-23 season edition
The Denver Nuggets start the NBA season Wednesday with a full roster, finally. And if it holds, a championship is within sight.
- That's the top-line to know about the Nuggets 2022-23 season. If you find yourself in a deeper conversation, here's a primer to get smart:
Catch up quick: Nikola Jokic — the NBA's back-to-back most valuable player — led the Nuggets to the playoffs for the fourth straight year last season.
- But the team sputtered without additional firepower from two of its top scorers: Jamal Murray missed the entire season with a torn ACL and Michael Porter Jr. played just nine games with a back injury before undergoing surgery.
What's new: Jokic signed a mega deal to stay in Denver and Murray and Porter Jr. are healthy.
- In the offseason, the Nuggets traded Will Barton and Monte Morris to the Washington Wizards and landed guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a veteran and excellent defender.
- The team also acquired Bruce Brown from the Brooklyn Nets on a two-year deal. He isn't a flashy player but shot 51% overall last season and helped the Nets make the playoffs.
What they're saying: "This is the best shot the Nuggets have had to hoist up the first banner in franchise history," Asher Levy writes on a SBNation fan site.
Fun fact: Nuggets mascot Rocky is the highest paid mascot in the NBA, making $625,000 a year, or 10 times the average league salary.
Player to watch: 22-year-old Bones Hyland may not make the starting five, but the point guard is exciting to watch with big energy and increasing confidence, as he showed in a preseason matchup against the Phoenix Suns and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.
The scene setter: The Nuggets start the season on the road against the Utah Jazz, and our colleague Ross Terrell at Axios Salt Lake City started talking trash the day before the opening game.
He says the Jazz have a chance to pull off a win (and upset) to start the season because:
1. Underrated talent. Players like Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen and Talen Horton-Tucker are young and have a lot to prove.
2. Jordan Clarkson. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year — the top bench player — is still around, and is a walking bucket — meaning points will be abundant anytime he steps on the floor.
- Expect him to play a bigger role in crunch time as the Jazz could turn to him to take and make key shots.
3. Run, run and run some more. On paper the Nuggets are clearly the better team.
- If the Jazz turn this into a track meet and test the conditioning of Murray and Porter Jr., plus big man Jokic, they may have the slightest chance.
Of note: The Nuggets are only favored in Wednesday's game by 8 points. Doesn't sound like the oddsmakers have too much faith in them just yet.
The other side: We responded with our own shots:
1. The Jazz are in tear-down mode and traded their best player, three-time All Star and NBA defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert.
- Here in Denver, we keep our stars, and Jokic will show you how that looks. He averaged 27 points a game last season.
2. The Nuggets score 113 points per 100 possessions, making them the most efficient offensive team in the league for the past five seasons, per NBA.com.
- The Jazz ranked second in the league for points allowed over the last five seasons.
3. The Nuggets are the "now" team with a healthy Murray and Porter Jr.
- The Jazz are the team of the distant future, their fortunes tied up in their 18 first-round draft picks in the next seven years.
The bottom line: The Nuggets will stand atop the Western Conference at the end of the season, thanks to a mountain of victories against the Jazz.
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