Joel Bartilotta takes a look at the Denver Nuggets’ schedule as we inch closer to the NBA restart, predicting how their season is likely to finish up.
8/1 (vs. MIA) Loss
A low-scoring win for Miami. The Heat were quietly one of the biggest surprises before the COVID break and they did most of that damage with an injured roster. Now that everyone is back and fully healthy, this is a team to fear. Not to mention, no one wants to play a defensive-minded team run by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in their first game back. If we see a total north of 210, don’t be afraid to bet the under in the first game between two defensive clubs.
8/3 (at OKC) Toss Up, DEN win?
After a tough loss in their opener, I anticipate Denver coming out hard in this game against a conference foe. With that said, these teams are about as even as it gets and this is truly a coin flip game when looking at the numbers. Yet another low-scoring setup as well.
8/5 (at SAN) Win
After two tough games, the Nuggets finally get an easy opponent. With LaMarcus Aldridge sidelined, this is going to be one of the worst teams in the restart. I expect the Nuggets to handle the Spurs easily.
8/6 (vs. POR) Win
A casual fan may not have noticed but the Trail Blazers were bad this season. While they can turn it on at any point, I expect the Nuggets to handle this game as well.
8/8 (vs UTA) Toss Up, Loss?
This game could have some serious ramifications in terms of seeding. If that’s the case, look for this to be a nail-biter that’s decided in the final minutes.
8/10 (at LAL) Loss
The Lakers are the best team in the Western Conference and they’re one of the only teams who I could see going undefeated in this restart. They’ll be a favorite in every game they play.
8/12 (vs. LAC) Loss
The Clippers will want to separate themselves from the three-seeded Nuggets and this is a good opportunity for them to lock up that spot.
8/14 (at TOR) Toss Up, Loss?
This game will be fascinating. These two clubs are very similar and it honestly might be decided by the standings. One of these clubs may rest some starters if things are already decided but we have to hope both clubs will be at full strength and ready to put on a show.
That leaves Denver with a 2-3 record including three toss ups. We’ll go ahead and call that an even 4-4 record for the restart.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at the current standings and how these projections could shape the Nuggets positioning. Apparently, standings will be decided based on winning percentage. Going into Orlando, this is where teams in the Western Conference stand that could potentially affect the Nuggets. Key: Team (Win percentage)
2. LA Clippers (68.8%)
3. Denver Nuggets (66.2%)
4. Utah Jazz (64.1%)
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (62.5%)
6. Houston Rockets (62.5%)
7. Dallas Mavericks (59.7%)
Statistically speaking, the worst Denver can finish is 43-30 (58.9%) and the best they could do is 51-22 (69.9 percent). The main issue here is that everyone plays tough competition and it’s hard to imagine any team winning more than six games or losing more than six games outside of really bad clubs like Brooklyn, Washington and Phoenix. That’s why I don’t see a whole lot of movement from Denver and if they’re going anywhere, it’s down.
The Jazz, Thunder and Rockets all are right there in terms of striking distance and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of them catch the Nuggets, especially with my prior game-by-game breakdown. To put it simply, you’ll gain or lose about two percentage points based on a win or a loss, so, a lot of movement is unlikely.
How to Approach Denver From a Betting Perspective
Honestly, we need to keep an eye on how these teams look in the first game back. Betting on any club in the opener is risky as hell but there’s going to be some soft lines. You’ll almost never see a team favored by more than 5-6 points in a neutral venue against relatively even competition and that’ll make things fascinating from a betting perspective.
The thing I’m going to do is fire at unders in game totals that look too high. These rotations are going to be all sorts of funky and it’ll be tough for these teams to get back into rhythm right off the bat. That goes even more for a team like Denver, with the Nuggets ranked eighth in total defense while playing at the second-slowest pace in the NBA. The thing that really worries me about Denver is that they get no home games. A 25-8 record at Pepsi Center is no surprise and it sucks that the Nuggets can’t use that altitude to their advantage.
Win Total: O/U 4.5
I mean, these are weird. The 25-1 bet actually looks like a decent value while the 4.5-win total looks too high. That might force me to throw a $10 bet on a Nuggets championship and hope for a hedge spot in a potential Western Conference championship. As for the 4.5-win total, the under is definitely the play. Getting five wins against all of these tough teams is a tough task, particularly from a Denver team who faces a lot of stingy competition here in Orlando. While I likely won’t bet that at the end of the day, the over is just a far riskier bet than the under if you ask me.
All in all, Denver is a threat but who isn’t in a season like this? Anything can happen and that’s why the 25-1 bet looks like a decent hedge spot. Whoever stays the healthiest in this restart is going to have the upper hand and it’ll be fun to see what this team does is a shortened season and a neutral environment.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to reach me on Twitter @Bartilottajoel!