On August 8th, the Utah Jazz will be facing the third-seeded Denver Nuggets, in front of a live studio audience. While seeding may matter less in an environment lacking a true home court advantage, the eight games preceding the playoffs will be an important time to tune our engines and get everything running at peak levels. Especially with Bojan Bogdanovic out recovering from his surgery, I expect Utah Jazz Coach Quin Snyder to be testing out multiple variants of lineups and rotation schedules.
When we left off in March, the Jazz were jockeying for seeding with the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets. The months following the season suspension have felt similar to the NBA lockout of 2011. There have simply been no sports, not much news, and most people have had to turn to other outlets for entertainment. So here’s a few things about those Nuggets that you may have forgotten in this time.
1. Nikola Jokic is the offensive version of Rudy Gobert.
Both the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz have been blessed with extremely talented big men at the C position. Nikola Jokic is the machine that fuels the Nuggets high-octane offense. While Jokic may have only shot 31.4% from three this year, his exceptionally diverse skillset and constant threat to pass the ball open up the court for many different options.
While ORtg and DRtg actually both favor Rudy Gobert, both Offensive +/- and Defensive +/- favor Jokic. From the statistics, it looks like Jokic is about as underrated on defense as Gobert is underrated on offense. Nikola Jokic may have relatively slow feet, but with his incredibly high basketball IQ, he ends up being a solid defender.
2. Paul Millsap was quietly having an extremely efficient year.
Former Jazz player Paul Millsap is in the 14th year of his career. If there was an award for consistency, a player like Millsap would be in contention for it every single year. Although he has been relegated to a smaller role since moving to Denver, Millsap has quietly been an integral part of Denver’s success.
This season, Paul Millsap has averaged a blistering 44% from deep, while maintaining solid rebounding, passing, and defense numbers. He may not be an all-star, but true contenders are made up of these high experience players. Veterans like Paul Millsap, Danny Green, Ray Allen, Andrew Bogut, and others can be huge difference-makers in crucial moments of the playoffs.
3. While the Nuggets do not get much media attention, they will be a very large threat to the current title favorites.
Denver might not have multiple flashy stars that are constantly making the news. If it weren’t for Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets might not be reported on hardly at all. However, do not let that fool you into a false sense of complacency. From point guard to center, the Nuggets have a wealth of very talented players. They are run by an elite coach in Michael Malone, who should be a perennial contender for Coach of the Year.
Luckily, the Jazz get a few games to get back into shape before August 8th. This game against the Nuggets will be a good barometer to measure ourselves before entering the playoffs. If we can win this game in a convincing fashion, our playoff outlook will significantly increase.