The Scouting Report: at Denver Nuggets
Projected starting line-up: Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried
New additions: Head coach Mike Malone, Mike Miller
Injuries: Wilson Chandler (hip, out for tonight), Joffrey Lauvergne (back, questionable), Jusuf Nurkic (knee)
After a somewhat shocking opening night blowout of the Houston Rockets, the Denver Nuggets have come crashing back down to earth amid a combination of injuries and poor outside shooting. Since then, their only other win came against the Los Angeles Lakers on the road.
Wilson Chandler hasn’t played a game yet this season, ditto for second year big man Jusuf Nurkic. Second year French big man Joffrey Lauvergne began the season as a starter but has battled injuries.
Due to their health, Mike Malone has been forced to adjust on the fly with his starting line-up. It has also overshadowed an excellent start to the season for a finally healthy Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari had an excellent close to last season after missing the previous year recovering from knee surgery. I have no doubt we will see Al-Farouq Aminu on Gallinari for the whole game.
Former Blazer Will Barton got his first start of the season over the weekend against the Golden State Warriors.
Barton has continued to improve on his game since leaving Portland and so far this season is the second-leading scorer on the Nuggets in points per game. Barton has also taken great care of the ball with a very low turnover percentage despite having the third-highest usage rate on the team.
But Portland’s biggest issue Monday night is going to be rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Reggie Jackson torched the Blazers last night for 40 points. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe both had huge games against the Blazers. Are scoring point guards going to continue beating the Blazers?
Mudiay hasn’t been efficient through the first six games but it’s not for a lack of confidence. Mudiay leads the Nuggets in field goal attempts at the point guard spot while also leading the team in assists. Portland has to a better job of walling off dribble penetration to ball-handlers who are aggressive scorers.
The Nuggets are also a top-ten team in offensive rebound rate, so the Blazers have to be better at finishing possessions. Faried and JJ Hickson will try to attack them there.
Gallinari’s resurgence has been big for the Nuggets. Kenneth Faried is still a ball of energy who forces you to get back. Barton is also eager to attack in transition. But in the half court, it’s Mudiay the Blazers must keep as priority number one.
Offensively, the Blazers just have to take care of the ball. The Denver defense has shown that they’ll give up a lot of points.
Both of these teams are young and like to get out in the open court. Expect shots to go up and go up quickly in this game.