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Keys to Denver Nuggets finishing atop the Western Conference again | NBA Insider


By Abhishek Published 2 months ago 3 min read
Keys to Denver Nuggets finishing atop the Western Conference again | NBA Insider
Photo by Dean Bennett on Unsplash

Denver Gazette beat writer Vinny Benedetto takes you around the NBA and inside the Nuggets:

NBA Insider

The regular season resumes Thursday with Denver three games behind Minnesota for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Here are three things the Nuggets need to do to if they want to secure the one seed and home-court advantage through the conference finals.

1. Take care of Timberwolves

It’s not an easy path, but the most direct route runs right through Minnesota. The Timberwolves handed the Nuggets their first loss of the season, 110-89, back on Nov. 1. The two teams haven’t played each other since, but there are three matchups still on the schedule. The Nuggets play in Minnesota a second time on March 19. Then, the Timberwolves come to Denver on March 29 and April 10. If Denver goes 3-0 in those games, they can close the gap and land a significant blow to the Timberwolves' confidence. Anything less than 2-1 against the Timberwolves the rest of the way would make it significantly more difficult for Denver to climb into the top two.

2. Shoot more, shoot better

As long as Nikola Jokic is on the court, the Nuggets should be able to generate quality looks from 3-point range. Despite Jokic playing in all but two of Denver’s first 57 games this season, Denver’s 31.2 attempts per game from long range is third lowest in the league. Only the Pistons and Lakers have attempted fewer 3s. Denver’s issue is not a lack of shooters. Denver is shooting 36.8% as a team, led by Jamal Murray’s 41.1% on nearly six attempts per game. Michael Porter Jr. is averaging the most attempts, taking nearly seven per game, and is shooting 39.4%, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is shooting 37.9% on 3.8 attempts per game this season after acareer-best 42.3% a season ago.

3. Reserve legs

DeAndre Jordan and Zeke Nnaji might not be in the playoff rotation, as Michael Malone has been comfortable using Aaron Gordon as the back-up center in Denver’s biggest games. But the bench, especially the bigs, are going to be important in the final 27 regular-season games. The starters need to be fresh for the playoffs, which could lead to some nights off as the regular season progresses. It’s going to be tough to balance closing strong and lightening the load on the starters unless the bench steps up.

What I’m Thinking

Fixing All-Star weekend is going to be one of Adam Silver’s toughest challenges during his time as NBA commissioner, but it’s also down the list of importance.

The next media rights deal is significantly more important to the health of the league. Silver needs to find a way for basketball fans to stream their local team without blackout restrictions as regional sports networks, including Altitude, have struggled to keep their broadcasts available to most local fans. Major League Soccer found a workaround with AppleTV, though that meant saying goodbye to some respected local commentators. Streaming games illegally is getting easier and easier, and that means more and more lost revenue for the league. Silver needs to find a similar deal next year. Then comes expansion with Las Vegas and Seattle long considered the favorites to be the NBA’s 31st and 32nd teams.

Even with a series of uncompetitive events, the All-Star weekend still succeeded in producing many viral moments that ultimately increase exposure. It’s also unfair to ask some of the game’s most talented players to play hard while most of their peers are vacationing across the globe, and teams wouldn’t be thrilled about the increased injury risk their respective stars face playing a more intense game. Jaylen Brown getting roasted for his showing in the dunk contest isn’t going to encourage other stars to participate, either.

There are so many issues with All-Star weekend it’s almost not worth trying to fix. Let the TikTok stars and influencers rule the weekend. Silver should be more concerned about the issues facing the league for the other 51 weeks of the year.

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