The NBA odds for the Denver Nuggets reflect a win total of 41.5, and they're stuck between extremes, a place NBA teams don’t really want to be. Here's an expert handicapper's analysis.
2014-15 Regular Season Total: 41.5
Why the Nuggets Will Go Over the Number
The Nuggets are banking on the ability of two oft-injured players to heal and perform the way the organization knows they’re capable of playing. In the 2013 season, Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee were parts of a team that won 57 games with an open-court style that whizzed by the opposition and made it very hard for visiting teams to win in the thin Rocky Mountain air of Denver. Gallinari is a wondrously skilled wing, and McGee is a lanky, active big man with tremendous raw skills by a shaky basketball mind and an easily-distracted level of focus. McGee, at his best, can be a nasty shot-blocker and a strong rebounder. He complemented Gallinari’s scoring and gave the Nuggets a very balanced profile on the court. Yet, they missed a lot of time last season, and so the Nuggets are chiefly concerned with how these two guys are going to play in 2015. If they’re able to bounce back, Denver could make a push at the playoffs and get into the middle 40s in terms of a win total.
The Nuggets have added some players who could give them some value, too. Aaron Afflalo is a solid veteran whose legs are still fairly nimble and is far from the point of calling it a career. Where the Nuggets really seem to have hit the jackpot is in the draft, where they got Gary Harris, a strong shooting guard out of Michigan State. Harris will be able to play defense with great intensity and a good basketball IQ, but he has a very pure shooting stroke as well and should be able to handle the power of the NBA game without too much of a problem by the time he’s a third-year player. Harris, though, could make real contributions right away and make Denver a playoff threat.
Why the Nuggets Will Stay Under the Number
Why Denver will stay under the number is that this team is having to re-learn how to play defense under second-year coach Brian Shaw. The Nuggets were dead last in the NBA, stuck at 30th out of 30 teams in terms of the number of fouls they committed. It’s no surprise that Denver allowed over 106 points per game in a Western Conference with so many excellent offensive ballclubs. The Nuggets are going to have a hard-enough time as it is staying in front of ballhandlers and shooters as far as denying them good shot opportunities is concerned. If Denver can’t keep opposing teams away from the free throw line, it’s going to have no chance of surviving in the West. Denver wasn’t especially close to the playoffs last year, having won only 36 games. What about this team is going to make it six or seven games better this season? Kenneth Faried played well for the United States men’s national team in Spain during the FIBA World Cup of Basketball, but he was playing on a team of stars. In Denver, he’s not surrounded by stars, so that’s going to be a rough adjustment for him as he returns to his NBA squad.
The Nuggets aren’t ready to win 40 games this season. The West is going to eat them alive and they’re not going to dominate the East enough to make up the difference. Go under with your NBA picks.
Pick: Under 41.5 at William Hill