The Denver Nuggets will look to start their 2016-2017 season off on a high note as they face two strong Western Conference teams.
New Orleans Pelicans
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
Denver will open the 2016-2017 on the road as they travel to New Orleans to face Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Davis is one of the most talented players in the league, and he'll look to bounce back from what was a disappointing and injury-plagued season for him and his team. The Pellicans watched, as two of their best shooters in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon departed for the Houston Rockets, leaving a significant hole to be filled on the offensive end. They did add Buddy Hield via the draft, but it's a lot to ask of a rookie to step in and be an efficient offensive player right away. The Pels also added Solomon Hill, E'Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, and Lance Stephenson in free agency. Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik are key returners from last season's squad.
The key for Denver in this game will be to keep Anthony Davis in check. He's one of the premier big men in the NBA, and he can score from anywhere on the court. It's going to be really important for Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, and the rest of Denver's bigs to do whatever they can to limit what Davis can accomplish on offense. This will be a good, early opportunity for the Nuggets to show how much growth they've had defensively during this offseason. On the offensive side of the ball, the Nuggets will need to continue the positive momentum from the preseason. Denver moved the ball well, playing some gorgeous team basketball throughout the preseason, but they'll need to show that they can continue this style of play now that the games actually count. It will be very interesting to see how Michael Malone will utilize his packed cupboard of talented players. If he can put together some lineups that give everyone the best chance to succeed, the Nuggets will be a difficult team to defend.
Portland Trail Blazers
Saturday, 29 October 2016 at 09:00 PM ET Home
The Nuggets home opener this season comes against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard came on strong last season, stepping admirably into the leadership role vacated by LaMarcus Aldridge, and led the Blazers to the second round of the playoffs in a season when many expected Portland to take a step back. CJ McCollum, Lillard's backcourt partner, had a breakout season, averaging 20 points and 4 assists per game en route to the NBA's most improved player award. Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee, and the newly signed Evan Turner will also be key contributors for Portland this season, as they look to make another run at the playoffs.
Lillard is a scoring machine and he can get hot at a moment's notice. It's going to be key for Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris to bring their A games defensively and make him work for every shot. The bigs will also need to play sound pick and roll defense, as Lillard is one of the most potent pick-and-roll scorers in the NBA. Offensively, the Nuggets will look to take advantage of a Trail Blazers team that finished in the bottom half of the league in defensive rating last season. If Mudiay can take care of the ball and take command of the offense, the Nuggets should be able to put some points on the board. Look for the Nuggets to take advantage of the altitude and push tempo early and often.