After essentially trading Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington for Andre Iguodala and adding a few pieces along the way, many predicted the Denver Nuggets to not only finish in the top 4 of the West but also be serious title contenders.
Put plainly, they have simply looked like first round exit candidates to this point in the season, like they have been 8 of the past 9 seasons. As of Wednesday, December 5, they sit at 9-9, 7th in the Western Conference and are ranked 17th in efficiency differential. They excel at rebounding the ball, coming in 2nd in total rebound rate, including first in offensive rebounding rate. Led by 7 footers JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos, and Timofey Mozgov as well as the rebounding phenom know as The Manimal, the Nuggets have terrorized opponents on the glass. However, they have had problems on defense, giving up 104.1 points per 100 possessions for 7th worst in the league. Most of it is by way of giving up 39% shooting behind the arc to opponents, for third worst in the league.
Given that the Hawks are in the top ten in 3P%, the many shooters on the team will look for openings in Denver’s slow rotations to get off shots. Also, like against the Rockets, Pacers and Cavaliers, the Hawks must find a way to match up with a top 10 rebounding team, especially given how poorly they have hit the glass so far this season. With the news that Kyle Korver is out for the game tonight, expect to see Josh Smith at the small forward and a heavy dose of Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia.
Other than the four glass crashers, the Hawks will look to contain a trio of offensive threats. Andre Iguodala has been referred to as the top wing defender in the league. He is a matchup nightmare with his adept pick and roll awareness and hounding isolation defense. Danilo Gallinari use to be hailed as a deadly three point shooter, but has aggressively attacked the basket more in recent years. Consequently, his 3P% has declined in the past two years, currently at a poor 29% so far this season. Fourth year lightning quick guard Ty Lawson has also gotten off to a slow start, posting a .433 eFG% and .457 TS%, both about 100 points fewer than his career average. Despite these numbers, Jeff Teague, Lou Williams and Devin Harris will have their hands full slowing down this speedster.
Without Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford will have to generate offense to keep up with this high-paced George Karl-coached team. Look for a fast paced barnburner in Philips Arena tonight.
The game is being shown nationally on ESPN and starts at 8 PM.