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Saturday, 23 September 2017 13:10

Denver Nuggets vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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Denver Nuggets vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview | Powered by CLNS Media

Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

Boston Celtics vs. Denver Nuggets

2016-17 Round-up: Denver finished 40-42 last season, one game out of the No. 8 seed and the honor of a first-round sweep by the Golden State Warriors. They got 63 solid games out of Danilo Gallinari, which may not seem like much, but it was the most he’s played in four years. Gallo led the team with 18.2 points per game, but the real story in Denver was the emerging dominance of second-year big Nikola Jokic.

 

Jokic, who makes less than $2 million a year, averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, and at 6-10 is still a strong free-throw shooter.

 

Jameer Nelson and Emannuel Mudiay split the point guard spot, Wilson Chandler, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets had a boatload of strong role players, but couldn’t quite land on a set rotation that got the job done consistently. Injuries and trades can be partially blamed, but Denver had 11 different players start 10 or more games last season.

 

Offseason Grades: Outside of Boston, the Denver Nuggets were the league’s big free agency winners this offseason. While the league was focused on the Gordon Hayward Fourth of July mess and the Paul George and Jimmy Butler trades, the Nuggets swooped in and signed Millsap to a three-year deal worth $95 million. While he will turn 33 during the upcoming season, Millsap has made the All-Star team each of the last four years and averaged career highs in points and assists per game in 2016-17.

 

Millsap is a big get for the Nuggets, especially with how competitive the Western Conference is looking. However, it wasn’t a free pick-up. To create cap space they essentially had to dump Gallinari, who was signed-and-traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. The three-teamer returns only a second-round pick to Denver.

 

The Nuggets also slid back in the draft, trading out of the lottery by giving up their 13th pick (Donovan Mitchell) for the No. 24 pick (Tyler Lydon, signed) and reserve Jazz forward Trey Lyles.

 

Lyles himself was a lottery pick in 2015, but had an abysmal year shooting the basketball in 71 games for Utah last year.

 

Training Camp Questions: The arrival of Millsap is big news, but he isn’t the kind of mainstream star that would threaten chemistry or culture. Instead, he is just a hard-working big man who can fill up a stat-sheet, much like his new frontcourt-mate Jokic. The passing these two could create this season will be very interesting to witness. The question of how they mesh shouldn’t be to difficult to answer.

 

The big question is whether the Nuggets will have the shooting around those talented bigs to make opposing defenses pay. And that will lie in the young guys. Jamal Murray, Emannuel Mudiay and Gary Harris are 19, 20 and 22 years old, respectively. With Nelson teetering in the mid-30s, Chandler 30 and Gallinari’s buckets off the table, those young guns need to step up into the window that has been created with Millsap’s arrival.

 

Next Move They Make: Until the young guys prove themselves, and perhaps even after, Nelson and Will Barton are valuable pieces to maintain for Denver. However, in the front court things are now more crowded and minutes harder to come by. Millsap is a mid-30 minute a night guy, and the Nuggets have to hope Jokic can get there as well in Year 3. That leaves Kenneth Faried as a possible guy to be moved.

 

After four-plus years as a regular starter in Denver, is numbers dropped and he only started 34 of the 61 games he played. Faried is still a very valuable rebounder and high-percentage scorer inside, but with Millsap and Jokic firmly starting, he has to take a backseat. He’ll also be 28 in November and with Denver bringing in younger bigs like Lyles, Lydon and Juan Hernangomez, they may be interested in flipping him for another shooter.

 

How they Beat the Boston Celtics: Millsap has often had success against the Celtics. While they certainly won’t see each other as often this season, that shouldn’t change. Jokic as well is a massive matchup problem for Boston, who traded away its best perimeter defenders. I would imagine these matchups to be a shoot-out, with the Nuggets gunning up as many shots as possible to try and keep pace with a Celtics offense that boasts two like 20-plus point per game scorers, while the Nuggets may once again be without a singular elite scorer.

 

Final Record/Standings Prediction: 47-35, 5th in Western Conference

 
Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is the CLNS Media Network's Boston Celtics Content and Newsfeed Manager.

Mike is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in sports communications. He spent three years as a NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, where he was the site's top Boston Celtics writer.

Mike is a full-time sports writer with The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. He can be reached by email to MikeW@CLNSMedia.com or via Twitter @CLNS_Walsh.

Personal Website: www.WalshWrites.com