Nuggets 2019-20 Season Win Total: Expect Another Leap Forward From Denver?

Nuggets 2019-20 Season Win Total: Expect Another Leap Forward From Denver? article feature image
Credit:

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) addresses questions during media day at the Pepsi Center.

  • Prior to the 2019-20 NBA season, Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) analyzes each team's win total odds.
  • Below, Matt provides a case for the over and under + gives his confidence rating for the Denver Nuggets' win total this year.

Check out this post for updated season win total odds and this post for my other 29 season win total picks.

All odds as of Thursday. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Denver Nuggets Win Total

The Case for the Over (52.5, PointsBet)

The case here is mathematical. The Nuggets won 54 games last season and feature the second-most continuity of any starting lineup unit.

They missed Gary Harris and Paul Millsap for a month last season and Will Barton for three. Young player progression, better health, a diminished division with the Thunder getting worse and the addition of Jerami Grant equals at least 55 wins.

Denver has one month with a top-10 strength of schedule (January) and is in the 20s until the New Year. They have 24 rest-advantage games, tied for fourth most in the league. They are holding training camp in Colorado Springs, meaning better conditioning to altitude from the jump.

Nikola Jokic has proven he’s a top-five player in the league, and the team is only better built around him. Harris had a rough season due to injury last year, but has proven an ability to bounce back.

Jamal Murray likely takes the lessons he learned in the playoffs and applies them; his work ethic shouldn’t be underestimated.

Their bench was one of the best in the league in Net Rating last year during the regular season.

They added Grant, a 6-9 forward who can defend, pass, hit corner-3s and rattle home putbacks. Rookie Michael Porter Jr., who continues to wow in workouts with his shooting prowess, will finally see the floor. He presents a low-risk, high-upside addition to an already-explosive offense.

Training camp brought more reason to be confident in this team, not less. Jokic seems more comfortable as leader, Grant is already impressing teammates and everyone came back stronger.

This, is in addition to Millsap, who instantly makes every lineup better; Barton, who is primed for a bounceback after the first injury-plagued season of his career; and Malik Beasley, who has become such a weapon the offers for him close to the deadline are expected to be significant, according to league sources.

Oh, and to top it off? The Nuggets have gone over the past four seasons.

The Nuggets are stacked; 50 wins is a floor, and the number is just soft enough to justify the over.

The Case for the Under (53.5, FanDuel)

Let’s start with the big-ticket item: Jokic just played the longest season of his life, going all the way until late May. In late July he joined the Serbian national team to train for FIBA play, and he played until mid-August.

Six weeks later, he entered training camp. This is a substantial increase in workload for the Nuggets’ most important player. Any dip whatsoever in Jokic’s play affects the entire team.

Jokic proved in the playoffs he can handle big usage loads; his performance in Game 4 of the Blazers series after the triple-overtime loss in Game 3 was the stuff of legends. But the concern isn’t physical — it’s mental and emotional.

The Nuggets are aware of this; it won’t blindside them. But it also means it’s likely they put him on some sort of rest program. Jokic averaged fewer than 32 minutes per game last season, which helped to get the best minutes out of him.

That number is unlikely to go down, but he may not play 80 games again, and every game he doesn’t play will be a loss vs. the elite teams, a coin flip vs. good teams and increase their variance vs. the bad teams.

Then there’s the rest of the Nuggets. It’s difficult for teams after playing high-stakes basketball for two months to go back to getting excited to play the Hornets on a Tuesday in February.

The Nuggets are likely to play Porter Jr. and Bol Bol at least some this season to see what they have. Young players trying to make impactful plays on good teams usually produce negative stints.

There’s some casual regression to be expected as well. Denver won 20 road games last season, the third most in franchise history. Denver was the No. 1 team in clutch situations last season (games inside five points in the last five minutes), going 31-15. That’s a sign of a strong team but also a sign that things broke exceptionally well for them last season.

“Ah,” the over bettor says, “but things didn’t break their way. They had all those mid-season injuries they had to overcome!” And it’s true, Denver did have to get through a stretch without three starters at one point.

In that span, however, Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez and Beasley all played exceptionally well (arguably the ceiling of their individual abilities).

It’s not that those players aren’t actually that good; they deserve all the credit in the world for stepping up. However, it’s unclear whether that play in expanded roles is sustainable over time.

In short, if they get hit with the injury bug again — a concerning issue with Harris’ and Murray’s history, with Barton coming off a hip injury and Paul Millsap being 34 — they might not be so fortunate to get that level of “next man up.”

The Nuggets also allowed the lowest 3-point percentage in the league. Their defense was legit and improved as the year went on; for example, they were second in 3-point attempts allowed per 100 possessions mid-season and got that to 14th by the end. But that 3-point percentage is mostly thought of as luck-influenced. Again, a lot went right last year.

And finally, there’s the fact that the league sliced the Nuggets’ home games vs. teams on back-to-backs dramatically. Utah, by contrast, has 13 home games vs. teams on a back-to-back. They Nuggets have just six this season.

The Verdict

  • The pick: Under 53.5
  • Confidence: 2 out of 10

Jokic’s potential exhaustion, natural regression, rookie play and decent injury concerns lead to the under being the better value. Their ceiling is closer to 60; their floor is likely 48.

I think by season’s end, they will be a better team than last year’s squad and might be the second-best team in the West. But I also think it’s likely the record is worse than last season. The range of outcomes leans under.

Training camp and early preseason, however, has cooled my confidence in it.