Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#525 Denver Nuggets -1.5 vs.
#526 Portland Trail Blazers 219
Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at 10:05pm EDT
Moda Center, Portland
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#525 Denver
#526 Portland
0-0
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49-47
52-45-1
44-52
52-45-1
110
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110

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The Denver Nuggets will travel to the Moda Center on Wednesday night as they prepare to open the regular season with a Western Conference showdown against the Portland Trailblazers in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals.

Both of these teams have their eyes on another deep playoff run in 2019-20. Portland stunned Denver in seven games, coming back from a 3-1 deficit against an inexperienced Nuggets’ roster. Denver finished second in the Western Conference standings last year and they will be one of the favorites to run away with the No. 1-seed in a wide-open West this year.

Porter Jr. must earn minutes for Malone, Nuggets

Denver brought back an NBA-high 12 players from last season’s roster, as Jamal Murray and MVP candidate Nikola Jokic try to lead the Nuggets back to the playoffs for the second consecutive season. In a lot of ways, Murray has become the perfect sidekick to Jokic, who runs the offense and finds passing lanes unlike any other center in NBA history. Together, they form one of the best pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA, but it’s often Murray that is setting the screen and popping out for a three-point shot. Jokic averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game last season, but he shot a career-low 30.7 percent from three-point range. A sharpshooter from deep, Murray is coming off a season in which he scored a career-best 18.2 points per game on 36.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Paul Milsap are expected to round out the starting lineup for the Nuggets on opening night.

This game will also feature the long-awaited debut of the first-round pick Michael Porter Jr. or will it? The former No.1 player in his high school class, Porter has been dealing with injuries for the past two seasons and is ready to prove that he’s healthy. However, head coach Mike Malone was non-committal about Porter Jr.’s spot in the rotation to start the season, saying that the rookie “isn’t guaranteed to play” against the Trail Blazers. The high-profile prospect reportedly sought a conversation with Malone about his role and is accepting the challenge of earning his minutes. He already flashed his potential as a scorer during the preseason. Porter Jr. scored nine points in his debut against Portland, before finishing with 12 points in 12 minutes versus the L.A. Clippers and 11 points in 21 minutes against the Phoenix Suns.

The second unit is expected to be a strong point for Denver once again this season, thanks to the presence of Monte Morris and Malik Beasley. Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant will also earn minutes in the frontcourt, giving the Nuggets once of the deepest rosters in the NBA.

Blazers hoping for improvement from Collins, Simons

Portland reshaped its roster after suffering a four-game sweep against the Golden State Warriors in last year’s playoffs. The team opted to get rid of Seth Curry, Mo Harkless, and Al-Farouq Aminu, who all played major roles in last year’s playoff run. Instead, they brought in proven role players in Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside, and veteran Pau Gasol, while former first-round picks Anfernee Simons and Zach Collins are expected to take on bigger roles. The team has also gotten some early returns on Mario Hezonja, who flashed ability as a primary ballhandler and led the Blazers in assists during the preseason. All in all, Portland will trot out six new players and three new starters (Whiteside, Collins and Rodney Hood).

If the Blazers are going to compete in the West, they will likely need breakout seasons from Collins and/or Simons. Collins looked like a budding star in Game 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals and Simons flashed his potential on the final day of the regular season, posting 37 points, nine assists and six rebounds in his debut start.

Portland will also need to improve on the defensive end. Head coach Terry Stotts wants the Blazers to become a top-10 defensive team, but that could be a lot to ask without Harkless and Aminu -- two of the team’s most versatile defenders from last season. They ranked 16th in defensive rating last season.

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The Nuggets seem like the safer pick here. Denver had a ton of continuity in the offseason, which should bode well for a strong start to the year. They maintained their core from last year’s playoff run while adding two versatile pieces: Michael Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant into the fold. Both will be valuable floor spacers next to Jokic and Plumlee while helping anchor one of the best second units in the NBA. On the other hand, Portland will be leaning on a couple of newcomers, including center Hassan Whiteside, who’s effort was questioned last season with the Miami Heat. Take Denver to cover the spread on the road in their season-opening matchup against the Trail Blazers in Portland on Wednesday night. 

Prediction: Denver Nuggets +1.5

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These two teams have played each other quite a bit over the past 12 months, including a pair of matchups during the preseason. These will be two of the best offensive teams in the NBA this season, but I expect this to be a hard-fought game. Aside from Lillard and McCollum, the Trail Blazers have question marks on the offensive end coming into the season, so I’m leaning towards this game staying under the projected total on Wednesday evening.

Prediction: Under 219.5
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.