After a disappointing season opening loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night the Nuggets return to Denver for their home opener against the Portland Trailblazers.
As the Nuggets finish their final preparations for the Blazers there are a few things to ponder entering tonight’s game.
How does Denver defend LaMarcus Aldridge? The Nuggets go from being beaten up inside by DeMarcus Cousins in the opener to facing another great post player in LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. Aldridge will get his points in a wider variety of ways than Cousins did on Wednesday, as he possesses a more reliable mid-range jumper, can play in the post and is also a threat as a pick-and-roll screener where he can dive to the rim or fade for a jumper. J.J. Hickson played Cousins well late in Wednesday’s game by using his physicality to fight Cousins for position. Hickson will start the game on Aldridge and I would expect the Blazers to try and post Aldridge less than usual tonight and instead put Hickson into pick-and-rolls where he typically struggles. Denver has had troubles keeping the opponents best player in check since the beginning of the preseason. If they want to be in tonight’s game they need to solve that problem quickly.
The power forward rotation: Brian Shaw said yesterday that he will probably continue to close games with the Darrell Arthur/J.J. Hickson combination because he thinks it is his best defensive big man pairing. With Hickson also starting at power forward there don’t seem to be many minutes available for Kenneth Faried, who is also still working his way back from injury. I would assume Arthur plays a bit more often early in the game then he did in the season opener to help establish a rhythm which would again limit available minutes for Faried. Arthur should also help defend the pick-and-roll better than any other Nuggets big man, and Portland will run plenty of those plays. Can Faried shake his below average opener and start earning himself more minutes or is Arthur going to take tonight and make the case for 20 or more minutes a game?
What happens at small forward? Anthony Randolph gave the Nuggets 15 awful minutes in the season opener. Does Brian Shaw stick with him as a starter, use Quincy Miller or decide to go to one of the smaller lineups that he used late in the game with either Andre Miller or Evan Fournier alongside Ty Lawson and Randy Foye? As someone who constantly preaches earning minutes it is hard to see how Shaw starts Randolph again tonight, but we will see.
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