After putting up a good fight albeit in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs yesterday, the New Orleans Pelicans get no reprieve from the schedule as they will face the Denver Nuggets back inside the Smoothie King Center on Thursday evening. Had the Pelicans been in the midst of a postseason run, these two games on back-to-back nights could have presented a major roadblock. Playing a legitimate championship contender on the first night and then a dynamic team the next sounds like two sure-fire losses, regardless of a team's potential ability.
Good thing for small favors, huh? The Pelicans are no where near such a damaging scenario as fans have been subjected to thoughts of tanks flying up and down basketball courts for weeks now.
One would think the 32-44 Nuggets would also be in the same boat, but they are not nearly as stressed. Thanks to a trade that netted Denver the right to swap their pick with the New York Knicks (and the worse of the two picks going to the Toronto Raptors), they are positioned to do well in the lottery without excessively needing to wish for losses -- the Knicks have taken care of that. Add the fact they will also receive 2016 first round picks from the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, the Nuggets can anticipate a nice haul from the upcoming draft even if they don't move up and win a top-3 pick.
Without the impending additions to their roster, the Nuggets already possess an enviable collection of talent aged 25 or younger: Will Barton and Gary Harris on the wings; Nikola Jokic, Joffrey Lauvergne and Jusuf Nurkic down low; and promising Emmanual Mudiay running the point. Have a look at what their point guard of the future did last week against the Sixers.
That was just cold. A poor perimeter shooter draining a half-court shot against a team that has experienced so much heartbreak and losses in general for years now.
3 Things to Watch
- Will Barton. He is enjoying a breakout campaign and his per 36 minute statistics are mouth-watering: 18.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 three's. The Nuggets also have Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler on the roster; had these two been healthy, Barton would have been pushed much further down the depth chart. Imagine if the Pelicans possessed just one good-sized, dynamic wing!
- Stat-stuffing Pelicans. Tim Frazier, Jordan Hamilton and James Ennis have all flashed an ability to post some nice all-around lines. If any one of them can finish the season on a strong note, they could earn themselves a job with the Pelicans or another interested team this summer.
- Michael Malone. I think I speak for a good number of New Orleans fans when I say, I miss this guy. He served as an assistant coach under Monty Williams during the 2010-11 season and many credited him for the defense during Monty's first season as head coach. After two years with the Golden State Warriors, he moved onto Sacramento. Many felt he did a nice job with the Kings, even earning the respect of DeMarcus Cousins, but was fired when the team was 11-13. Problem was that 7 of those losses came when Boogie was out with injury. Yeah, ugh.