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NBA Preview: Nikola Jokic and Nuggets potent offense welcomes Pelicans to Denver

Teetering on the edge of playoff contention, AD and Boogie look to continue developing chemistry for next year

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Cheers to you for reading this NBA preview with the New Orleans Pelicans visiting the Denver Nuggets Sunday night at 7 p.m. The game can be seen on Fox Sports New Orleans and heard on 99.5 FM.

Also, cheers to you because, well, the Pelicans have found themselves outside of the Western Conference playoff race for the 8th position for another year of Anthony Davis’ prime. This is leading some to believe he’ll take the first plane, train or automobile out of town as soon as the summer of 2020. I can’t totally disagree: this team has to win next year and the year after to make AD think he’s in the right place. Assuming two more years of lottery teams, why not pick up and go to San Antonio? Or head over to Houston or OKC? Or join whatever team is the flavor of the week at that time? At some point, he’s going to sicken of losing if it continues.

There’s a lot of confidence that the team will win games, but thinking or hoping they’ll put it together is much different from that actually happening. When the Thunder originally got Durant, Westbrook and Harden, the thought was “this team could be great”... and then they actually went out and won games as youngsters when that wasn’t expected of them. They basically got a year ahead of schedule when they made the playoffs as an 8-seed in 2009-10 and took off from there. Discounting an OKC comparison, so far, the Pels are not ahead of schedule.

The pressure will be on all next year and if they’re praying for the 8th spot next March, we could have a problem on our hands with not only AD but DeMarcus Cousins, as well.

But anyway, to the Nuggets! They’re pretty good!

Nikola Jokic is the Unicorn of Choice in 2017, providing highlight passes in an offense that has caught fire since the team’s trip to London on January 12. Since then, the Nuggets have the best OffRtg in the entire league — yes, higher than both Houston and Golden State — and hold a 1.5 game lead over Portland for the last playoff spot.

Jokic has five triple-doubles just since early February, regularly collecting tons of rebounds. Against Indiana on Friday night, the Joker finished with 30 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in a matchup against another young stud in Myles Turner. Jokic also came up clutch, making a huge three-pointer to seal the win.

Of note: one of Jokic’s nicknames is Big Honey. I love that.

Your Dad’s Denver

When you think of the Denver Nuggets, you think of what? Offense, pace, scoring, depth, scoring, points, scoring and more points, right?

Well, after a few depressing post-George Karl years, your dad’s Denver team might be back. Not only does the team have the best offense in the league for the last few months, but they’re doing it in spectacular fashion with 3s, paint points, heady passing and with contributions from guys like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Gary Harris despite numerous injuries to each of them.

Interestingly, the team has basically relegated third-year man Emmanuel Mudiay to the bench since towards the end of January, leaving veteran Jameer Nelson as the team’s only “pure point guard.” This is fine though, because starters Gallo and Jokic can bring the ball up and initiate the offense, but so can bench guys Mason Plumlee, rookie Jamal Murray and Will Barton. Yeah, expect lots of contributions from many different guys, New Orleans.

Mountainous Matchups

Part of Denver’s success has been their reliance upon big, talented guys to push their offense along. Specifically, Galinari, Jokic and Plumlee may all share the court at various times, giving them a giant 3-4-5 who can all pass and dribble, and two of those guys (Gallo and Joker) can shoot! Another big lineup may feature Gallo, Chandler and Jokic, or Chandler, Faried and Plumlee... point is, they’ve got options.

The Pelicans, of course, feature two uber-talented bigs of their own with AD and Cousins at the 4 and 5. I have typically been okay with Galinari’s defense in previous years, but against the Pacers, he wrong-footed himself into bad positioning multiple times. Maybe Solomon Hill can get himself in the lane and to the free throw line? Maybe?

And if Plumlee and Jokic are on the floor with AD and Boogie, who guards whom? Here’s guessing Plumlee guards AD, while AD might take on Jokic on the other end.

No matter the outcome, it should be a fun one in Denver. Geaux Pelicans!