Thursday, Oct. 31 (8:30 p.m., TNT)
Why it’s on the list
By the slimmest of margins, this Halloween showdown edged out a Nov. 11 game vs. Houston, with Denver taking 41 percent of the fan vote, compared to Houston’s 40 percent (also-rans Philadelphia and Brooklyn garnered the remaining 12 and 7 percent, respectively). As Twitter user @21jordanmorris explained while casting a vote for the Nuggets game, “Nuggets at Pelicans, youth vs. youth. Two of the best-regarded young cores.” Indeed, in its under-25 power rankings that measured young talent around the NBA, TheRinger.com placed Denver and New Orleans 1-2, with the Nuggets earning a slight edge based on the presence of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Where it falls on the New Orleans schedule
The Pelicans will have to come together quickly as a team to give themselves the best chance of competing vs. the Nuggets, because this is only NOLA’s fifth overall game of the 82-game slate. Meanwhile, one of Denver’s biggest strengths against the rest of the league may be its continuity, having built through the draft and kept many of the same components together over multiple years. Seven of the first eight Pelicans games are against teams that reached the playoffs in ’19.
What’s new in Denver
Not much. Underrated wing Jerami Grant was acquired in a trade with Oklahoma City and will provide the Nuggets with more athleticism and a versatile defender. A first-round pick in ’18, forward Michael Porter Jr. missed all of what would’ve been his rookie campaign due to injury, but is expected to be on the floor this season, after he also sat out summer league. The Nuggets took another draft flier on Bol Bol, who was projected by many to be a lottery pick, but fell to Round 2.
Matchups to watch
Fourth in MVP voting in ’18-19, Jokic is already well-acquainted with new New Orleans center Derrick Favors, having been division rivals when Favors suited up for the Utah Jazz. In addition to the challenge of containing the scoring and elite passing of Jokic, Pelicans frontcourt players such as Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson will be forced to deal with rugged power forward Paul Millsap, a top rebounder who’s added three-point range to his shot in recent years.
Nuggets history in this countdown
This is only the second time Denver has appeared on Pelicans.com’s countdown in seven years, having previously been No. 3 on the ’16-17 list. However, that three spot was largely due to the fact that Denver was the guest for NOLA’s home opener in October ’16. The Nuggets are quickly gaining respect and recognition around the sport after going 54-28 last season and earning the West’s No. 2 seed.
Other 2019-20 games between these teams
Wednesday, Dec. 25, New Orleans at Denver (ESPN)
Friday, Jan. 24, Denver at New Orleans