Game of the Week: Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks
Apparently David Stern is in the business of picking lineups now. Perhaps he’d like to set my fantasy lineup this week too?
I know he’s injured, but would benching Kyrie Irving be detrimental to the league since he’s a rising star? Send me an email as soon as you can, commissioner. I can’t afford the $250,000 fine.
Enough of this bitterness. There are a lot of good games on national television next week, and the league has officially guaranteed that all the stars will play, coaches be damned (OK, just a little more bitterness).
A lot of big-name teams square off this week, but I want to highlight the more low-key matchup: the Denver Nuggets at the Atlanta Hawks.
Kenneth Faried has continued the brilliance of his rookie campaign. He’s among the best rebounders in the league, especially on the offensive end, and one of the better finishers, at the tender age of 23. He’s younger than me! I guess I really didn’t make it. Faried has solidified his role on the Nuggets and is playing 8 more minutes per game this season. His shooting efficiency hasn’t dropped off much despite an increase in attempts, but it’s disappointing that he hasn’t improved his free throw shooting. This will be his second career game against Atlanta. He’ll likely get more than the 25 minutes he played last season, but he will also likely garner more attention in the film room and from Josh Smith, who has been a terror on defense this year.
Louis Williams has continued to play well as a bench scorer despite moving from Philadelphia to his home state. Williams has perfected his routine of scoring efficiently by getting to the line a bunch. He leads the Hawks in free throw attempts despite playing just a hair over 24 minutes a game. His only shortfall this season is that he’s taking too many three-pointers and shooting only 31.8%. An improvement in his shot selection should nudge that closer to last year’s 36.2%. Williams struggled against Denver last season, mainly because the Nuggets forced him into a lot of long jumpers.
What to Watch For
Denver has one of the best offenses in the league, and a lot of that has to do with second-shot attempts—they lead the league on offensive rebounding percentage. I already mentioned Faried, but JaVale McGee is also a handful on the glass. Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia will have their hands full trying to keep them off the boards.
Atlanta has shot very well from three this season. Three-point shooting was the key to their win against the Nuggets last year. Luckily for the Hawks, Denver has been one of the worst teams in the league at defending three-pointers, allowing their opponents to shoot 39.5% from beyond the arc. The Hawks have only gotten better at three-point shooting this season, adding Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson, who has seemingly shaken off his dismal year in New Jersey. Jeff Teague leads the team from distance, shooting 45.5%, and even Josh Smith is hitting his threes in an otherwise bad start on offense for him. So unless either the Nuggets defend much better or the Hawks cools off, there might be a barrage in Atlanta.
Why Else Should I Watch?
The Lakers, the Thunder, the Knicks and the Heat are always on national television. It’s rare to see these mid-card teams play on the big stage. I also think the Nuggets unis are cool.
How to Watch
ESPN, 8 p.m. eastern time, Wednesday
League Pass Bonus Game
Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. eastern time, Tuesday. The heartwarming reunion of Mike D’Antoni and Jeremy Lin.