The Denver Nuggets have arguably been the most intriguing NBA team of the past month. Since they traded Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams to the Knicks for Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and a bunch of future draft picks, the Nuggets have gone 9-4 with their last two losses coming against the Magic and Heat. The trade has allowed players like Nene, Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo to show that they can thrive in larger roles and the consensus appears to be that the Nuggets won this trade, hands-down.
Amazingly, Denver’s offense and defense have both improved since the trade. As reported by Justin Kubatko of the New York Times, before the recent back-to-back losses against premier teams, the Nuggets offense had improved from 1.13 points per possession pre-trade to 1.14 points per possession post-trade, while their defense allowed 1.10 points per possession before the trade compared to 1.00 point per possession after the trade. It’s a relatively small sample size, but when you combine this with the fact that the Knicks are 7-8 since the trade, Carmelo Anthony’s actual worth has to be called into question.
As Denver is coming off two losses to tough opponents, the Raptors are riding a high from back-to-back wins including last night’s shocking win in Oklahoma City that broke a 14-game road losing streak. I’m not sure what got into our boys last night, but they played with surprising confidence and inexplicably didn’t collapse in the clutch. If you didn’t know better, you might think they’re actually starting to jell into a competitive team.
Playing against a team with a 27-7 home record this season could be a reality check for the Raptors — the Nuggets have won six straight in Denver and they’re gunning for home court advantage in the first round if they can make up the 4 1/2 games behind fourth-place Oklahoma City. I’m not sure what the Raptors are playing for at this point, other than messing up their chances of winning the draft lottery.
Toronto: No injuries reported.
Denver: Raymond Felton and Al Harrington are both expected to sit this one out, while Arron Afflalo is questionable with a hamstring injury he suffered on Saturday.
1. Is Reggie Evans the real MVP of the Raptors? They’re 9-12 when he’s in the lineup this season and 11-37 when he doesn’t play.
2. Do you think the Carmelo trade is worth it for the Knicks in spite of the mediocre early returns because of their supposedly increased chances of landing a third star player?
3. Considering Amir Johnson’s cool under pressure last night, should the Raptors look to him more often as a scoring option in late-game clutch situations?
4. Which NBA prospect impressed you the most during the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament?
5. Would anyone be surprised if Chris Andersen starts getting his whole face covered in tattoos now that he’s apparently run out of room to put them anywhere else?
Start time: 9:00 PM ET
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Denver: Ty Lawson, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, Nene Hilario
Tonight’s pregame song was recommended by Drew Fairservice from our Getting Blanked blog. It’s “The Past Two” by Planes Mistaken for Stars, a band that was based in Denver for most of its existence. Chris Dart wanted me to use John Denver but… no.