The Denver Nuggets season is on the brink of collapse because of a swath of injuries to five of Denver’s nine-best players.
Jamal Murray tore his ACL last season and was expected to be out for a large portion of the 2021 season immediately after the diagnosis. But now PJ Dozier is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL and now Michael Porter Jr. is headed towards his third back surgery which puts his availability in doubt. Those injuries are only compounded by the ailments that have kept out Nikola Jokic (right wrist strain) and Bones Hyland (right ankle sprain) over the past week or so. Oh, and this is after getting Will Barton III (low back pain), Zeke Nnaji (right ankle sprain), and Vlatko Cancar (left hip strain) back from injury.
Hyland and Jokic’s injuries were described as “less severe” by Nuggets head coach Michael Malone. Both Hyland and Jokic returned to the floor against the Miami Heat on Monday. But Dozier is lost for the season and Porter might be joining him. However, both Hyland and Austin Rivers have entered health and safety protocols and could be out for a while.
Injuries having a huge impact on the Nuggets
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Porter will have back surgery and miss an indefinite amount of time. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Porter is expected to miss the remainder of the season. That tracks with how the Nuggets have handled more serious injuries to their players: priority No. 1 is always the long term health of their players and the notion of players rushing back from concerning ailments is never considered.
That means the safe bet is Porter is out for the rest of the season. That will dramatically hurt the Nuggets’ chances of revitalizing their offensive production. Also, any hope for Porter to win Most Improved Player — he was tied for the best odds to begin the season — is now dashed.
Nuggets bettors can still find value
Still, there is value to be found for betting on the Nuggets despite the incredibly tough spot the Nuggets are in. Being without Porter and Murray for most, if not all, of the season makes betting the over against nearly any opponent interesting because who knows what the Nuggets offensive production will look like on a night-to-night basis? It has been hard to nail down the Nuggets totals this season; especially as of late. Despite being without Jokic, Murray and Porter for stretches, the Nuggets are 7-3 hitting the over in their last 10 games mostly because the totals have been low and because of their horrendous defense recently. Both of those trends show no signs of going away so there is value to be found for the totals of Nuggets games.
Additionally, the likes of Jeff Green and Vlatko Cancar could provide value on a game-by-game basis for prop bets. Cancar seems to be the backup wing for the Nuggets for the time being and Green has stepped into the starting lineup and has found ways to produce either on the glass or as a scorer.
In addition to those two unlikely value bets, it is still true that the Nuggets will be relying on Barton, Aaron Gordon, and Monte Morris more than any other players so long as Jokic is out. They will see the most playing time and the offense will run through them. Taking the over on Barton’s points and/or assists has consistently been a smart bet as well as the over on Gordon’s points and rebounds. Morris’ impact has shifted from game to game, but it is easily to rely on his inclusion in the offense on a possession-by-possession basis. Just like Barton, keep an eye on Morris’ point and assist totals for value.
Denver’s extremely long road trip
The Nuggets are now immersed in a 13-day, seven-game road trip in the midst of their brutal injury issues. While this is horrible timing for the Nuggets, who are on a six-game losing streak, it does create some interesting advantages for NBA bettors.
The Nuggets have a 2-6 record on the road and an identical 2-6 record against the spread on the road this season. They have struggled in every facet away from the Mile High City and being without Murray, Porter or Dozier nearly eliminates any possibility of betting the Nuggets moneyline with confidence which creates an edge for bettors looking for good value for Denver’s opponents on the moneyline.
That being said, Nuggets’ opponents that are strong at home or have multiple explosive offensive perimeter players will be a great value against the spread. Taking the over in those games and betting against Denver should provide stability for anyone looking to bet on the Nuggets. The wrinkle in all of this is the return of Jokic. There’s a reason he’s the reigning MVP.
Nuggets vs Knicks
When the Nuggets battle with the New York Knicks on Saturday morning, Jokic will be back on the floor and that changes everything for Denver.
Mitchell Robinson is a human fouling machine who should put Jokic on the foul line all game. Additionally, despite Robinson’s growth as an all-around defender, Jokic should have no issue scoring. Lastly, Jokic is rested and surely desperate to get back on the court and break the Nuggets slump. He will be motivated.
Julius Randle provides an interesting wrinkle. Denver would most likely want to put Gordon on him, but that would require putting Jeff Green on R.J. Barrett and forcing him to defend on the perimeter. Instead, Denver will likely end up starting with Jeff Green on Randle would could allow Randle to have a quick start providing bettors looking for prop bets an edge.