Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a weekly series called “Betting Nuggets” that will offer expert picks and tips when betting on Denver Nuggets lines and props. Make PlayColorado your destination for all information pertaining to the Nuggets.
Nikola Jokic’s one-game suspension
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way early.
On Monday night in the fourth quarter of a near-blowout over the Miami Heat, Nikola Jokic took a hard foul in transition from Markieff Morris. Jokic then retaliated with a hard shove into the back of Morris which sent him flying. The result of the play was both Jokic and Morris being ejected and Jimmy Butler being given a technical foul for his trash talking after the possession. If you haven’t seen it, here is the clip of the altercation.
On Tuesday the NBA announced that Jokic is suspended one game. So was out for the game against the Indiana Pacers. At least for this game, it puts the Nuggets in an incredibly difficult situation. Not only is Jamal Murray still out as he works through his rehabilitation from is ACL tear last season, but Michael Porter Jr. is out for the foreseeable future with lower back soreness. Losing Jokic as well would mean Denver is without their three most talented players which could be a back-breaking circumstance. Any extended losing streak could be the difference between earning home-court advantage in the playoffs or fighting for their postseason lives in the play-in tournament.
Since it was only one game for Jokic, those betting on the Nuggets have added enthusiasm for the game with the Portland Trail Blazers. In a slight twist, the player who is out is Damian Lillard with lower abdominal pain.
Trail Blazers vs Nuggets must-see TV
The fact Jokic is playing on Sunday night for the Nuggets against the Trail Blazers makes this must-see NBA TV. But there is one interesting matchup that could provide value to Colorado NBA bettors.
The swing matchup is Will Barton III being defended by CJ McCollum. Simply, McCollum — who has never exactly been a defensive difference maker — is too small to be guarding the red-hot Barton.
To begin the season, Barton is already averaging 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists on nearly 40% shooting from three-point range while playing by far the best defense of his career. He has been the Nuggets’ second-best player all season long, but in the last three games, he has gone to a different level. Denver has gone 2-1 in its last three games, including a two-point loss at the buzzer to the Memphis Grizzlies. In that time Barton is averaging 22 points, five rebounds, 6.3 assists and just one turnover per game while shooting 50% from the field and 46.2% from three-point range on a whopping 8.7 shots from beyond the arc. His volume and efficiency should only continue against the smaller backcourt of the Trail Blazers.
Since the Nuggets are without Porter, Barton will be one of Denver’s first options on offense. Look to take the over on his points and assists prop bets for good NBA betting value.
As for the game, the Nuggets are a slight -point favorite over Portland.
Nuggets vs Dallas Mavericks
The Nuggets battle with the Dallas Mavericks could come down to one player’s impact on both ends: Aaron Gordon.
I know this seems crazy, but hear me out.
Gordon clearly has an advantage on offense; especially if he moves up the priority list of offensive options if both or one of Jokic and Porter are out. He will be defended by either Kristaps Porzingis or Dorian Finney-Smith; neither of whom has the strength to handle Gordon. Porzingis is particularly vulnerable to Gordon’s physicality around the rim and quickness on the perimeter. Utilizing Gordon will probably be featured heavily regardless of who is available for the Nuggets. Denver will also look to Gordon to help push the ball in transition even more than it already does if Jokic happens to miss the battle with the Mavericks. That could allow him to show off his playmaking ability in the open court where he thrives.
Additionally, Gordon will be asked to be the primary defender of Luka Doncic, who has not had the start to the season the MVP favorite had hoped. Doncic has not shot this badly from the floor since his rookie season and he is posting a three-point percentage that would be the worst of his career. So far, Doncic has been unable to synchronize his style of play with head coach Jason Kidd’s offense. Dallas is only converting 31.7 percent of their 3-pointers and are 27th in the league in assists. That stagnant offensive style gives the Nuggets the ability to force turnovers early and often; especially if Dallas continues to rely on Doncic to bail them out so regularly.
There is value in betting the over for Gordon on points, assists and steals-plus-blocks in this matchup. Gordon will most likely be prioritized that heavily.