Without Jimmy Butler, the Bulls look to win their 6th straight game against Ty Lawson and the Nuggets, winners of 3 of their last 5 after starting the season 1-4. The Nuggets, fresh off a 2nd place finish in the Northwest and one of the best regular seasons in team history, are facing an uphill battle in the incredibly strong Northwest division this season after firing Coach of the Year George Karl, hiring Brian Shaw and re-tooling their bench. With one of the lowest point differentials in the West, it hasn’t been smooth sailing thus far. Former Bull Forever Nate Robinson (6.9 points, 2.4 assists per game) is one of what is one of the deepest rotations in the league, with 13 players playing at least 15 minutes per game thus far.
Defensively, the Nuggets are porous, with the third highest Opponents’ PPG and 5th highest Opponents’ 3PT% in the entire league. JaVale McGee’s injury has opened the door a bit for Timofey Mozgov, who ranks highly in defending the rim so far in the young season, but does not get enough burn to make a serious impact. J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried look to get the bulk of the minutes in the frontcourt tonight, a pairing which bodes well for Joakim Noah’s continued offensive resurgence. All is not lost yet for the Nuggets, as Danilo Gallinari stands to return at some point this season, but early results are not exactly promising. The aforementioned Faried looks to be a potential casualty of the new regime, and its very likely Denver doesn’t get full value in return for one of the better energy players in this league.
As for the Bulls, their recent spate of tomato can offenses will come to an abrupt end, as they embark on a potentially grueling Western Conference road trip without Jimmy Butler, whose turf toe seems to have thrown a wrench into what was starting to be a really nice groove he was finding himself. Hinrich and Dunleavy look to share minutes at the 2, with Tony Snell likely available as a deep reserve. This of course means that Luol Deng will likely play huge minutes. Life is made of ever so many partings welded together, and we’ll see Jimmy again soon enough, but anytime Derrick Rose is able to play like his old self for an extended period would be a great help. Luckily for us, the Eastern Conference is a sinking flame of hilarity.
Potential Starting Lineups
Chicago Bulls (6-3, 2nd in Central, 3rd in East)
C: Joakim Noah, 7th season. 8.8 points, 8.9 rebounds per game.
PF: Carlos Boozer, 12th season. 16.3 points, 9.0 rebounds per game.
SF: Luol Deng, 10th season. 16.9 points, 6.4 rebounds per game.
SG: Mike Dunleavy, 12th season. 7.8 points, 3.2 rebounds per game.
PG: Derrick Rose, 6th season. 15.0 points, 4.5 assists per game.
Denver Nuggets (4-6, 4th in Northwest, 13th in West)
C: J.J. Hickson, 6th season. 9.2 points, 9.2 rebounds per game.
PF: Kenneth Faried, 3rd season. 10.3 points, 9.0 rebounds per game.
SF: Wilson Chandler, 7th season. 13.3 points, 1.5 steals per game.
SG: Randy Foye, 8th season. 8.9 points, 2.4 assists per game.
PG: Ty Lawson, 5th season. 22.0 points, 8.6 assists per game.
Key Matchup: Derrick Rose vs Ty Lawson
Rose is beginning to look a lot like Christmas (or his older self), but his season has been nothing compared to the brilliance of Ty Lawson. 22 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, nearly 2 steals a game on .455 shooting from the field, .556 TS% and he gets to the line a lot. A bad Western Conference team might be good enough to beat a good Eastern Conference one, and if they do, Ty Lawson will assuredly be a big part of it.