MHS Roundtable: Breaking down Denver’s 2019-20 schedule

Denver Nuggets mascot Rocky cheer in the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center.
May 7, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets mascot Rocky cheer in the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With the Denver’s 2019-20 schedule released to the masses, it is time to dive into all of the little details and factoids that exist within.

With so much information to work through, the staff at Mile High Sports came together to answer five questions pertaining to the Nuggets schedule and their upcoming 2019-20 season.

Without further ado, here is the newest Mile High Sports Roundtable featuring Duvalier Johnson, Jena Garcia, and T.J. McBride.

How tough is the Nuggets schedule on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most difficult?

Duvalier Johnson: I do feel as if it is a great schedule for the Nuggets and that Denver has what it takes to finish with a top-three seed in the Western Conference for the second-year in a row.

With that being said, I am going to go with a 5.

I think that the league did a decent job of making sure that Denver was not being loaded up with trap games or too many contests that Denver does not have a chance to win due to an incredibly long road trip or a brutal stretch of games against other strong teams. However, Denver’s schedule does favor them at various times due to being such a strong home team. Denver has 13 back-to-backs but that was a strength for the Nuggets last season when they went a league-best 12-1. I do not expect Denver to do that again, but the Nuggets appear to be a team that thrives in those situations. Denver also has a chance to finish off the season on the right foot as well with seven of their last 10 games at the Pepsi Center.

A strong start and finish is well within their reach.

Jena Garcia: On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the Nuggets schedule as an overall 7.

They start off and end the season with a cushion of easier games. When the season starts in late October up until they face the Sixers and Nets in middle November, Denver has quite a few home games that are winnable.

They also end the season with a handful of games at home in April. The teams Denver will face to end the season are same teams that the Nuggets have a track record of success against in the past couple seasons. It is also important that those games making those games that much more winnable.

T.J. McBride: Duvalier is spot on. This schedule for the Nuggets is as balanced as I have seen it. I would also give it a 5 out of 10.

Having 12 back-to-backs and no stretches of four-games-in-five-days is just right. The amount that Denver will have to travel is less than most years. Their strength of schedule is as even as any team in the league. Don’t believe me? Check out Ed Küper’s analytics as they pertain to the full NBA schedule.

Simply stated, the Nuggets start the season with a soft schedule and finish it in the same way. When the calendar flips to the year 2020, the schedule gets tougher, but every team has stretches of tough games.

Normally, the schedule release brings bad news for the Nuggets, but the 2019-20 schedule leaves no room for qualms in my opinion.

Which month will be the easiest for Denver?

Duvalier Johnson: With Denver’s schedule, the most favorable portion is also their most important portion and also why Denver had themselves amongst the top teams in the league last year — their opening to the 2019-20 season.

Denver opens up the season with a very favorable schedule and have the opportunity to come away with seven or so wins. The Nuggets opens up the season in a bounce-back spot against the Trail Blazers on the road on ESPN, but after the Nuggets will face the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and then the Miami Heat before finally taking Philadelphia. Then, to round off the first 10 games of the season, the Nuggets will play against against Minnesota and Atlanta.

To wrap this answer up Denver will only be playing against two teams who made the playoffs last season out of their first 10 games and half of those contests are at home where Denver is strong. Denver will again have the opportunity to start out the season strong and build off of that.

Jena Garcia: The easiest month of the schedule will be March.

The month of March follows what will be the toughest portion of the Nuggets season — both January and February are going to be rough with far more Western Conference games — but March is sprinkled with games against Eastern Conference teams with less talent on their respective rosters.

During the month of March, the Nuggets will face the reigning champs twice, but only have to face Kawhi once at home. Denver will also have to face the Miami Heat with newly acquired forward Jimmy Butler as well as the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder, but other than those games, the large majority of their games in March are against teams without major superstars. Denver will take on Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, and Chicago; all teams that have been easier matchups for the Nuggets.

T.J. McBride: Denver’s schedule in the month of November is the easiest.

Not only does the 11th month of 2019 feature just 12 total games, but eight of them will be in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center and only five of those teams made the playoffs last year. Oh, and Denver does not have a back-to-back in the month of November either.

Of those 12 games, Denver should win about nine of them making it the easiest month of the season.

Which month will be the toughest for Denver?

Duvalier Johnson: Similar to last season, it appears that the Nuggets will have another jam-packed and busy month of March.

In March, the Nuggets will have 16 total games and 10 of those will be on the road. If that were not enough, the quality of opponents in that month is even more alarming. The good thing is most of those games are at home.

The Nuggets close out February against the revamped Los Angeles Clippers and open up March against Toronto and Golden State with only one day of rest in between. Right after that, the Nuggets have an away stretch eight games on the road out of their next ten. Denver will surely be tired and dealing with their various ailments at that time.

If the Nuggets plan on being contenders and having another successful season, they will have to get off on the right foot, regroup at the All-Star break and then get ready to embark on their most difficult part of the schedule in March.

Jena Garcia: The most difficult month of the Nuggets schedule this season will be between early January through February. In that time frame, they will have to face the Clippers twice, the newly renovated Utah Jazz twice, and the Houston Rockets twice. All three of those teams have been tough match-ups for the Nuggets in recent seasons and all three of them improved their teams this offseason.

Although all three teams have strong lineups heading into the season, the toughest battle may be the Houston Rockets. Over the course of the last 3 seasons the Nuggets have played the Rockets a total of eleven times and have only won once. The Nuggets have to be hoping the Rockets will be their own worst enemy. They added Russell Westbrook to their squad which could lead to an issue with sharing the ball.

As a cherry on top, the Nuggets will also face Golden State, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Portland. 2020 is going to start out tough for the Nuggets.

T.J. McBride: The month of March is a hellscape for the Nuggets.

Not only does Denver play 16 games in 31 days, but they also have two back-to-backs and 10 games on the road. Of their 10 road games, five of their opponents made the playoffs last year. Denver will also play nine of 11 games on the road from March 5th until March 25th with their only two home games being against the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. Of their six games in the Mile High City, all six made the playoffs last season.

If the Nuggets can somehow scrape together nine wins out of that brutal month of March, it may end up looking like a big win.

Do you think the Nuggets received the right amount of nationally televised games?

Duvalier Johnson: When taking a look at the schedule, there are random parts that really stand out. What stood out most to me was the fact that Denver is finally getting the respect that they deserve on the national level.

Denver has 17 nationally televised games including the season opener against the Trail Blazers; a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals. Denver having 17 nationally televised games in the most coverage that Denver has gotten in recent history and indicates that they are one of the top teams in the league in front of the national audience. Denver also got their first Christmas game in 25 years as well which is another opportunity for families to fall in love with Denver’s brand of basketball.

Having Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets begin their season on ESPN is telling. It says Denver is a team that needs to be watched and is here to stay.

Jena Garcia: Denver went to the second round of the playoffs last season and held first place in the Western Conference for the large majority of the year.

They absolutely should have more games on national television.

Their handful of nationally televised games come during the Nuggets toughest stretch in March, including games against the Lakers and Clippers. It seems that most of the games that will be on ESPN are based on the opposing team rather than the Nuggets with their opponents being the Lakers, Clippers and Celtics.
Overall, the Nuggets were given less national exposure than they deserve.

T.J. McBride: While being 11th in total nationally televised games seems lower than Denver should be considering their talent level and how much fun they are to watch, it is just fine in the grand scheme.

Denver has been overlooked nationally for years, but in 2019-20, they are going to have a whopping 24 nationally televised games including NBATV. That includes nine games on ESPN, eight games on TNT, and seven games on NBATV.

In addition to their total number of national TV games, Denver also got quite a few holiday games. They will play four holiday games in 2019-20; Halloween in New Orleans against the Pelicans, Christmas day in Denver against the Pelicans, New Year’s Eve in Houston against the Rockets, and Martin Luther King Day in Minnesota against the Timberwolves.

That is a bigger piece of the spotlight than Denver has had for years.

Now that you have seen the schedule, what do you think the Nuggets final record will be in 2019-20 and what seed will they will finish as?

Duvalier Johnson: Their final record will be dictated by the way the Nuggets begin the season. Denver has the opportunity to get off to a scorching start where it might be difficult to break the momentum that they can gather; especially if the team stays relatively healthy.

Denver began the season hot last season and that was while going through a very tough case of the injury bug. Now, with a chance to start over, Denver can begin the season even better than that which is a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Last season, Denver finished with a 54-28 record which was one of the best seasons in  franchise history. There are things to account for when it comes to regression from last season — Denver having an astounding year winning close games, being one of the best teams on the road as well as a spectacular record on back-to-backs — but there was also things that make people think that the Nuggets could improve on their 2018-19 season — Denver being one of the most injured teams in the league, losing some winnable games as well as a few shake ups to the starting lineup.

Denver was one of the most consistent teams in the league last season and will now add a few more upgrades to their roster, which is mostly unchanged from last season. Denver will have Michael Porter Jr. to add some depth on the wing, potentially a healthy Gary Harris and Will Barton to shore up their starting unit as well as Jerami Grant.

I feel as if the Nuggets will take just a small step back and win 50 games and finish as the third seed in the Western Conference. I do not believe that Denver will be a worse team than last year, but their record will be worse due to the rest of the West getting even better.

Jena Garcia: The Nuggets final record this season will be 48 and 34.  The Nuggets are bringing back a strong core, led by two players who have continued to improve season after season.  Although many other teams made drastic changes in the offseason, the Nuggets went with a strategy of consistency.

With the addition of some of the best players in the world coming to the Western Conference, will make it difficult for them to finish the season in 1st place as they did last season.  However, I don’t see them regressing as a team but rather competing within a strong conference. That being said, I think the nuggets will finish the regular season in 4th place.

T.J. McBride: While the Denver Nuggets have improved this offseason and have plenty of internal development to look forward to, the rest of the West also improved quite a bit. Because of that, it seems likely that Denver will improve as a team, but likely win less games.

If I had to take an educated guess this early, I would say Denver finishes with 52 wins and grabs the third seed in the Western Conference when it is all said and done.

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