NBA Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Denver Nuggets

By Will Connolly
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have had a tough start to their season thus far, as they are winless through their first three games. However, I think they will be putting a mark in the win column after a Thursday night meeting with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks have started the season 2-2, with wins over the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings, and although the Nuggs lost to the Kings in a nail biter to start the season, they have also played superior opponents. Neither the Kings nor the Raptors made the playoffs last season, while the San Antonio Spurs made the NBA Finals and the Portland Trail Blazers show a lot of promise coming into this season. I mention these teams because they are the other two teams the Nuggs have failed to beat thus far.

But one statistic that sticks out to me is the Nuggets had the best home record in the entire NBA last season, and although they may not duplicate that record this season, I still expect them to win a handful of their games at their house this year, starting with tomorrow night.

Each team has lost a significant player from last year’s squad with Josh Smith leaving the Hawks for the Detroit Pistons and Andre Iguodala leaving the Nuggs for the Golden State Warriors. However, I think Denver can fill the missing gap a little more easily than the Hawks can, as they have contributors deep into their bench. I feel as though Iguodala’s presence can be filled by Randy Foye, whom of which is a much better three-point shooter than his predecessor. Smith’s 15 points and eight rebounds a game will be much harder to replicate because of his replacements in the form of Kyle Korver and Cartier Martin, who combined average less than his season average in both points and rebounds.

And even though we are only four games in, it’s important to look at all the statistics. One in particular is rebounding. The Nuggs are fourth in the league in rebounding, whereas as the Hawks are 25th. Look for the Nuggs to dominate the boards down low with bigs Kenneth Faried and Javale McGee, who will be snatching up rebounds left and right.

I expect this to be a realtively close game with the Nuggs pulling out a victory late in the fourth quarter behind their offensive rebounding and hustle.

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