Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets

Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A potentially foreshadowing clash of European titans

When it comes to players in the most recent NBA era (specifically, Post-Manu’s-retirement/Pre-Wembanyama’s-arrival) there is perhaps no player I’ve enjoyed watching as much Nikola Jokić.

As with Wemby, it’s hard to put into words the totality of what he’s capable of doing on any given night. Granted, his expertise leans more to the offensive end whereas Victor’s currently leans more to the defensive, but the comparison stands.

Growing up I had read about, heard about, and even seen some big men who were gifted passers. Wes Unseld was (and remains) the presumptive GOAT of outlet passing, a borderline knee-less Arvydas Sabonis was revelatory even in the cramped spacing of his era, and of course, tales are still told about the time Wilt Chamberlain led the league in assists in 1968.

But never had I (or anyone else) seen what was about to happen when modern NBA spacing met the mental wizardry of a young, somewhat doughy Serbian big man.

Currently Jokić is 4th in assists per game, 4th in rebounds per game, 14th in points per game, and 27th in steals, just for fun. Averaging just .8 assists per game shy of a triple-double for the season (after missing it by .2 last season) he’s cruising towards a 3rd MVP in 4 seasons, and he’s just about unstoppable when he’s on the court, which is almost always.

In 9 seasons he’s missed more than 10 games only once, proving more durable than not just every superstar big man, but also almost every full-time player in the league. That he’s done this while averaging 34(ish) minutes a night is all the more impressive.

Simply put, he’s a unique hurdle for any team to face, but one that any up-and-comer is likely to have to vault in order to have championship hopes in the near-future. The good news is that the Spurs have a player uniquely positioned to become a problem for Jokić in Victor Wembanyama.

To be clear, this is more of a projection at the moment, as Jokić has enough of an advantage in bulk for now to push Wembanyama around and bully him in the post. But if length is the answer to mass, then you can call Wemby ‘Oppenheimer’ because he’s going to blow everything up once he puts some more muscle on. (It’s science. Look it up.)

For now, it’s fascinating to see how he measures up as twenty-year-old rookie against arguably the best player in the NBA.

And honestly, that’s likely to be the most entertaining thing about this match-up, so you should probably avert your eyes whenever those two aren’t on the court.

As good as the Nuggets were last season, they appear to have finally minimized their most considerable weaknesses on the defensive end. For years the Nuggets lived and died based on Jokić’s offensive other-worldliness, weathering injuries and a bottom-third defense, but in addition to the offensive balance found last season, the Nuggets are now 10th in defensive rating, and 5th in net rating.

There’s always a chance, especially if Wembanyama can figure out how to trouble Denver on the interior enough to force them to reply on jump shots.

It’s a slim chance, but like Lloyd Christmas, I am undeterred. Go, Spurs, Go!

Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs

March 15th, 2024 | 7:30 CT

Watch: KENS5 |Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Charles Bassey – Out (Knee), Cedi Osman – Day-to-Day (Ankle)

Nuggets Injuries: Vlatko Cancar – Out (Knee)

For the Nuggets’ fans’ perspective, visit Denver Stiffs.

PtR’s Game thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.

Leave a Reply