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The 2019 Preview Guy Mailbag

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The Preview Guy answers some mail and previews tonight’s Houston Rockets-Denver Nuggets matchup

NBA: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers
Hoodie Harden
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Way back in 2012, I came up with my own idea to steal Bill Simmons’s idea of a reader mailbag. Instead of just a basic preview with matchups and a boring prediction, I made up questions and answered them as Simmons would, trying to match his idiosyncrasies. I like to think I succeeded, but really it was just a fun exercise.

The biggest problem is that these are a pain in the ass to write. It makes sense why Simmons only writes one a year now and just focuses on podcasts. Writing is hard. Talking is easy. I was so sure that the Rockets were going to lose to the Blazers that I wagered a mailbag preview if Houston won. Which they did, of course. So you get a Preview Guy Mailbag!

As always, these are real (read: fake) questions from real (read: still fake) readers.

With the Rockets playing well without Chris Paul, can we now definitively say that Daryl Morey messed up and the Chris Paul contract will doom the Rockets?

-@RocketsH8r, Mom’s basement

PG: Daryl Morey’s reputation took a hit early this season, make no mistake. Dork Elvis struck out worse than the Yankees against Justin Verlander. He was hood(ie)-winked by Carmelo Anthony and actually believed that Michael Carter-Williams could contribute to a team that literally shoots threes and does nothing else. My dad could have told you that it wouldn’t work, but Morey had wanted Melo for so long that he lost the analytics in the nostalgia.

All of that factors in before we even get to Chris Paul, who finally got over the hump of never getting to the Western Conference Finals last season. He was always a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but now he gets to be in the third tier of my super subjective Basketball Pyramid rankings system! It’s the most convoluted ranking system this side of the NET Rankings, but I wrote a book and everything so my opinion matters more than yours.

Plus, this opens us up to the Ewing Theory! Let’s check off CP3’s candidacy:

  • Got hurt and the team started playing well? Check.

Wow that’s literally the only criterion. The only really problem is that Ewing was considered the best player on the team, but Paul isn’t. So we’re dubbing this The Paul Theory.

As for Paul’s contract, it was undoubtedly agreed upon when the trade occurred last summer. More than likely, Paul and his representation required Houston to give them the wink-wink deal a year early, and Morey was probably more than happy to oblige. Remember, the Harry Potter of GMs has long coveted literally every All-Star in the NBA. Hence, the Melo flier.

Oh, and the Melo deal? Irrelevant now. The risk was low and the potential reward was high. It didn’t work out, and now Houston is thriving again. Ditto for the MCW deal. It sucks in hindsight, but the Rockets can cut him if necessary and try to find another Danuel House Jr. or Gerald Green.

Yeah, you forgot about the diamonds in the rough that Morey always seems to uncover, didn’t you? Never forget that Morey could sign an Antarctic penguin and he’d be able to contribute immediately.

I’m also contractually obligated to post this picture when I discuss general managers.

Can you do a Rockets trade value rankings?

-Ali, Houston

PG: Sure thing. I’m not sure how to handle Melo or Vincent Edwards, so I’m leaving them off. Gerald Green cannot be traded unless he agrees to it, so he’s off too. I don’t think Austin Rivers can be traded, either.

We’ll Just Give Them Away

13-12: Marquese Chriss (1 year, $3.2M remaining including this season) and Michael Carter-Williams (1 year, $1.8M)

The Rockets would love to get these contracts off their books. Neither of these players have panned out and even with injuries, Mike D’Antoni has avoided playing them like Lonzo Ball avoids De’Aaron Fox.

They’ve Proven They Belong, But We Don’t Really Need Them

11-10: Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark Jr. (both 2 years, ~$2.1M)

Hartenstein gave Houston some decent minutes while the team awaited Nene, but he never really showed that could be more to this team.

Clark was a revelation early in the season and his two-way contract was rightfully converted to a guaranteed deal, but now he’s been overrun by another two-way player. He’s still useful to Houston, but only if injuries strike.

Someone Please Take Him and Give Us Someone Good

9. Brandon Knight (2 years, $30.2M)

The Rockets want Brandon Knight to show out. If he plays well, Houston can trade him and hopefully nab a rotation piece in return. And Knight wants to play well because he’ll be 28 years old when this contract expires and in line for one last big payday if he shows that he’s back to 100%. Expect the Rockets to shoehorn Knight into the lineup as we approach the trade deadline to exhibit his health and game.

His Best Days Are Behind Him, so We’ll Listen

8. Chris Paul (4 years, $160M)

7. Nene (2 years, $8.5M)

Paul’s deal is such a monster that no one will ever want to trade for it. Sure, if he shows that he’s back to being the spunky Chris Paul of last season’s postseason, he could get some mild interest. But it’s hard to think of the profile of a team that would want Paul on this deal. Then again, no one knew Billy King would take on retirement home players when he traded 8 first round picks for 42-year-old Kevin Garnett and 40-year-olds Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.

Okay, I added five to each of those numbers. But you believed it.

New Kid on the Block Because He’s Got It (The Right Stuff)

6. Danuel House Jr. (no guaranteed contract yet)

House is a shoe-in for getting his contract guaranteed. He’s taken the torch from Clark and is firmly in the Houston rotation for the foreseeable future. His ability to defend and shoot well from deep (35% as I write this) will keep in the league for a long time. I’ll admit that I didn’t pay much attention to House over the last two seasons as he bounced around, but everyone is paying attention now.

If He’s Healthy, You’ll Need Him If You Want to Beat...Them

5. James Ennis III (2 years, $3.5M)

Ennis got off to a poor start, then he got hurt, then he stabilized in November, then he got hurt again. The Rockets envisioned Ennis as their Trevor Ariza replacement, but that’s already a lost cause. If he can get back to his November numbers of shooting above 50% overall and 37% from deep, Houston would thank their lucky stars. Still, the ceiling is tantalizing and the Rockets know they will need Ennis when the games really matter.

Unless You Have a Star, Don’t Call

4. Clint Capela (5 years, $90M)

3. Eric Gordon (2 years, $27.5M)

Capela is worth more to Houston than anyone else in the NBA. Not many players (read: zero players) can throw the lob as well as Harden. And while Capela could contribute immediately to any team on the defensive end, his offense solely relies on Harden. Even he and Paul don’t have the chemistry that the Beard has with the Swiss center. On any other team, he would be a rich man’s Willie Cauley-Stein.

Eric Gordon has value to a lot of teams, and that contract is pretty sweet. The rumors of Houston asking him to sign a contract extension make sense since the Rockets are capped out for the next few years. I always figured that the Rockets would be willing to trade Gordon for a Jimmy Butler-caliber player, but even then reports said that Houston really was only offering Knight, filler, and the four first round picks for Jimmy. And that was during the time where EG was mired in a woeful shooting slump. So clearly the Rockets value Gordon’s shooting and are aware that it isn’t easily replaced.

Don’t Call Us; We Won’t Call You

2. P.J. Tucker (3 years, $24M)

A few years ago in a mailbag in a trade value ranking, I said that Patrick Beverley was so valuable to Houston that they wouldn’t trade him unless a top 20 player was coming back in the deal. That’s exactly what happened when they traded Bev as one of the centerpieces for the Clippers in the Paul trade.

Tucker’s value to Houston is immeasurable. He can defend all five positions and play as a small forward or in the small-ball center lineup that the Rockets love to run late in games. Imagine if the Rockets had traded Tucker for Butler. Houston would be forced to run Capela at the end of games. Against most teams, that wouldn’t be an issue. But against the cream of the league, the Rockets would be at a disadvantage when teams go small. And in the playoffs, everyone goes small eventually. Again, it’s going to take a top 20 player to pry Tucker away, and even then I think Morey would hesitate for a while.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

(deep breath)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

1. James Harden (who cares?)

Time for a question-within-a-question! Yeah we’re like Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in this sucker! And this is actually a real question (read: for real) from a real reader (read: seriously, this one is legit)!

Honestly, if you had the chance to trade Harden for another player in the league straight up to make us better, what players would you agree to trade him for?

-Ajay Suman, MD

PG: Okay, let’s go through the list of top players in the league and figure out if there’s a player that, if traded for straight up (ignoring salary cap rules), would help the Rockets. Obviously, most (if not all) of these players are untouchable, but this is a hypothetical exercise so don’t be a wet blanket.

With (halfhearted) apologies to tons of really good players, there’s a definitive first tier of NBA players, and that’s who I’m grabbing from here (in no particular order).

  • LeBron James

The King is the only player that could handle Harden’s responsibilities offensively. James hasn’t played defense for about three years now, so that transition would be seamless. The difference is that engaged LeBron is a great defender while engaged Harden is an okay defender. Harden is the better shooter, LeBron is the better inside player finishing at the rim. LeBron gets the slight advantage on defense and Harden gets the slight advantage as a passer. And that’s where this runs into trouble. LeBron’s never had a lob partner like Capela. It’s one thing to throw alley-oops to Dwyane Wade, but another entirely to find Capela like Harden does. LeBron may be the best player on the planet, but I cannot say in full confidence that his addition would make the Rockets better. I think the Rockets would be roughly the same overall in the short-term, and that doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the question.

Verdict: No trade

  • Kevin Durant

When he’s not coming on my podcast (oh, did I forget to tell you that I have a podcast? Oh boy do I have a podcast! Seriously, it’s all I do. Podcast baby!), or coming on my podcast (did I mention I have a Ringer podcast?), Durant is still one of the most skilled players to ever pick up a basketball. He’s 7-feet tall (not hyperbole) and has a wingspan of 12 feet (okay a little hyperbole there). He can get a shot whenever and wherever he wants. He hits jumpers at an impressive rate and hasn’t shot worse than 37% from deep since 2011. But on the Rockets, he’s got to the focal point of the offense. And sure, you could expect 40 from KD every night if he’s running the show by himself, but can you expect the assists? Can he make other guys better? Do we know he can succeed at the highest level next to Chris Paul when he couldn’t do so with Russell Westbrook? I think the answer to each of those questions is “No.”

Verdict: No trade

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo

Like Durant and LeBron, Giannis is an unreal athlete that brings something to the table that no one else on the planet does, and that’s astound others with his length and athleticism. He’s taken his game to a new level this season and in his age-24 season is averaging 26 points, 13 boards (career high), and 6 assists (career high) on 59% shooting from the field (career high). That places him in the top 10 of each statistic besides assists, where he’s 18th. He’s a comfortable third in PER and he’s only going to keep getting better.

He’s always been an amazing athlete, but it has been the distribution that has him firmly in the MVP discussion with James Harden. New head coach Mike Budenholzer has basically given Giannis the same mandate that Mike D’Antoni gave Harden two seasons ago: “We’ll surround you with shooters and let you go to work.” Giannis has given Bud and Milwaukee a career year in return. The Greek Freak has a few more shot creators around him than Harden does. Of course, Giannis needs shooters around him because he can’t shoot at a decent rate. If it sounds like I’m talking in circles because I can’t figure out which one I’d pick, that’s because I am. So if I definitely can’t choose between them, Harden stays in this hypothetical.

Verdict: No trade

  • Kawhi Leonard

I trust Kawhi Leonard to be the best two-way player in this group. When healthy, he’s a top 10 scorer on offense and a top 1 wing defender. He can guard all five positions at an elite level and with today’s guard-oriented game, you need someone who can defend those guards. Kawhi does that better than anyone else on this list, period. We’re still trying to figure out what his motivations are after that crazy year in San Antonio. Remember, this guy is less than two years removed from basically ending James Harden’s MVP campaign over the course of 10 seconds. He’s putting up great numbers reminiscent of that 2016-17 season in San Antonio, and he probably could slot into the lineup really well. Paul could take more full-time point guard duties and work as the main distributor while Kawhi can play the way he already does: get the ball and get a clean look quickly whenever necessary. If we’re saying that the point of the trade is to make the Rockets a better championship contender, then on paper Kawhi makes sense. The biggest issue here (besides Kawhi’s impending free agency, which we’re ignoring) is that a Kawhi-for-Harden swap might not be loved in the locker room. Kawhi has proven he’ll flake on teammates and Harden could literally break an arm tomorrow and be ready to play the next day. I think the other players on the Rockets wouldn’t play as hard for Kawhi as they do for Harden, and that’s a problem.

Verdict: No trade

  • Steph Curry

The common theme among the players on this list is that they are basically unguardable. For some, it’s their length. For others, it’s athleticism. Curry has neither of those things, but has completely changed the way the NBA plays basketball. His ability to generate triples off the dribble will reverberate for many years and recruiting classes to come. He’s incredibly special and if he didn’t play with such a surplus of talent around him, he would get consideration for the top tier of my pyramid. You remember the pyramid, right? I mentioned it earlier. Because it’s important that I mention that I wrote The Book of Basketball again here and how it crested at number 1 on the New York Times best seller list. God, I love using the verb “crest.”

Anyway, Curry is incredible. However, he’s an odd fit next to Paul. Like others on this list, he could probably run the offense as well as Harden does, but I’m not sure this would be an upgrade for Houston. Plus, would PJ and Capela get the same leniency on illegal screens that Draymond Green currently enjoys? Yeah, I doubt it.

Verdict: No trade

  • Anthony Davis

AD is clearly destined to be a Celtic for my precious Boston so this is stupid. Don’t believe me? Watch ESPN for two minutes and tell me I’m wrong.

In all seriousness, I’ve never understood how Davis can be so incredibly gifted and talented without being able to take over games. I know that guards run the show and AD has never had a full cast of talent around him, but this dude dominates games for 45 minutes and then suddenly isn’t involved unless he’s getting rebounds or making defensive plays. How is this still a thing? He’s had multiple coaches but nothing ever changes. LeBron took a bunch of nobodies deep in the playoffs countless times and LeBron wishes he had AD’s length. I know AD leads the league in PER and is an absolute monster on the stat sheet, but I don’t see it in the W-L column. And you’re just not terrified of him like you are of the other five guys on this list. He’s amazing. I get it. But he’s missing something.

Verdict: No trade

Lastly, I should point out that Ajay asked this question before Harden went on his incredible run. It’s still a great question, but unfortunately has lost a little bit of its luster since Harden has gone supernova. Two weeks ago, I probably would have said yes for a couple of these guys. Today? No thanks. Still, huge thanks to Ajay for the question!

How in the world have you gone nine years at The Dream Shake without bringing up the basketball scene from The Office?

-Noel, Katy

PG: Great question. This is a grave oversight on my part. That ends today.

Okay, so here’s the episode in question, trimmed down to about 14 minutes of pure early The Office gold. It’s as hilarious today as it was back then, but if you just want to skip to the basketball game portion, head to the 6:23 mark and we’ll start from there.

6:34: Pam Beasley channels her inner Ken Mauer with this jump ball. Maybe Roy shouldn’t have been a jerk. You have to learn how to work the refs over.

6:36: I could use this opportunity to talk about how we shouldn’t buy into racial stereotypes. After all, my favorite NBA player is Larry Bird, who is white. Have I ever told you about the time I was six months old and my dad took me to the Boston Garden and Bird made a layup or something and I threw my panties diaper at him? Oh, those were the best days ever and it totally wasn’t because Boston was the best.

6:46: Michael is shouting “Who’s on him?” even though it’s fairly clear that Jim “Big Tuna” Halpert is giving Lonnie space. Everyone who has ever played pickup basketball knows that you always make guys prove they can shoot first before you extend your defense. If they hit a shot and look comfortable, you adjust. Lonnie hits this one, and you know Jim got up in his air-space after this one.

6:52: (Extremely Steve Smith on NBA TV Players Only broadcast) Man look at that guy giving up his body on the concrete. You know I would love to have a guy like that on my roster.

7:00: As the Rockets found out this year, just going to a zone or changing schemes just doesn’t work. You need players to buy in and Ryan is clearly off doing his own thing (foreshadowing???).

7:08: “Who’s on Roy?” “You.” Sometimes I think this is how conversations go when Harden, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, or any other terrible defender gets beat.

“Hey who was guarding JJ Barea and let him get this wide open layup?”

“You, Dame.”

7:09: Jim has had enough, and he’s going isolation. He knows that no one on the warehouse crew can stop him one-on-one and he can break down the defense by playing some hero ball here and HOLY SHIT JAMES HARDEN STOLE HIS ENTIRE OFFENSIVE REPERTOIRE FROM JIM HALPERT!

Look at the facts from throughout the game:

  1. Jim has the fancy dribbling skills. Look as he goes behind the back and puts Roy on skates. It’s not as bad as when Harden murdered Wesley Johnson in cold blood, but it’s close.
  2. Jim clearly wants to attack the basket and finish at the rim through contact.
  3. Jim has the strength to get separation even when he has a bigger defender on him.
  4. He’s a solid post defender when he isn’t getting elbowed in the face.
  5. He’s too tough to miss time due to a little bleeding.
  6. He’s got a sweet little stepback jumper.

And...oh my God.

Jim is short for James.

It was right in front of us this whole time.

7:40: More than anything, Michael embodies every jerk you’ve ever played pickup with or against.

  • The guy who doesn’t defend anyone? Check.
  • The guy who takes dumb shots and acts like they’re part of his game? Check.
  • The guy who wants to score all the points to the point that he’s pissed when his teammates score? Check.
  • The guy who calls a foul over the tiniest things? Check.

7:49: Who takes free throws in pickup?

8:50: Darryl and Lonnie start their celebration dance, and how is the sales staff not pushing the tempo and getting a 5-on-3 on the other end? CP3 would chew these dudes out for this laziness.

9:14 Dwight Schrute is out here playing the role of Patrick Beverley: perky defense, nifty floater, and then talks trash afterwards. Bev even wore a mask for a bit too. Man I miss Pat.

11:00: We get the moment where you think there’s going to be a throwdown, but it doesn’t happen. Jim has been owning Roy all game, and Roy has some frustration to let out here. Oh, and that was obviously a flop from Roy.

12:00: Michael decides to take his ball and go home. But like most guys that act like they run the show during pickup, they really have no authority and will fold under pressure from peers.

13:32: To be serious for a moment, Kevin hitting shows with a jacket and tie on is filthy. There’s never much flexibility with that stuff and he’s just throwing in deep ones like he’s the newest Splash Brother. Watch out Durant, because you’re not the only good-shooting Kevin out there. Because as we see here, Kevin Malone can cook dudes. And chili.

How will the Warriors dynasty end? Will Draymond kill KD? Will Klay leave to run his own team? When will it happen? Please I need to know.

-Depressed fan of any of the 29 teams besides the Warriors

PG: It would take multiple great players leaving the Warriors for us to immediately declare them cooked. Even if Durant leaves them, you would still bet on a core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to win a lot of games since they won 73 together just a few seasons ago.

With all my heart, I want someone to beat the Warriors and force them to break up the band by beating them in the playoffs. If Durant cannot guarantee himself a title with the Warriors, he’s much more likely to leave. The Rockets were a Chris Paul hamstring away from taking down the Warriors and probably ending the dynasty, and this season the Dubs have looked beatable. We all know they’ll get everything together by April, their entire team will be healthy, their opponents will get hurt, and they will receive the benefit of every 50-50 call from the referees. It’s how their script always plays out.

The answer to the question is simple: KD has to leave. And I think it’s going to happen this summer. The Warriors will still be really good—we’ll hear “73 wins” at least ten times per game—but they won’t be the juggernaut that Durant makes them.

Why would Durant leave? Well, he’s said he wants to be the top dog on the team, and in Golden State he’ll never be that guy. If he and Curry go to the front office and say that they want the other player gone, Steph will win. He’s forever tied to that franchise while Durant is just a mercenary/snake. Durant also has to see that every title that he wins with this team will never be considered “real.” Plus, every title he wins in Oakland is just another title for Curry, who will stay one title ahead of him until he gets one on his own. Which is why, ultimately, I think he’ll go to to the Lakers.

I know what you’re thinking: “He’s going to leave the Warriors to play for LeBron and the Lakers? Why would he do that?”

Barring someone stopping the Golden State this postseason, Durant will have three titles after this season. That’s as many as LeBron has, so in LA he wouldn’t be handing extra titles to a player who already has more than he does. He and LeBron would be “equals” in the sense that both would be the alpha dogs. Durant doesn’t actually want to take on the responsibility that LeBron has of dealing with management and trying to make trades happen. But in LA, he would still get a say in all personnel decisions, which is really what he wants.

On the court, he would get to close games and LeBron would be willing to take a backseat in order to extend his career by another three seasons. Plus, once LeBron retires KD will own Los Angeles, which is what Durant really wants. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka can sell KD on the fact that the narrative will change if he picks LA and wins titles. Instead of being the snake that jumped to one of the greatest teams of all-time, he will now be known as the player who shifts the balance of power with just his presence. The story becomes “Wherever he goes, titles go,” not the other way around like it is now.

And as always, God hates Cleveland. I don’t care if it doesn’t fit here. It’s a requirement in my contract to say this in every article I write.

When Space Jam 2 gets made, which players should the new Monstars steal their powers from?

-Blaine, Tilden

PG: This is a fascinating question because you can go in so many directions with it. Obviously we’re assuming that there will be Monstars and a similar “aliens steal NBA players’ talent” storyline. Do we pick the five best players and do it that way? Or does LeBron just pick his friends and we’re treated to a Heatles reunion?

The players won’t have to do too much besides take part in a few funny scenes, maybe with some Looney Tunes. So comedy is important, as is being talented and instantly recognizable. For example, J.J. Redick is really good and a charismatic dude, but the “I only watch the playoffs” fans will have no clue who he is. So without further ado, here’s the list.

Point guard: Kyrie Irving. Those in the know say that LeBron and Kyrie have patched things up and the next logical step would be LeBron getting Kyrie into his big film. Not only does Irving have acting experience (I heard Uncle Drew didn’t suck), but he’s well-known and gives the New England market, which notoriously hates LeBron for all the times he defeated the greatest franchise in all of sports, a reason to shell out some dough to see the film. Plus, a Monstar with Kyrie’s handles is a terrifying prospect. Plus, if LeBron does still have some resentment towards Kyrie, he can get the satisfaction of beating Kyrie in the movie. And based on the fact that I own four different copies of the original Space Jam, you can bet that everyone is going to remember that LeBron beat Kyrie in Space Jam 2.

Shooting guard: Dwyane Wade. LeBron’s going to throw Wade a bone here. With D-Wade retired by the time the movie airs, Flash won’t be as involved in the zeitgeist of NBA life, but that’s a positive in that he will have more time for the film. Maybe he can be the most villainous Monstar and get some extra scenes. Plus, this let’s us get Gabrielle Union in the movie, and I think we’re all down for that.

Small forward: Kevin Durant. A controversial pick, but KD could be a Laker by the time this movie releases. What better way to endear yourself to the LA market than to be in this movie? KD might be tough to convince to be in the movie since he probably won’t be cool with losing to LeBron, but the two could duel in the actual game, with KD maybe turning into a good guy before he loses the game.

Power forward: Anthony Davis. The Unibrow would be hilarious to accentuate on the silver screen. Plus, AD and LeBron share an agent, as you may have heard. Davis would be the do-it-all-athlete for the Monstars. He’s a silent type, but he’s got just enough charisma to pull off a role here. But surrounded by these other guys, he really just needs to look tough and the silent thing will work.

Center: Joel Embiid. I really wanted to put Kristaps Porzingis here to attract the New York audience, but with the Knicks’ unicorn injured, he doesn’t carry the success that Embiid has right now. Embiid would have no problem playing the heel, and his quick comebacks and biting insults would play really well in this movie.

Wait, is this supposed to double as a preview too?

-Everyone reading this “preview” so far

PG: Yeah, I guess it should.

Denver missed out on the playoffs last season, and this year they are making sure that history won’t repeat itself. The Nuggets have spent most of the season atop the Western Conference thanks to a collection of talent and a top ten offense and defense. Denver boasts the league’s best offensive rebounding rate and an assist ratio second only to Golden State.

The obvious threat is Nikola Jokic, Denver’s do-everything big man. He’s averaging 18/10/8 and the offense flows through him. Houston had trouble handling Jusuf Nurkic in Portland, and Nurkic isn’t nearly the player that Jokic is.

When Jokic isn’t dominating, Jamal Murray takes the reins and can score in bunches. He’s been inconsistent lately, but that won’t stop him. In his last four games, he’s got games of 46 and 36 points, but he’s followed both of those nights with 8-point clunkers. Gary Harris just returned from a hip injury so he’s got rust to work through. Ditto for Paul Millsap, who missed a few weeks with a toe (h/t Mike Tirico).

Denver is deep and versatile. They have the size to force teams to go big and the lanky guards to handle opposing challenges. Monte Morris was a pest at Iowa State and he’s making a place for himself in the NBA now.

Houston has the talent to win this game, but they’ll need an efficient Harden performance and probably a healthy Eric Gordon, too. It’s going to be tough sledding, and in the end I think the Nuggets just have too much for Houston.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT

Okay, get this: Hoosiers II, but with Larry Bird in the Gene Hackman role of “wise old coach that inspires a town.”

-Bill, LA or Boston

PG: (Nodding)

Is it a requirement for everyone in the media to mention that Jayson Tatum is 20 years old every time he touches the ball?

-Neik, Houston

PG: (Afraid to say anything)

Isn’t the idea of irrefutable evidence stupid? Shouldn’t refs be 100% sure of the call one way or the other? And if there’s any question whatsoever, they should do a jump ball. One team (cough Warriors cough) shouldn’t get a free handout because the refs gave them the original call on a guess.

-Rod, Houston

PG: (Nodding vigorously)

You know what pisses me off? When a team commits their fourth foul of the quarter and the television crew doesn’t put that the other team is in the bonus. Yes, I fucking KNOW that they only go into the bonus on the FIFTH foul. I can count. But once the fourth foul is committed, every subsequent non-offensive foul is two shots, right? Essentially, they’re in the bonus, right? So why is this so difficult for broadcasts to understand? If I have to live one more time where a team fouls, I look at the area under the other team’s score and don’t see “Bonus,” only for the announcer to go “And that’s the fifth foul to put them in the bonus,” I’m going to march to Atlanta and Bristol and eviscerate the TNT and ESPN producers. They are trying to turn me into a murderer. This is their fault.

-Armin, Houston

PG: Yep, these are my readers. And my inner thoughts.