Nuggets vs. Hawks NBA Preview and Best Bet

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Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/AFP

The Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks face off in Atlanta in a Friday night showdown. Both teams were conference finalists last season. This season they have been wracked by injuries that have led them to disappointing starts. In a battle of two of the NBA’s best, which team is the right NBA pick? Let’s break down the NBA odds for this matchup!

Denver Nuggets vs. Atlanta Hawks

Friday, December 17, 2021 – 7:30 PM EST at State Farm Arena

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets season of misfortune continues. Injuries have wracked this promising squad. The Denver Nuggets are missing Jamal Murray until at least March. Murray is the Nuggets' second-best player and is responsible for most of the perimeter playmaking for the team. Michael Porter Jr. had assumed that role but a back injury has put him out for the season.

This was a great opportunity for P.J. Dozier to prove his worth in the NBA. Dozier then succumbed to a knee injury and is also out for the season. Now young draft pick Markus Howard has an opportunity to shine yet he is a game-time decision for tonight with a knee injury. Austin Rivers is out with Covid and JaMychal Green is out with an ankle injury till at least Christmas.

Now that we have the injured Nuggets out of the way, let's take a look at who's left on the squad. Nikola Jokić is proving to be so good that he and any collection of NBA players can be a winning team.

Nikola Jokić is the reigning MVP and he is playing even better this season. Nikola Jokić is averaging 27 points per game, 14 rebounds per game, and eight assists per game in just 33 minutes per game! His statistical contribution is eye-popping and his play on the court passes the eye test as well. Any conversation about the current best player in the NBA that doesn't include Nikola Jokić is a farce.

Will Barton, Aaron Gordon, and Monté Morris have been trying to help mitigate the loss of their injured teammates? They have all been playing well and their strong play has been highlighted by a focused defensive intensity.

This has been an issue for the Nuggets in previous seasons. Rookie Zeke Nnaji out of Arizona is also getting an opportunity to showcase his talent and has done well in the expanded role due to the injuries.

Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks are also suffering from injuries but not as severely as the Nuggets. The Hawks are currently missing De'Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanović, Solomon Hill, and Onyeka Okongwu. The players that they are missing most are Hunter and Bogdanović.

Hunter provides excellent perimeter defense. Bogdanović is a sharpshooting shot-creator that helps take the pressure off Trae Young. The Atlanta Hawks are struggling to focus on the regular season after their playoff success last year.

Team leader Trae Young has admitted that it has been hard for the team to focus on the regular season with their overarching goal being playoff success. I believe this is very dangerous for a team that is still developing into a consistent winner.

The Hawks do not have the accomplishments or resume to be looking past the importance of the regular season. It is one thing for a championship team like the Milwaukee Bucks, or a veteran team like the Los Angeles Lakers, to eschew the importance of the regular season. They have been to the mountaintop many times.

The Hawks have one Conference Finals appearance. For Atlanta, who was in the lottery as recently as two seasons ago, it is a mistake to overlook the regular season. Coach Nate McMillan needs to reinforce to his team the importance of developing good habits through the arduous grind that is the NBA regular season in order to be able to use those habits when need be and the pressure comes.

Tonight will be a great opportunity for the Hawks to play in a high-profile game and continue to form those good habits that will help them as the season progresses. Regardless of the Nuggets tenuous injury situation, a win over another top team with the reigning MVP would be an important victory for the Hawks this season.

Key Matchup

Clint Capela vs. Nikola Jokić

Everything on the Nuggets team revolves around their MVP. Clint Capela is a very capable defender and one of the few players that can slow down Nikola Jokić. Capela spending all his focus could also open up the rim for his teammates.

The success of Jokić is so directly correlated to the success of the team that if Capela is able to slow Jokić down, the Hawks have a great chance to defeat the Nuggets. If Jokić is able to have his way with Capela, the Nuggets have a good chance to escape with a big road victory.

Best Bet

Although the Hawks have the deeper roster, the Nuggets have the best player on the floor in Jokić. In a close game, the reigning MVP has the skills to get it done. I believe he will do well against Capela, opening up the paint for his teammates. In what should be a fun game, the Nuggets are the right betting pick.

NBA Pick: Nuggets +4 (-110) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Nuggets +4 (-110)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.