These two teams met in the Western Conference Finals last season, in which the Nuggets dominated, sweeping the series. That was Denver’s final stepping stone in the West, going on to win the NBA Finals. However, for the Lakers, it was a sign that while they were good enough to make the West Finals, there was still a lot of work left to do.
In the offseason, Los Angeles was surprisingly one of the more active teams, bolstering the roster around James and Davis. The Lakers re-signed Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell, and Jarred Vanderbilt to keep key players of the team’s playoff success on the roster. Then, in free agency, the Lakers built their depth by signing Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, and Christian Wood.
This is an entirely new team for the Lakers, so NBA odds are still unsure about them, especially facing the Nuggets, who lost some depth but have been re-tooling. Denver lost two key players, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, in free agency. Both played a massive part in last season’s playoff success. However, the Nuggets hope Christian Braun and Zeke Nnaji can slide into more prominent roles. On top of that, the Nuggets had a good draft, selecting Julian Strawther, Jalen Pickett, and Hunter Tyson, all older rookies who can make an immediate impact.
However, the stars will still decide this game. Jokić is undeniably one of the best players in the league, being a walking triple-double that rises to the moment. With the Nuggets championship banner being hung up before tip-off, there is a good chance he has a big game. Murray is also playing his first regular season game since his incredible play in the playoffs and Finals, looking to show NBA news that he is one of the top guards in the league.
Similarly, for the Lakers, the team will only go as far as James and Davis can take them. James is entering his 20th season in the NBA and is now the oldest player in the league, but he has yet to look like it. He will undoubtedly be motivated by facing the team that eliminated him from the playoffs last season in a sweep. Davis, who is usually dealing with injuries, is starting the season healthy and ready to make an immediate impact.
The Lakers will try their best to ruin this big night for the Nuggets but won’t be able to do so. The Nuggets are too good of a team and will be ready to begin their title defense with a win, likely covering the spread.