The Golden State Warriors have started the season 5-0, beating playoff teams such as the New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Los Angeles Clippers. Having passed those tests, the Warriors now turn their attention towards the Denver Nuggets, a young team featuring a rookie point guard, and clearly on a rebuilding path.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers, Emmanuel Mudiay scored 12 points on a meager 3-13 shooting from the field, but handed out 10 assists to help forward Kenneth Faried propel the Nuggets past the Lakers. Also along with Mudiay and Faried, swingman Danillo Gallinari has had a strong start to the season, averaging over 17 points and 5 rebounds to start the young season after seemingly being in and out of the lineup for the last several years.
For the Warriors, reigning MVP Stephen Curry has taken his play to another unprecedented stratosphere, averaging over 35 points, 5 rebounds, and close to 6 assists through the Warriors' first five games. Draymond Green has come out and competed with the same intensity, defensive aggression, and offensive playmaking ability as last year when he was the runner up to San Antonio Spurs' swingman Kawhi Leonard for Defensive player of the year.
With most of the core intact, the Warriors appear to be out to make a statement to the rest of the league that their victory last year was just the beginning, however despite their strong start, there is room for concern. The other half of the Warriors backcourt, All-Star guard Klay Thompson has started the season extremely slowly, with poor shooting percentages, and very little impact on the court. He has averaged less than 14 points per game, down from last seasons 21.7, and he has seemed out of sorts ever since the NBA Finals, when he also struggled.
In this matchup, look for the Warriors to try and get Klay Thompson back on track, because even with Curry's hot start, the Warriors are at their best when they move the ball, and utilize their varied weapons. Against the Nuggets, the Warriors have a good chance to impose their will on both ends of the court.
Out of the top three things to look for tonight, the most important is a strong performance by Klay Thompson. Now, we may not see an explosion like the one last January where he scored 37 points in the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings, and it is still fairly early in the season, but an uptick in his assertiveness and shooting efficiency should bode well for the rest of the season.
Second on the list is the continued improvement of Mudiay, who despite extended minutes, and occasionally gaudy numbers, is struggling with his shot, and needs to adapt to the NBA game like many of the current rookies. Look for him to, barring a breakout game, to show incremental improvement both in this game and throughout the season.
Finally, the play of Kenneth Faried could ultimately impact the margin of tonight's game. As 17 point favorites, the Warriors could enter this game slightly overconfident. If so, a player like Faried who thrives off of offensive rebounds and hustle play could make the contest closer than expected.
That being said, the expectation should be for the Warriors to win convincingly. They may not duplicate their 50 point destruction of the Memphis Grizzlies from earlier this week, but they should win by double digits.