Preview: Denver Nuggets open scrimmage games against Washington Wizards

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The time has come. Mile High Basketball is (unofficially) back.

The Denver Nuggets will play an organized basketball game against another NBA team Wednesday afternoon, as they take on the Washington Wizards in the first scrimmage game for both teams.

The scrimmage game takes place nine days before the Nuggets begin their seeding games on Aug. 1 against the Miami Heat. Following two weeks of practices in the Orlando bubble, this is the team’s first chance to face real competition and different schemes on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor.

Here are three storylines to watch for during Wednesday's contest.

How creative will Malone get with lineups?

Following Monday’s practice, head coach Michael Malone revealed that he expects to have nine healthy bodies for Wednesday’s scrimmage. Even though the game is limited to 40 minutes, this will likely result in some unique lineups for Denver as Malone focuses on not overworking players in the first organized game.

While Denver’s frontcourt is in good shape with Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokić, Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee likely available against Washington, the backcourt minutes will be harder to fill. Look for Jamal Murray, Troy Daniels and Will Barton III to absorb most, if not all of the available minutes in the backcourt.

Denver will likely rely on lineups with more size than usual, perhaps by playing Grant or Tyler Cook at the small forward position for stretches.

Will Bol Bol make his NBA debut?

Even though the game doesn’t count in the record books, there is certainly a possibility that Bol will make his debut on an NBA court Wednesday. All signs out of Denver’s practices have been positive for the 7’2” big man, from the impressive skills he has showcased in drills and practice scrimmages to the praise he has earned from teammates and Malone.

“To see him out there playing and doing things that a lot of people can’t do, it’s really remarkable," Malone said. "I have to remind myself how young he is. He is extremely talented and skilled.”

Bol has been able to regularly practice with the team since the Nuggets kicked off their practices in Orlando on July 10. As a result of his time to integrate with the team and the shortage of bodies, this presents a good opportunity for Bol to receive playing time on Wednesday, which would certainly excite Nuggets fans.

Washington will also be shorthanded

While the Wizards will likely have more healthy bodies available for Wednesday’s scrimmage, they won’t have two of their best players, especially on the offensive end. Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans won’t be participating in the season’s resumption, which leaves Washington’s offense shorthanded.

Bertans established himself as one of the premier 3-point shooting threats in the league this season (42.4 percent on 8.7 attempts per game), while Beal was enjoying a career year prior to the league’s stoppage, averaging 30.5 points, 6.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.

The Wizards will now rely on Ish Smith and Shabazz Napier in the backcourt, while younger players such as Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura will likely receive more opportunities on offense. Although Washington won’t be at full strength Wednesday, simply facing an opposing team’s offense should help test Denver’s defensive communication and schemes.

Wednesday’s scrimmage will tip-off at 1:30 p.m. MT and will air on Altitude TV.

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