The 76ers take on Denver today at The Center - here are three things to watch.
1. Before discussing the players, maybe the most important thing to note is that the game will be happening at 1:00 PM locally, 11:00 AM in Denver. Regardless of the fairness of making a Denver-based team play that early - which may offset having to fly into Denver and play at high altitude later in the season - it's notable as only two Saturday games start this early among all teams the rest of the season. Dallas hosts a 1:00 PM local game and the Clippers have a 12:30 local later in the season.
However, neither of those games are on East Coast time, so congrats to the Sixers for having the earliest Saturday game for the rest of the season across the entire NBA. This is also the only Saturday matinee I can recall the Sixers having in quite some time, as usually the Flyers take the afternoon slot whenever the teams play on the same day at The Center.
This is important too since NBA players typically have a full day to get prepared for a game. This cuts the preparation time by six hours. No shootarounds or full days to get the players acclimated and recovered from a Friday night out. A slow start for both teams could be reasonably expected. Matinees, while I love the idea of day games, make for bad basketball.
2. Tony Wroten returns, though the scope of his impact for this game should be limited. The Sixers won't give us full-blast Wroten for a little bit as he gets back into the rhythm of playing NBA basketball.
And to gauge how long Wroten was out and how much has changed since he tore his ACL: he's only played with five other players on this roster: Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson, and JaKarr Sampson. He needs to build chemistry with new teammates without the benefit of training camp or the first 20 games. It will be an adjustment - for now, production isn't as important as making sure Wroten looks like himself.
3. Even when they were good, the Nuggets were weird. If there's one thing I really liked about George Karl's coaching stint in Denver, it's that through the chaotic, pace-heavy system he used it gave a poorly fit-together roster a chance to use the strengths of every player in the system enough to that they were able to overcome their weaknesses. The Nuggets won 57 games three years ago with Andre Iguodala as their best player. The Sixers couldn't come within 15 of that in his stint here.
The Nuggets from that period have undergone a partial reconstruction, although they dumped many of their good players and replaced them with many questionable fits (hi there, J.J. Hickson), promising young players (the struggling Emmanuel Mudiay among them) and also the figurative basketball-version of the EU. Their bigs run through the Euro name generator gamut.
Danilo Gallinari is their leading scorer - a big wing who really should be better if not for a crushing injury history, but who now is still very effective. He's what you would hope Robert Covington can be in a year or two - a two-way player who can move between the three and the four, spacing the floor, and create for himself off the dribble. Gallo's shooting percentage looks bad - at only 38% it's certainly lower than you'd hope - but he shoots 90% on the six free throws he creates for himself per game. If the Sixers can limit Gallinari's presence at the foul line, they should have a decent shot at winning.