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Nuggets vs. Warriors preview: Champs open preseason with questions about bench bigs

JaVale McGee’s fight for starting job starts against former team’s impressive front court.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017

Time: 5:30 p.m. PST

Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA

TV: NBC, Bay Area

Radio: KBLX

2016-17 results: Warriors won season series, 2-1

Projected starters:

Warriors: PG Stephen Curry, SG Klay Thompson, SF Kevin Durant, PF Draymond Green, C Zaza Pachulia

Nuggets: PG Jamal Murray, SG Gary Harris, SF Wilson Chandler, PF Paul Millsap, C Nikola Jokic

Key matchups: Warriors’ bigs vs. Jokic, Millsap, Kenneth Faried

Patrick McCaw vs. Destiny

Injury update: Jameer Nelson (toe), Faried (illness), Darrel Arthur (illness)

The champ is here (again)

With the close of a summer victory tour, the shadow of another grueling NBA season creeps over your World Champion Golden State Warriors. Warriors GM and genius Bob Meyers retained the major cogs of the Death Machine last offseason while introducing a few new faces into the glory that is Dub Nation.

Coach Steve Kerr, much like a great DJ, now begins the delicate process of keeping the familiar sounds of the Golden State playlist bumping, while mixing in some new hits. The big guns and trusty vets on this team generally have their roles cemented and will cautiously use the preseason to ease into their rhythms for the approaching season’s grind. However, for the Warriors’ secondary wave of wings and bigs, there is definitely some competitive intrigue.

Friendly competition

Sophomore guard/forward/future Hall of Famer Patrick McCaw captured the hearts of Dubs fans — and the eyes of scouts around the league — during his stellar rookie year. With restricted free agency looming, McCaw can put himself in line for a hefty payday if he makes another leap after a tantalizing rookie season.

Newly signed sharpshooting forwards Nick “Swaggy P” Young and Omri Casspi have to prove that they can provide timely offense and focused defense to spell the vets. Young should have an advantage as he’s already familiar with the Warriors’ offensive principles from his time under former Dubs assistant coach Luke Walton, in LA.

At center, there is major potential for upheaval. JaVale McGee reportedly was disappointed the Warriors aren’t considering starting him over incumbent Zaza Pachulia. After a big payday didn’t materialize for McGee following last year’s breakout season, he will be battling to prove himself ... yet again.

Additionally, young bigs Kevon Looney, Damian Jones and Jordan Bell are also fighting to prove they deserve real playing time. The franchise has sought a dominant center since the days of Nate Thurmond. If any of those big men emerge as a consistent, intimidating, two-way monster, Golden State could potentially push past “historically dominant” to “banned by the Geneva Convention”.

Side note: JaVale was reported to be working on his three-point shot this summer. #SplashGiant?

Mile high excitement in Denver

What’s a better way for McGee to prove he’s got the juice than by balling on his old team, the Denver Nuggets? The Nuggets have re-energized its fan base with an electric offseason pickup. Four-time All-Star (wait, REALLY?) power forward Paul Millsap signed a three-year, $90 million contract to join forces with Serbian big man and potentially the greatest young center of all time: Nikola Jokic. This is an EXCELLENT front court.

Young stud Jamal Murray is competing for the starting point-guard spot in a crowded Denver backcourt, which already features budding young point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, wily vet Jameer Nelson and maturing shooting guard Gary Harris.

Under former Warriors assistant coach Mike Malone, the Nuggets appear to be solidifying an athletic, bruising identity. Millsap should help Malone tighten up the defense, which ranked 29th in defensive rating last year (110.5) and 27th in points allowed per game (111.2). If Denver gets its defense locked in, the team could be quite a handful this season.

Oddly, not everybody in Denver’s altitude is high on the Nugget’s prospects.

Kenneth Faried, the 2013 NBA Rising Stars Challenge MVP, is sending veiled threats about the consequences of him coming off the bench. Denver will certainly keep an eye on this developing story as the team would be better served appeasing the fan favorite, “Manimal.”

Basketball is back, baby!

Let’s hope for an injury-free contest and some revelations on the Warriors’ bench. This should be an entertaining contest, as the last preseason matchup featured the great clutchness of future Hall of Famer Patrick McCaw.

Goldblooded prediction: Warriors 103 - Nuggets 99

Pregame mood anthem: “Victory” By Kool & the Gang

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