Denver Nuggets Odds
Odds to win NBA Championship: +2500
Odds to win Western Conference: +1000
Denver Nuggets Season Recap
The Nuggets had established a solid footing in the Western Conference with a 43-22 record prior to the NBA season being postponed, which was good enough for the #3 seed. Denver was on pace for 54 wins this season, the same exact number they won last year. However, with such a young roster continuing to develop, it’s easy to make the case that the team is better this season. The Nuggets are the leader in a difficult Northwest division which also features the Jazz, Thunder, and Blazers, who are going to resume play in Orlando.
Denver is just 1.5 games behind the Clippers for the #2 seed but with the home-court advantage not a factor in Orlando, there isn’t a huge difference between the #2 and #3 seeds. However, the Nuggets could be in risk of falling as far as the #7 seed as the Mavericks, the current #7 seed, are only four games behind Denver. Playoff seeding in the Western Conference could change drastically in the eight games before the postseason actually starts.
Denver’s team MVP has clearly been Nikola Jokic this season as the Serbian center ranks 7th in win shares and 8th in box plus-minus this season. Jamal Murray has also put together an excellent season with a career-high in both points and assists. The Nuggets are certainly a team with championship aspirations and are a dark horse contender to win the Western Conference.
Denver Nuggets Depth Chart
PG: Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, PJ Dozier
SG: Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Troy Daniels, Malik Beasley
SF: Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., Keita Bates-Diop, Vlatko Cancar
PF: Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, Tyler Cook
C: Nikola Jokic, Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, Bol Bol
Head Coach: Michael Malone
Denver Nuggets Statistical Leaders
Points per game: Nikola Jokic (20.2), Jamal Murray (18.8), Will Barton (15.1)
Rebounds per game: Nikola Jokic (10.2), Will Barton (6.3), Paul Millsap (5.9)
Assists per game: Nikola Jokic (6.9), Jamal Murray (4.8), Will Barton (3.7)
Steals per game: Gary Harris (1.4), Nikola Jokic (1.2), Jamal Murray (1.2)
Blocks per game: Jerami Grant (0.8), Nikola Jokic (0.7), Paul Millsap (0.6)
3PT% (minimum 2.5 attempts per game): Paul Millsap (44.0%), Jerami Grant (40.0%), Will Barton (37.5%)
Nikola Jokic has been the Nuggets’ best player by far over the past few seasons, and that’s no exception this year. He ranks 1st or 2nd in effectively every important stat for the Nuggets this season and had played in all 65 of the team’s game this season. He had a bit of a slow start to the year, but his 2020 splits are particularly impressive at 22.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. The surprise of the season for the Nuggets has been Will Barton who has excelled in his first year as a full-time starter in his age-29 season. He’s arguably been the team’s second-best player this year, although Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap can certainly make that claim as well. However, none of the team will be doing any damage as long as Nikola Jokic is stuck overseas with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
Denver Nuggets Best 5-Man Lineups
* Minimum 48 total minutes played together
- Monte Morris, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic: minutes = 50; net rating = +33.2
- Monte Morris, Jamal Murray, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr., Mason Plumlee: minutes = 54; net rating = +19.5
- Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Jerami Grant, Juancho Hernangomez, Mason Plumlee: minutes = 70; net rating = +14.3
- Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic: minutes = 735; net rating = +7.7
- Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Jerami Grant, Nikola Jokic: minutes = 110; net rating = -1.5
- Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Jerami Grant, Nikola Jokic: minutes = 197; net rating = -3.5
- Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee: minutes = 56; net rating = -9.8
- Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic: minutes = 50; net rating = -11.3
- Monte Morris, Will Barton, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Nikola Jokic: minutes = 141; net rating = -11.7
- Monte Morris, Will Barton, Malik Beasley, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee: minutes = 58; net rating = -18.2
I was very surprised by how unproductive some of the Nuggets’ lineups have been this season. The team’s second, third, and fourth-most used lineups are all in negative territory for net rating. Those lineups all feature the team’s best player, Nikola Jokic, and two of them feature Jamal Murray, so this is a concerning trend for a team that fancies itself a championship contender. The team’s most-used lineup (#4 above) has produced a +7.7 net rating. That five-man group of Murray, Harris, Barton, Millsap, and Jokic is likely the team’s starting lineup heading into the postseason.
Monte Morris has been excellent this season, as he finds himself in both of the team’s best lineups in terms of net rating. The third-year point guard is averaging 14.9 points and 5.9 assists per 36 minutes, so his raw stats haven’t been as good as Jamal Murray’s (20.6 points and 5.3 assists per 36 minutes). Morris has been the better playmaker at times this season, and while Jokic serves as the Nuggets’ bona fide point guard the majority of the time, Morris’s court vision and precise passing will earn him playing time in the playoffs.
Paul Millsap has started 41 games at the power forward spot this season, but he only averages 24.4 minutes per game. Jerami Grant gets more burn at that spot with 26.2 minutes per game, despite only starting 22 games, and appears in five of the team’s top seven lineups in net rating this season. I included lineups with Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez in this list, although both of those players are now on the Minnesota Timberwolves. I did that mainly to prove the point that the Nuggets’ bench is likely going to struggle a bit as those were two of their more important scoring reserves. The trade involving them brought back Gerald Green, who’s no longer on the team, and Keita Bates-Diop, who has only played two games with the team.
Denver Nuggets Strengths and Weaknesses
The Nuggets rank 9th in the NBA in team net rating this season, outscoring their opponents by 3.1 points per 100 possessions this year. They also rank 9th in offensive rating and 12th in defensive rating, neither being particularly elite metrics. However, once you dive into some more specific stats, the Nuggets look very impressive. One of the team’s biggest strengths this season has been their passing, as they rank 4th in assists per game, 6th in assist percentage, 3rd in assist/turnover ratio, and 2nd in assist ratio. Alongside Nikola Jokic, the best passing center in the NBA, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and Monte Morris have been awesome playmakers this season.
The Nuggets are a very solid rebounding team, specifically on the offensive glass. Denver ranks 2nd in offensive rebound percentage and score the 6th-most 2nd chance points in the NBA. That offensive rebounding advantage is somewhat neutralized by the team allowing the 10th-highest opponent offensive rebounding percentage in the NBA. The Nuggets are a great interior scoring team, as they have the 7th-most points in the paint per game this year.
Denver does have some real issues on the defensive side of the ball. They rank just 21st in defensive rebounds per game, but they only allow the 7th-fewest points in the paint which is a credit to the team’s elite rim protection headlined by Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets rank middle-of-the-pack in field goal percentage against, although they have the 8th-best 3-point defense in terms of field goal percentage allowed.
The Nuggets do a great job of limiting turnovers as they rank inside the top-ten fewest turnovers per game. Denver also plays with the 2nd-slowest pace in basketball which can be a huge benefit as they slow down the game and allow the 7th-fewest fast-break points in the NBA. The Nuggets have several players who can create their own shot and play make for others, although their bench was weakened by the team trading away Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez.
Denver Nuggets Predictions
The Nuggets have a ton of strengths, most of which stem from having arguably the best passing center in NBA history. Nikola Jokic had more assists in his first three seasons than any player in NBA history and has only gotten better since. He’s well-supported by the likes of Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, and Jerami Grant, likely the team’s top five players. Michael Porter Jr. has also flashed high-level scoring talent this season as he works his way back from injuries that sidelined the start of his career, and his ability to make an impact off the bench for the team could be the key for the Nuggets becoming a real contender for the title.
If the playoffs started today, the Nuggets would be taking on the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. This would be an incredibly compelling contrast of styles as the Nuggets are one of the slower teams in the league that has their center run everything on both ends of the floor while the Rockets are one of the fastest teams in the NBA who don’t play with a center at all. I would probably lean towards the Houston side of that, but I like the Nuggets’ chances of beating the Jazz, Thunder, or Mavericks in the first round.
Even if the Nuggets are able to get past their likely difficult first-round matchup, I’m not confident they can get any further. The second round would likely pit them against the Lakers or Clippers, neither of whom I believe they have a chance to beat. The Nuggets are still a young team and are definitely trending toward contender status, but they may need one more piece before they should be considered a true threat to compete for a title.
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