All Jokic-ing Aside, Nuggets Making Case As West Contenders

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All Jokic-ing Aside, Nuggets Making Case As West Contenders

Nuggets’ NBA Championship Odds: +3300 (BetOnline)

Western Conference Odds: +2000

Divisional Odds: +163

Why Are The Nuggets So Good?

Denver is atop the Western Conference standings and what they have done through the first half of the season is beyond impressive; it’s eye-opening. Denver’s deep roster, which is going to get deeper pretty soon, has shaken off a ton of injuries to rank as one of the league’s most balanced teams.

Denver is one of only four NBA teams that rank inside the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. On offense, the steady play of Nikola Jokic, combined with the breakout campaign by Jamal Murray, has led this team to new heights. Combine that with a deep bench of wing talent and the renewed veteran presence of Paul Millsap, and this team’s trend line just keeps going up.

Murray has been one of the biggest reasons for the team’s success. The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging more than 18 points per game, and while his efficiency has been down in his third NBA season, that could have do with all the Nuggets’ injuries. Millsap is just making his way back on the court and Gary Harris is yet again banged up. These two are a big chunk of the Nuggets’ talent on both ends of the court.

Not only that, but the Nuggets have done most of their winning without Will Barton. After Wilson Chandler left to join the 76ers, Barton was seen as the heir apparent to the starting small forward job. He too is one of the more underrated two-way players in the league. Could getting him back along with the longshots of Michael Porter and Isaiah Thomas turn the Nuggets into legit contenders?

What Is Denver’s Ceiling?

It’s hard to judge what the playoffs will look like after just half the season. There are only 5.5 games that separate the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds in the Western Conference, and as of January 10, only 3.5 games separate the No. 8 seed from the second-to-last team in the West.

What I’m getting at is right now if you’re betting on any Western Conference future odds, you might as well go play Keno or the lottery. You’d probably have a better ROI in those two games.

The Warriors, Thunder and probably the Rockets are all better teams than Denver on paper, and if a West team makes a splash at the trade deadline (looking at you, Lakers), that could put Denver at a further disadvantage.

That being said, there is no doubt in my mind that the Nuggets have the talent and depth to make it to the Western Conference Finals. They are currently the favorite to win their division over the Thunder and Blazers, and they have just enough star power to potentially beat both those teams in a playoff matchup.

It will all come down to home court and whether they can avoid the Warriors. A healthy DeMarcus Cousins for the Dubs could make everyone else underdogs in the West. However, the Nuggets have been downright filthy when playing at home. They are averaging more than 115 points per 100 possessions at the Pepsi Center and they are only allowing 104 points per 100 possessions at home.

Add in a fully healthy roster and the Nuggets might make the Western Conference Finals. However, they are also 11-9 SU on the road, so if they can’t hang on to home-court advantage, Denver might not get out of the second round.