Wins over the Sixers, Clippers and Magic have Denver shooting up the rankings
It’s safe to say that the Aaron Gordon trade was a good one for both sides. Gordon and the Nuggets are 4-0 since the deal and capped off a perfect weak with an uncomfortable win over his former team on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Magic are getting great minutes from rookie RJ Hampton who looks like he will be a really solid piece in the future.
Gordon isn’t the sole factor for Denver’s success. The Nuggets are winners of 14 of its last 17 games and have one of the most complete starting fives in the game. Jokic and Murray are cruising but Michael Porter Jr. has made the leap we were all hoping for this year as well. Denver is all-in and at this point looks like it could seriously compete against anyone for a title and one of the higher seeds in the Western Conference.
With Detroit, San Antonio (twice) and Boston ahead on the schedule this week there’s no reason to believe the winning ways won’t continue.
Last week: 7
The Aaron Gordon trade has given the Nuggets a major boost. The Nuggets have yet to lose with Gordon — they’ve won five straight, the past four coming with Gordon on the floor. They’ve beaten playoff contenders such as the Hawks, Sixers and Clippers. In the Nuggets’ win over the Clippers, Nikola Jokic wasn’t at his usual MVP level, but Michael Porter Jr., Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Gordon all made big plays in the final three minutes to show glimpses of how different the Nuggets could become this postseason. The addition of Gordon gives the Nuggets another big body to throw at the likes of Kawhi Leonard and presents Jokic with another target for assists.
Last week: 8
The Denver Nuggets are among the hottest teams in the NBA since the trade deadline, winners of four in a row. Three of those wins have come with new addition Aaron Gordon in the lineup and the early returns are everything the Nuggets could have hoped for.
These are not wins against the bottom of the league. Beating the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers by a combined 40 points is admirable.
In the small sample since the trade deadline the Denver Nuggets are the top offense in the league and have the 14th ranked defense. Nikola Jokic is continuing to further his MVP case (helped by the absence of LeBron James and Joel Embiid). Jamal Murray has been much better of late. Michael Porter Jr. is popping off now that he is fully back.
Jokic is the story for the Denver Nuggets. He has pulled ahead of the MVP race and the numbers would have made the argument for him all along. Jokic is averaging 26.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Now that the Nuggets have risen higher in the standings his case is becoming unassailable. Infusing a more defensive presence with the team should make sure the wins keep coming.
Last week: 7
The Nuggets have been one of the hottest teams since the trade deadline. Denver has won five straight games after adding Aaron Gordon to the lineup. Its new starting lineup of Gordon, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton has a net rating of 33.9 over 90 minutes.
Last week, Denver had a big win over the Clippers while holding them to just 94 points. It got balanced scoring with all five starters in double figures, led by Murray’s 23 points. Defensively, the team forced the Clippers into 41.2 percent shooting from the field.
The Nuggets nearly had their streak snapped by the Magic to end the week. After a lethargic start to the game, Denver outscored Orlando 72-44 in the second half to keep the streak alive, move into the top five of the rankings and stay just a game out of third place in the West.
Last week: 7
The Nuggets won all three games this week, and they still haven’t lost since Aaron Gordon joined the team. Their win over the Clippers on Thursday sent a message that their new-look lineup is going to be a nightmare for playoff opponents. Gordon averaged 14.7 points this week on 63 percent shooting, as he continues to get great looks in the flow of the offense. Nikola Jokic only averaged 17 points per game this week and Denver put up 114.5 points per 100 possessions, which is terrifying. The new starting lineup of Jokic, Gordon, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray has been a monster on both sides with an absurd plus-33.9 net rating in 90 minutes so far.
Last week: 5
Can the offense be so good the defense doesn’t matter? I’m not convinced Aaron Gordon is going to truly help the Denver Nuggets defense, especially once they’re in the playoffs. Even though he wasn’t a regular contributor due to injuries, shipping Gary Harris out of town in the deal for Gordon meant the team had the same number of competent defenders on the roster. Also, Gordon just left an equally mediocre defense in Orlando, which he didn’t exactly save. However, the Nuggets have such a brilliant fit with Gordon offensively, especially with his gravity as a cutter in Nikola Jokic’s offense, that their approach on that end of the floor may be far too overwhelming for most opposing defenses. We know Brooklyn’s offense is so good that its poor defense doesn’t matter, but Denver has the potential to be in the same boat.
Last week: 8
The Nuggets had to come back against Orlando on Sunday after a sluggish first half put them in an 18-point hole, but they’ve won five straight games and are 4-0 with Aaron Gordon. The biggest win of the bunch came Thursday, when the Nuggets held the Clippers’ second-ranked offense to just 94 points on 89 possessions in what was one of the slowest-paced games of the season. Gordon had the Kawhi Leonard assignment, but the win featured some terrific team defense and was capped by a timely weak-side reaction by Michael Porter Jr. when the Clippers ran an old Spurs play out of a timeout. With the season series tied 1-1 and the finale schedule for May 1 in L.A., the Nuggets are tied in the loss column with the third-place Clippers.
Gordon scored 24 points against his old team on Sunday, with six of his 10 buckets (all six being dunks or layups) being assisted by Nikola Jokic. In four games, Jokic has almost as many as assists to Gordon (11) as Magic player did in Gordon’s 25 games before the trade (Nikola Vucevic’s 15 were the most). The Magic starting lineup has outscored its opponents by 34 points per 100 possessions in its 90 minutes and, with Monte Morris having returned from an 11-game absence on Sunday, the Nuggets are #fullsquad.