A strong week pushes Denver up in the rankings, but how will the trade deadline affect the team moving forward?
A near perfect week for the Nuggets was spoiled by Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday afternoon. Despite the setback, the Nuggets are still in a decent spot. Winners of 8 of its last 10 games, Denver is finally turning the corner after the uncharacteristically slow start to the year. With games against Orlando, Toronto, New Orleans and Atlanta this week, the opportunity is there to build on this hot streak.
Now, as the trade deadline approaches, the question looms: does Denver need to make a move? Or will holding pat with this group be enough to make another deep run? The Nuggets have been linked to Aaron Gordon already, who would be an interesting add to this team, but we just don’t know what will happen.
This topic of discussion is brought up frequently in this week’s rankings roundup. See what some of the national analysts have to say about it below:
Last week: 8
Nikola Jokic’s MVP campaign continues to look stronger, especially with Joel Embiid and LeBron James sidelined due to injury. The Nuggets won three straight before losing to New Orleans despite another triple-double from Jokic. Before being held to 108 points by the Pelicans, Michael Malone’s offense averaged 127 points during the streak. Michael Porter Jr. continues to have a hot hand, shooting 50% or better in 12 of his last 14 games. Denver, though, hits the road for three straight games this week, and the bench can use the injured Monte Morris back.
Last week: 8
Question: Who is the most likely to be traded from each team?
Gary Harris has been the name most connected to trades for the Denver Nuggets for several years. As the rest of the roster is improving, Gary Harris has regressed. He has dealt with injuries but stagnation is the biggest issue that has ailed him. He is making $19.1 million this year and $20.5 million next season. He has appeared in one game since February started. Denver will likely have to incentivize a team to take him on.
Luckily for the Nuggets, they have plenty to do that with. The Nuggets have all of their future first-round picks (save for 2023) and intriguing young players like Bol Bol, RJ Hampton and PJ Dozier. For the right player, they could take a swing to try to get them over the hump in the Western Conference.
Victor Oladipo has always felt like a reasonable target because he would be able to be a third or fourth option, taking the pressure off of his recovery. He would also add some sort of defensive mindset to a team sorely lacking in it. Depending on what Houston wants in return for their pending free agent, this could be one of the easier negotiations at the deadline.
Last week: 7
Denver has gone 8-2 in its last 10 games and is beginning to look more and more like the team from last year’s playoffs. Besides Nikola Jokic’s campaign for MVP, Jamal Murray looks to be back to his lethal scoring self. Michael Porter Jr. is thriving playing from the power forward position.
One thing to watch for is the rise of Facundo Campazzo. With Gary Harris out, he has stepped up in a big way for the Nuggets as another playmaker. He is averaging 5.3 assists over the last 10 games. Campazzo is not just making a difference on the offensive end. Denver has a better defensive rating with him on the floor.
Even though the week ended with a loss to the Pelicans, Denver moved up a spot for how good it has been over the last week.
Last week: 10
Denver rattled off wins over the Pacers, Hornets and Bulls to start the week before losing to the Pelicans on Sunday. Nikola Jokic, who could move to the front of the MVP race with Joel Embiid and LeBron James injured, averaged 26.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 8.5 assists for the week on 58 percent 3-point shooting. Jamal Murray broke out of his post-All-Star break funk, putting up 23 points per game this week on 59 percent 3-point shooting. Despite the loss to New Orleans, the Nuggets are playing good basketball of late, winning eight of their last 10.
Last week: 10
Who is ballin’ lately? Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray
Yes, I’m picking both of the Denver Nuggets stars over their last 10 games because I can’t just pick one of these guys. They’ve both been great as the Nuggets have surged forward in the standings. During this stretch of games, Jokic and Murray have been obliterating defenses. Jokic’s MVP numbers continue with damn near a triple-double: 27.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 9.3 assists? Sure, those feel totally normal. But Murray has been looking more and more like the shooter we saw in the bubble. His 20.2 points per game are modest, but the 62.7 percent true shooting is not. That’s including a ridiculous 46.0 percent from 3-point range. This is the duo Denver needs to see.
Why are they ranked here? The loss to New Orleans curbed a hot streak, but Denver is on a roll right now. They were going to be fifth before the loss to NOLA.
Last week: 9
Now, the door is really open for Nikola Jokic to take a strong hold on the top spot in the MVP race. And Jokic continues to shoot the ball ridiculously well, one of two players (Kyrie Irving is the other) who have shot 50% or better on at least 100 non-restricted-area shots in the paint and 50% or better on at least 100 mid-range attempts. But Jokic’s free throw rate (27 attempts per 100 shots from the field) is a career-low mark and the Nuggets’ rank in the bottom five in team free throw rate for the third straight season. In a five-point loss on Sunday, they got outscored by the Pelicans, 23-8, at the line.
Gary Harris hasn’t played since January, Monte Morris has been out the last five games, and the Nuggets continue to start both Michael Porter Jr. and Paul Millsap alongside Jokic. But they’ve been much better, especially defensively, with just one of their power forwards (Porter, Millsap or JaMychal Green) alongside Jokic (+9.7 points per 100 possessions in 894 total minutes) than they’ve been with two of the three occupying the forward positions (+0.4 in 451 minutes).
Michael Malone said last week that Harris remains out for the “foreseeable future,” but a Morris return this week would allow the Nuggets to get smaller and more mobile defensively.