Connect with us


Why the Nuggets are Still The Best Team in The NBA

After beating the Boston Celtics for the second time this season, the Denver Nuggets find themselves at 43-20, good enough for third in the Western Conferences. While their record might not scream “best team in the NBA” everything else about them does.

Their victory over the Celtics in one of the more anticipated regular season games in recent memory further cemented their status as the gold standard of the NBA, and here’s why:

Nikola Jokic

Sean Gardner | Getty Images

There are a hundred reasons why the Nuggets are such a good basketball team, but the most important one is Nikola Jokic. He’s staked his claim as the best player in the world, and is moving up all-time lists faster than you can blink. Every time Denver steps foot on the court, they know they have the best player on the floor on their side.

Jokic is a generational talent capable of raising the level of those around him like no other. He may be the most consistent superstar in NBA history, and is as reliable as they come. When Jokic is on the court this year, Denver has a net rating of +10.4. When Jokic is off the court, their net rating drops to -9.5. Figuring out how to guard him might be the toughest assignment in the NBA, one that nobody has figured out. If you play him 1-on-1 he’ll use his physicality to destroy you as a scorer around the rim. Send an early double and Jokic will pick you apart with skip passes that you might not even see on TV. Double late and he will somehow find a way to set up a perfect lob for Aaron Gordon, even if it looks like a shot.

There’s a certain inevitability with Jokic that you don’t see often. He makes the game look so simple while barely breaking a sweat.

The Perfect Lineup

AAron Ontiveroz | Getty Images

This Nuggets starting five was made in a lab. They may not be the most talented group in the league but they fit like a glove and have no real weaknesses. They’ve got high level scoring from Murray and Jokic, elite individual defense from Gordon and Caldwell-Pope, and knockdown peremiter shooting from Porter Jr. Each player is at least a capable, if not a high-level two way player.

They’ve got just enough speed and athleticism to make up for Jokic’s shortcoming in that department, and think the game better than any team in the league. Murray and Jokic form one of the most lethal two-man games in NBA history and give them a near unstoppable option late in games. Their starting five is the most used five-man unit in the league, has a +13.6 net rating when on the floor together.

The biggest thing I keep coming back to with this group is the level of trust and confidence they provide. No matter the situation, you can fully trust this group of five to play disciplined basketball and generate extremely quality looks on the offensive end.

On the off chance they don’t find a good look on offense, there’s a good chance Jamal Murray or Nikola Jokic bails them out with a backbreaking circus shot. They’ve proven to be a nightmare to guard in the clutch and execute better than any other team in the NBA. They might not always win the talent battle, but there’s no other five-man unit I would rather have.

The Little Things

We’ve talked about the rather obvious reasons why the Nuggets are such a juggernaut, but there are a countless number of “little things” that have allowed them to continue their success from last year. First and foremost, the experience of winning an NBA championship can not be understated.

The Nuggets can now play the entirety of the regular season with the comfort of knowing their capabilities. They know who they are, have all the postseason experience they need, and everyone on the roster has proven themselves in high-leverage games. There’s no “feeling out” period with this group, and no questions surrounding how their style of play will translate to postseason basketball.

No other team in the league can say this. Even the Celtics, who have steamrolled the entire NBA for most of the season, have some major questions to answer in the playoffs. Denver can enter their postseason title defense with full confidence knowing they’ve done it before.

The Nuggets have one of the strongest homecourt advantages in the NBA, and proved it during last season’s championship run where they went 10-1 at home. They are 25-6 at home this year. We could argue about how much the elevation really matters, but it certainly seems to matter a little bit.

There aren’t any egos on this team. It’s all about winning for this group, no matter how they do it. Everyone knows their role and rarely tries to play outside of it. They have a level of cohesion and chemistry that is so rare in today’s NBA.

The bench was the biggest question coming into the season, and in my opinion, has been more than fine. Christian Braun and Peyton Watson continue to develop into quality role players, and their veteran reserves provide just enough to round out a decent bench rotation. The luxury the Nuggets have is that they don’t need much out of the reserves because the starters are so dominant. So, if the bench can just be average in the playoffs, that’s more than adequate.

On paper, the Western Conference seems as wide open as ever. But, I truly think the Nuggets are head-and-shoulders above everyone else, and will have a very high chance to make it to the NBA Finals again, assuming health. It’s rare to talk about a 3-seed like this, but this Denver group just feels different.


Must See

Join the Newsletter!

More in NBA

Would you like to get Notifications for new articles? OK No thanks