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NBA Power Rankings: Rising up, barely

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A 3-0 week isn’t enough to move the needle across various power rankings

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets went 3-0 last week by way of demolishing the Miami Heat and barely scraping out wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves. Across the national media, however, many questions remain for Denver and in particular Nikola Jokic despite his heroics.

Detail on the ever volatile power rankings rankings can be found below:

ESPN

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 7

Despite a solid start to the season as expected, the Nuggets aren’t exactly acing the eye test. They won in overtime but went scoreless in the final 6:23 of the fourth quarter on Sunday, blowing a 16-point lead. Nikola Jokic hasn’t consistently played like himself (despite his hitting a couple of game winners this week), and as a team, the Nuggets are struggling to make shots (27th in true shooting percentage). All that aside, they’re 7-2, with wins against Miami, Philly and Minnesota this week. If this is “bad,” then the Nuggets are very good.

Sport’s Illustrated

Nuggets Rank: 7
Last week: 8

No superstar has had a slower start than Jokic, but perhaps he was awakened by Friday’s win over Philadelphia. Jokic took control of the fourth quarter en route to a season-high 22 shots and 26 points, a welcome sign for Mike Malone and Co. Jokic needs to be more selfish for Denver to be title contenders.

Bleacher Report

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 8

Home wins over two of the East’s top teams, Miami and Philadelphia, helped change the vibe of a somewhat dispiriting start to the season in Denver. The Nuggets’ record was fine coming into the week, but Nikola Jokic’s lackluster play and the resulting team-wide malaise were troubling.

Friday’s incredible comeback win over the Sixers was particularly meaningful.

Down by as many as 21 points, the Nuggets surged back into the game behind dogged defense and something that looked a bit like desperation. Jokic’s game-winning jumper, the outcome of a scrambled play that nearly produced a turnover, put Denver up for good with 1.2 seconds left. A pair of free throws secured the 100-97 stunner.

That fourth quarter, in which the Nuggets smashed the Sixers 35-13, felt like a turning point in the season. Sunday’s win in Minnesota was Denver’s fourth in a row and the second straight decided by a Jokic game-winner in the waning seconds. Though the center is still looking a little heavy and slow of foot, it’s hard to criticize a 7-2 record and a dramatically improving defense.

The Athletic

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 8

What’s going on with Nikola Jokic? How much did the FIBA World Cup action this summer throw off his routine for prepping this season? The Denver Nuggets have struggled quite a bit this season, and yet they sit 6-2 with a pretty positive net rating. Their struggles are relative to the struggles of middling or bad teams because they entered this season with high expectations. While those expectations of the 1-seed, MVP consideration for Jokic, and a lot more growth are still well within reach by the end of the campaign, something feels off with this squad. I think it’s Jokic and how relatively pedestrian he’s looked compared to the production of last season. People made fun of Jokic’s shape or lack thereof in training camp. He’s moving even slower and jumping even lower than he has in previous seasons. So what gives?

CBS Sports

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 12

Denver picked up its first double-digit win of the season over the Heat, then got back to its nail-biting ways by beating the 76ers and Timberwolves by a combined five points. While the other seven-win teams all have season point differentials over seven, the Nuggets have only outscored opponents by three. Nikola Jokic hasn’t looked like himself, so it’s a testament to the team that they’ve been able to pull out wins despite not playing to their full capability.

NBA.com

Nuggets Rank: 4
Last week: 8

Nikola Jokic’s scoring, shooting and rebounding numbers are all down from last season, when he got to the basket a lot more than he has this year. But the big man is the biggest reason the Nuggets are 6-1 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having shot 12-for-20 with six offensive rebounds and eight assists in the clutch. And on the tail ends of a huge comeback (the Nuggets trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter) against Philly and an epic collapse (they were outscored 16-0 over the final 6:43 of regulation) in Minnesota, Jokic hit two rainbow game-winners (one, two) against two of the league’s other elite centers. The Nuggets have the No. 1 defense in November, having allowed just 93.2 points per 100 possessions over their four-game winning streak, though Brooklyn (on Thursday) will be the first top-15 offense that they face this month.