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NBA Power Rankings: the Nuggets take a tumble

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A 2-2 week yields unfavorable rankings from the national media for the Nuggets

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks are in the books and there are more questions than answers at this point for the Denver Nuggets. Though the team went 2-2 on the week by scraping together wins against the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic, the offense has struggled to find fluidity and defense has mostly been non-existent. The result was L’s to the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans in two winnable games.

Not exactly inspiring for a team touting championship aspirations as Michael Malone has so candidly pointed out, but it is still really early in the season. No need to even think about hitting the panic button.

Across the national media, however, it’s clear the expectations for Denver are sky high. A mediocre week coupled with strong play from other teams like the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers has ousted Denver from the Top 5 across the board. At best, the Nuggets sit at the 7th spot; at worst, 12th. Of course, these rankings have a lot of variability week-to-week but it is still interesting to see the trend.

Full detail on this weeks’ rankings can be found below:

ESPN

Nuggets Rank: 7
Last week: 4

The Nuggets’ defeat to the Mavericks was just that -- a close loss to a quality team. But falling by 15 points on the road to the Zion-less Pelicans rang some alarm bells for coach Mike Malone. “We’re a great talk team,” Malone said after the game, which is an excellent burn from a coach. There’s the burden of expectation on Denver this season, and Malone is putting the early challenge to his young team. They responded with a solid win on the road against Orlando, but tests against Miami and Philly loom this week.

Sport’s Illustrated

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 3

Gary Harris appears lost in the Nuggets’ offensive shuffle with a points per game dip for the third consecutive season. Denver should be happy entering Monday at 4–2 despite a slow shooting start for Harris and Nikola Jokic.

Bleacher Report

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 4

We should have known something was up when the Nuggets allowed a disintegrating Sacramento Kings team to hang around for most of last Monday’s narrow 101-94 win.

Though still more productive than most bigs, Nikola Jokic continues to look out of shape and unfocused, and the rest of Denver’s roster seems to be taking its cues from the All-Star center.

The Athletic

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 3

What a weird vibe around the Nuggets right now. A very slow start against Orlando Saturday night made it seem like this team was losing a grip on what made it so good last season. The Magic were manhandling them early on and Nikola Jokic wasn’t able to hang with Nikola Vucevic. Then the Nuggets were able to right the ship, Jokic became aggressive with scoring the ball and the defense helped lift Denver to the road victory.

Denver’s sky isn’t falling, but the Nuggets need to rediscover whatever confidence and work ethic that made everybody so excited about them.

CBS Sports

Nuggets Rank: 12
Last week: 2

Denver is 4-2, but has a negative net rating ... not ideal for a team with title hopes. The Nuggets did bounce back from back-to-back losses with a hard-fought win in Orlando to close out their road trip. In the two losses Nikola Jokic had single-digit shot attempts, a disappointing sign since we thought those days were behind him. As great of a passer as Jokic is, sometimes he’s unselfish to a fault. When he’s aggressive looking for his own shot, it opens everything up for the Nuggets.

NBA.com

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 2

After two bad defensive performances against two top-five offensive teams - Michael Malone called his teams loss in New Orleans on Thursday “an embarrassing effort defensively” - the Nuggets got to play (and beat) the Magic’s 30th-ranked offense on Saturday. There was, seemingly, some luck in their league-best, 31-15 record in clutch games last season. But they’re already out to an early lead for the most clutch wins (they’re 4-1 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes) this season, with Nikola Jokic having shot 9-for-13 in clutch moments, a mark highlighted by a ridiculous turnaround jumper in Orlando on Saturday. The Nuggets are 4-0 when Nikola Jokic has registered a usage rate higher than 20% and 0-2 when he hasn’t. They play eight of their next 10 games at home and Jokic has a couple of fun matchups - the off-suspension Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns - this week.