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NBA Power Rankings: Nuggets rise on the back of strong homestand

After a bad road trip the Nuggets are moving up slightly in national power rankings

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New York Knicks v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Following last week’s abysmal road trip, the Denver Nuggets have recovered slightly by posting three straight wins at home: a decisive victory over Portland, a solid W over Oklahoma City and an uninspiring win last night against the lowly Knicks.

Things are looking up as Nikola Jokic returns to form (both in terms of his gameplay and his physical appearance), while Will Barton continues his strong play.

How does this translate to national media perception? See what they’re saying this week below:


Nuggets Rank: 9
Last week: 8

Sunday’s win over New York was a “line drive in the box score” kind of game for Denver. It was ugly for large stretches, but in the end, it was a third straight win as the Nuggets have gotten their feet back under them after a rough patch a week ago. Nikola Jokic played one of his best games of the season against Steven Adams and Oklahoma City on Saturday, and, like the Nuggets tend to do, they found winning plays in the clutch. But maybe more importantly, they’ve found some more regular run for Michael Porter Jr., who had tangible impact against (Knicks disclaimer incoming) the Knicks.

Sport’s Illustrated

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 7

Denver made a sensible gamble shelling out $54 million over four years for Will Barton in July 2018. The 2012 second-round pick hasn’t just held steady since assuming full-time starting duties this season. Barton is in the midst of a legitimate leap. His shooting efficiency has risen across all metrics, and opponents are scoring just 98.8 points per 100 possessions with Barton on the floor. Barton has been critical in keeping Denver near the top of the West despite Nikola Jokic’s relative struggles.

Bleacher Report

Nuggets Rank: 9
Last week: 10

Jerami Grant played his best game as a member of the Nuggets on Thursday, scoring 20 points, hitting five of his six attempts from deep and defending across five positions. Basically, he delivered on the expectations of those (raises hand) who thought his acquisition this past summer was one of the unsung steals of the offseason.

His play in that 114-99 win over the Blazers was key to ending an alarming stretch in which the Nuggets had lost five of their last six games. If Grant can find that level of play more consistently, he’ll help Denver avoid those sorts of skids.

The bigger story this past week was Nikola Jokic’s gradual return to form. He hit 11 of 14 shots from the field in Saturday’s 110-102 victory against the Thunder, handing out 12 assists and extending his streak of double-digit scoring games to a season-high five. He added a sixth game to that run in Sunday’s win over the Knicks, Denver’s third straight victory.

Jokic is still shooting it worse and averaging fewer points, rebounds and assists per 36 minutes than he did a year ago, but he’s looked a lot more like his old self since the calendar flipped to December. That said, the Nuggets are just 4-4 in the month, so we can’t rush their rankings rise just yet.

The Athletic

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 10

The Nuggets did it against lesser competition this week, but it looks like they righted a ship that was headed into some very choppy waters. They had lost five of their last six games with the only win coming in blowout fashion against New York. They simply couldn’t beat any good teams. So the schedule gave them a little remedy with Portland and Oklahoma City. Denver responded by taking advantage of the soft reprieve in the schedule to make things look better. Maybe the most encouraging sign is Nikola Jokic over the last six games. He’s put up 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists while making 55.2 percent of his shots. That’s the Jokic we want to see.

CBS Sports

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 10

The Nuggets bounced back from a road loss to the 76ers to win the first three games of their five-game homestand. Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap have both been banged up, but Denver has been playing well over the last couple of weeks. Perhaps having played himself into a little bit better shape, Nikola Jokic is looking like the All-Star we expected to see, averaging nearly 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists over his last six games.

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 10

Nikola Jokic has been looking more like an MVP candidate over the last 10 days. His usage rate over the last six games (27.9%) is up from the first 19 (24.0%), and the increase has come with a big jump in efficiency. The rest of the Nuggets’ offense didn’t really tag along as they finished up their road trip, but they’ve scored almost 119 points per 100 possessionsas they’ve begun a five-game homestand with wins over the Blazers, Thunder and Knicks. Their weekend games were the first time since Week 2 that the Nuggets were without one of their top eight guys (Paul Millsap missed both games with quad strain), but Michael Malone only shorted his rotation, playing a 10th man (Michael Porter Jr.) for only four minutes against Oklahoma City and playing only nine (handing out DNPs to Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez) against New York. The last five games have been the slowest-paced five game stretch (95.0 possessions per 48 minutes) for the team that ranks last in pace.