clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NBA Power Rankings: Slumping Nuggets fall across the board

New, comment

Four losses in five games does not yield a positive ranking for the Nuggets

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets, losers of 4 of 5, are undoubtedly in a slump. They’ve put up decent efforts on this road trip, but when your lone win in the past week comes against the perennially awful New York Knicks and you suffer a few bad losses along the way it’s easy to have a glass-half-empty approach to this team.

It’s to the surprise of no one then that Nuggets are taking a really big hit in this week’s power rankings. Long gone are days of this upstart team building off of last season’s postseason run and cruising through the regular season. This team needs an identity and help.

See what the national media is saying about Denver in this week’s roundup:

ESPN

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 4

It’s the first real rough patch of the season for the Nuggets, who have lost four of five, with the lone win being a gimme against the Knicks. In litmus test games against the Lakers and Celtics, Denver looked a notch below and showed signs of tangible issues on offense. In these past five games, they are pretty much holding steady defensively. But offensively, they’re scoring 104.8 points per 100 possessions, which for the season would rank just above the bottom five of the league.

Sport’s Illustrated

Nuggets Rank: 7
Last week: 5

Denver has jumped from No. 25 to No. 10 to No. 1 in defensive rating in each of the last three years. Mike Malone deserves props for his no-nonsense ethos, while GM Tim Connelly has compiled a quality crop of frontcourt defenders to surround Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets’ stout defense keeps them as contenders for the West crown even as Jokic struggles to find his footing in 2019-20.

Bleacher Report

Nuggets Rank: 10
Last week: 6

Nikola Jokic’s rough season continued this week, as a dishearteningly apathetic version of the guy who warranted MVP consideration a year ago managed just three shots in the first half of Tuesday’s 105-96 loss to the Lakers.

Jokic is out of shape and less involved in Denver’s offense than ever. His teammates remain supportive, but they also understand the Nuggets can’t reach their ceiling unless things change.

Will Barton told Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports: “We’ve got to play through him. Every year that’s what’s going to work best for us. We’re a good team when he’s not scoring but we’re a great team when he’s being dominant down there and we have championship potential when he’s cooking, and we know it. We can get away with it some games and beat teams, but to be the team that we want to be we’ve got to play through him.”

Jokic was better in Friday’s road loss to Boston, setting a season high with 30 points. But Sunday’s slip in Brooklyn dropped Denver to 1-4 in its last five games, and Jokic’s subpar form is a major reason the Nuggets have struggled lately.

Between Jokic’s disappointing play and a defense that may be benefiting from some good luck with respect to opponent field-goal percentage, it feels fair to say Denver is fortunate to be 14-7.

The Athletic

Nuggets Rank: 10
Last week: 6

Is Nikola Jokic an outside shooter? Most people would look at his touch on shots and his European profile and assume that he absolutely is an outside shooter. I’m not so sure that’s the case. He’s a spectacular midrange shooter. Over the course of his career, Jokic has knocked down 49.4 percent of 1,615 midrange attempts, according to Cleaning The Glass. That’s remarkable efficiency on those shots. On 856 3-point attempts for Jokic, he’s made just 33.4 percent. That’s still good for over 50 percent on eFG when you factor in the extra point for a made 3-pointer. But that’s also highly boosted by one big year. In 2017-18, Jokic knocked down 39.6 percent of his 280 attempts from deep. Take away that one good year and the rest of the years look pretty pitiful. It drops him down to 30.3 percent accuracy. That’s Russell Westbrook-ian.

Of course, if we’re going to remove the extreme outlier of his best season, then we should probably be fair and remove this outlier of a disaster season shooting the ball. He’s 19-of-83 from deep so far, which is good (bad?) for 22.8 percent.

Even if you don’t buy him as a legitimate 3-point threat, you shouldn’t buy him as a Serbian Andre Roberson with his jumper either. He’d still be at 31.6 percent for his career.

Jokic knocked down a 3-pointer in Friday’s loss to the Celtics. It was his first make since Nov. 20. He had gone six straight games without a make. Hopefully, Jokic regresses to the mean in a very positive way because the Nuggets need the impact of him hitting from distance.

CBS Sports

Nuggets Rank: 10
Last week: 7

Denver failed a big test by losing to the Lakers at home, then later fell to the Celtics and Nets as well. The Nuggets are a very good team, there’s no doubt about that, but as of now their ceiling doesn’t appear quite as high as the rest of the NBA elite. It will be interesting to see if they seek out another piece once more trade options open on Dec. 15.

NBA.com

Nuggets Rank: 10
Last week: 6

Everything - the offense and the bench, especially - looked great at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Then Nikola Jokic had his long-awaited breakthrough over the weekend, registering a usage rate of 30% or better in two straight games for just the second time this season and totaling 54 points on 55% shooting in Boston and Brooklyn. But the Nuggets have lost four of their last five games, scoring less than a point per possession in three of the four losses. They shot 6-for-29 and 5-for-30 from 3-point range against the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, last week. And when they made 18 threes in Brooklyn on Sunday, they tied a season low with just 22 points in the paint. It would be interesting to see if Michael Porter Jr. could give the offense a shot in the arm, but the rotation has been too healthy and Michael Malone apparently isn’t ready to give the rookie that opportunity. After the Nuggets wrap up their four-game trip in Philadelphia on Tuesday, they’ll begin their longest homestand (five games over nine days) of the season.