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Hot Take Analysis: could these Nuggets reach the Western Conference Finals?

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Nuggets fans react to win over Dallas Mavericks

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nuggets fans were excited following Friday night’s victory on the road over a shorthanded Dallas Mavericks roster. I asked them to send me their best hot takes, and the group didn’t disappoint. These are some of my favorite takes of the evening:


Spice Scale: 3 out of 10

Truth Scale: 9 out of 10

Analysis: In just two games and 29 total minutes, Isaiah Thomas has proven to add an offensive dynamic that the Nuggets haven’t had at guard this season. His pull up jumper in transition is absolutely lethal, and the respect he commands from opposing defenses helps the rest of the offense to run even more smoothly. Averaging 12.0 points per game on 64.0% True Shooting is probably not going to last, but assisting Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, and the rest of the bench unit as an elite shooting option? That feels real.


Spice Scale: 8 out of 10

Truth Scale: 3 out of 10

Analysis: The most important player in the playoffs for the Nuggets will of course be Nikola Jokic, while the second most important player becomes more interesting. Despite that, I believe it’s clear who the next two most important players are: Gary Harris and Paul Millsap. Denver needs their defenders to step up in a playoff series, especially those that can match the opposition on the other end. Harris becoming a threat on both ends may be the difference in a playoff series, and Millsap’s ability to cover the back line defensively and switch on the perimeter make him invaluable.

That being said, Thomas may be the fourth best player when it’s all said and done. The hope is that Jamal Murray steps up and plays like he did for the 20+ game stretch he had in December and January, or that Will Barton returns to last season’s second half form. Neither of those two hopes are guaranteed, nor is Malik Beasley maintaining his excellent shooting or Mason Plumlee making up for rough free throw shooting in a playoff series. My guess: Thomas and Monte Morris could be vying for that fourth best player spot, which is a hop, skip, and jump away from third if Harris or Millsap slip.


Spice Scale: 9 out of 10

Truth Scale: 2 out of 10

Analysis: Nikola Jokic has been awesome this season. That much is undeniable. His season may be the best in Nuggets history when it’s all said and done. Despite that, it’s not the best season that’s occurring this year. James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo have alternated having the best season for a few months, and Paul George has recently thrown his hat in the ring. Jokic can’t compete on an individual level with those guys, and the Greek Freak’s team has been better than the Joker’s.

It’s not a slight that Jokic hasn’t been at that level either. He hasn’t had to be. Jokic is averaging 31.5 minutes per game, while Giannis is at 33.2, George is at 36.6, and Harden is at 37.4. It’s a testament to Denver’s depth, and most teams with MVP candidates don’t have such a luxury. Jokic may one day put up numbers that qualify him for MVP frontrunner status, but that day is not this year, even if it’s coming soon.


Spice Scale: 8 out of 10

Truth Scale: 7 out of 10

Analysis: I think this is a great take, and considering the Nuggets are tied for 10th in Defensive Rating as we speak, it’s not as far off as some may believe.

Maintaining a top 10 Defensive Rating will surely be tough, especially given Denver’s diminutive stature on the perimeter. Despite that, the defense is trending in the right direction, as over the last five games, the Nuggets are 6th in Defensive Rating. The engagement level has trended that way as well, with the Nuggets displaying some of the best defensive effort of the season last night against the Mavericks. Just look at this block by Murray as he flies from one end of the floor to the other:

If the Nuggets get this kind of effort every game from here on out, I’d bet on Denver finishing in the top 10 defensively.


Spice Scale: 9 out of 10

Truth Scale: 2 out of 10

Analysis: If you told me the Nuggets were playing a Game 1 in Oracle, I’d still be skeptical. The Nuggets will probably hold onto a top 3 seed, which means they would stay out of Golden State’s side of the playoff bracket. Still, Denver would likely have to face one of San Antonio, Sacramento, or the Los Angeles teams in the first round. Then, they would likely have a showdown against Oklahoma City. I’d personally take the Nuggets in that series, but honestly, it’s 50-50.

Even if the Nuggets were to advance, the Warriors allowing the Nuggets to win three home games would be surprising. Denver doesn’t match up with Golden State in the slightest, and while Jokic provides Denver an advantage inside, it’s likely not enough to make a meaningful difference in a series. Could it happen? Maybe, but it’s extremely unlikely.