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NBA Power Rankings: Michael Porter Jr. is helping keep Denver in the conversation

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The Nuggets are still among the best teams in the league, and MPJ is a big reason why

Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Looking around the landscape of the NBA (and the Western Conference in particular) today, it’s easy to let Denver go unnoticed. The Lakers are basking in star power, the Jazz are winners of 19 of 21, the Bucks continue to be a dominant force. Couple this with the plague of injuries the Nuggets are facing and it makes sense that they haven’t cracked the top five.

Still, the Nuggets are sitting with a phenomenal 32-14 record. Jokic is dominant, and Michael Porter Jr. is giving everyone a taste of just how good he can be. Things are gravy in Denver.

What is everyone else saying though? Check it out below:

ESPN

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 6

Quietly, this has been one of the most impressive stretches of the season for the Nuggets. They are banged up all over but still won three of four, including a quality victory over Houston on Sunday. Nikola Jokic has been terrific, but Michael Porter Jr. continues to add intriguing depth as Mike Malone zeroes in on a postseason rotation. There was a little hiccup with some back tightness, but Porter says not to worry and his games against the Pelicans and Rockets should be good reason to listen.

Bleacher Report

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 5

Gary Harris rejoined the lineup for Friday’s 113-106 win against New Orleans, but Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee remain sidelined for a Nuggets team that still somehow managed to go 3-1 this past week.

It helps that Nikola Jokic is wrecking shop again. He put up 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in Sunday’s 117-110 win over the Rockets, his second triple-double of the week.

Not only that, but Michael Porter Jr. looks like the best imaginable version of the high-risk, high-reward prospect Denver drafted in 2018. He tallied 20 points, 14 boards and four assists against Minnesota last Monday and is playing with a thrilling combination of star-level shot-making craft and end-of-the-bench hustle around the bucket.

With Jerami Grant also performing much better of late, the Nuggets are getting excellent frontcourt production.

Denver is a solid defensive stretch away from being in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, the mark of a legitimate contender.

CBS Sports

Nuggets Rank: 7
Last week: 6

Who is most likely to be traded?

Malik Beasley: If the Nuggets were in the market for a star, Gary Harris is probably the most likely name to be dealt, but that doesn’t seem to be where Denver is at this point, so making a minor move for Beasley seems more realistic. After a breakout season last year, Beasley has fallen almost completely out of the rotation. He’s been pressed into duty recently due to injuries, which could serve as a nice showcase for the 6-4 combo guard’s scoring ability.

NBA.com

Nuggets Rank: 5
Last week: 5

Michael Porter Jr. has a unique combination of size and skills, one of which is rebounding. Porter has averaged 13.5 rebounds per 36 minutes over his last six games and returned from a one-game absence (he was one of five rotation guys to miss the Nuggets’ loss in Houston on Wednesday) to grab 19 boards in less than 48 minutes over the weekend. Seven of those 19 came on the offensive glass, where Porter helped the Nuggets rack up 53 second chance points in wins over the Pelicans and Rockets.

The 35 second chance points they registered in New Orleans on Friday is tied for the most for any team in a game the last three seasons. The Nuggets rank 21st in effective field goal percentage and 26th in free throw rate, but have a top-10 offense, in part because they lead the league in offensive rebounding percentage (and by a wide margin since Porter started getting more minutes after Christmas). They’ll face two top-five defensive rebounding teams (Utah and Milwaukee) this week.