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NBA Power Rankings: Trade deadline edition

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What is the national media saying about the Nuggets this week?

Denver Nuggets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

On paper the Nuggets had a mixed week: 2-2, wins over strong competition (Utah and Milwaukee) and losses to weaker competition (Memphis and Detroit). The team is still grossly injured and played three games in the span of less than 72 real-time hours beating the best team in the league on the second night of a back-to-back on the road with travel. Yet, most of the focus is on the loss yesterday and as a result the Nuggets didn’t really move up across the board. Two outlets even had the Nuggets drop. Sigh.

But none of that matters. The focus between now and Thursday is the trade deadline. What will the Nuggets move? Are they buyers or sellers? Who is on the trade block (if anyone)?

Let’s see what the media is saying this week:

ESPN

Nuggets Rank: 5
Last week: 6

The Nuggets went 11-5 in January despite Paul Millsap’s missing 13 games, Jamal Murray’s missing nine games, Gary Harris’ missing seven games and Mason Plumlee’s missing six games. The most impressive win of the bunch was a 127-115 road win over the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back for which the team landed in Milwaukee at almost 4 a.m.

Bleacher Report

Nuggets Rank: 4
Last week: 6

All nine players who took the floor in Denver’s 127-115 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday reached double figures in scoring. That’s the kind of collective effort it takes to hand Milwaukee a loss on its home floor; Dallas and Miami are the only other teams to escape the Fiserv Forum with wins this season.

The night before, Nikola Jokic led an inspired second-half surge, staving off Jordan Clarkson’s scoring barrage to beat the Jazz by a final of 106-100. There haven’t been many more impressive back-to-back wins than the Nuggets’ two-step against Utah and Milwaukee this past week, especially considering Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap were on the sidelines for both games.

We won’t penalize the exhausted Nugs for Sunday’s slip in Detroit. They built a huge first-half lead in that one and then simply ran out of gas.

Michael Porter Jr. is a genuine rotation contributor, Jerami Grant keeps making an impact on both ends, and Jokic is taking over games on command.

With things going so well, the Nuggets could be excused for rolling through the deadline with what they’ve got. But Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez should draw interest, and it’s certainly interesting to imagine Denver adding someone like Derrick Rose or Robert Covington.

The Athletic

Nuggets Rank: 8
Last week: 7

Buy or sell? Sit pat. Aha! A third option you didn’t expect! Or maybe you did at some point. I don’t think there’s a real move the Nuggets could do to improve their lot in the West. They are what they are at this point, and I don’t think you can tinker with this roster construction in the regular season very easily. Maybe they could move Malik Beasley and some cap-filler for a significant rotation piece, but the slow emergence of Michael Porter Jr has the Nuggets not really needing to do anything. Even though I don’t expect the Nuggets to be able to rely on a rookie (no matter how talented he is) in the playoffs for consistent production, this team is set for where it needs to be in the third real year of its journey as a good team.

Right now, the Nuggets just have to get healthy. Get Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and even Porter (ankle injury) healthy by March and see where the team gets to by mid-April. Then if you feel there needs to be some overhaul of the existing supplementary parts around Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets could make a bevy of moves this summer or the next. I just don’t think the Nuggets need to acquire anybody right now, despite the fact that they can be very aggressive in trying to find another star to put next to Jokic.

Why did the Nuggets fall this week? I had them fifth in the rankings until their overtime loss to a terrible Detroit Pistons team. It was all razor-thin enough to feel like they should drop a few spots.

Sport’s Illustrated

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 6

It may not materialize before Feb. 6, but the Nuggets are uniquely positioned to make a splashy move before 2020-21. Gary Harris remains an intriguing asset at a reasonable number. Ditto for Will Barton. Michael Porter Jr. isn’t going anywhere, but Denver could be in the hunt for the next All-Star that emerges on the trade market.

CBS Sports

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 7

The Nuggets picked up big wins over the Bucks and Jazz this week, but also lost to the Grizzlies and undermanned Pistons. Nikola Jokic has been brilliant, while Jerami Grant and Monte Morris have both stepped up with the Nuggets’ various injury problems. Grant has averaged 15 points and nearly three blocks per game over his last four, while Morris is putting up 12.3 points and 4.5 assists per game over the same stretch.

NBA.com

Nuggets Rank: 6
Last week: 5

The Nuggets are your Jekyll and Hyde Team of the Week, having won in Milwaukee (without four rotation guys) on the second night of a back-to-back and having lost in Detroit (after leading by 21) two days later. Of course, if there was a team to pull off such a vacillation, it was the Nuggets, who have the league’s smallest differential between their winning percentage against the 17 teams currently under .500 (22-9, .710) and their winning percentage against the 13 teams currently over .500 (12-7, .632).

Bench minutes haven’t been too much of an issue over the two weeks that the Nuggets have been without Mason Plumlee, but they were outscored by 18 points in the 13:15 that Nikola Jokic was off the floor on Sunday, missing Michael Porter Jr., who has quickly become a critical part of their rotation. Over the three-plus weeks that Porter has been getting consistent minutes, the Nuggets have been 16.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (plus-11.5) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-5.3).

Their last meeting with the Blazers was one of Damian Lillard’s lowest scoring games of the season (13 points on 5-for-16 shooting), with Gary Harris (who returned from a two-game absence on Sunday) having been Lillard’s primary defender.