Not a bad week for the Denver Nuggets. They pulled off a second win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, then fell to the Dallas Mavericks in overtime on Thursday before setting off on an East Coast road trip. They took care of a severely shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers squad on Saturday then blew out the Knicks on Sunday. Nikola Jokic looks absolutely dominant, and after shooting 7-for-12 from three this weekend it appears the Gary Harris is back. Michael Porter Jr. remains absent, but other than that things seem to be falling into place.
Let’s be clear: this season is weird. And with so many teams missing players due to health and safety protocols and/or quarantine, it’s likely that things will continue to be jumbled. The power rankings put out by media outlets reflect that (and to be frank, it’s still so early in the season that they don’t mean much anyways). Still, it’s interesting to see what others outside of Denver are saying.
Check it out below:
Last week: 15
What they say:
The Nuggets were supposed to get Michael Porter Jr. back from quarantine last week but ended up losing him for even longer because of health and safety protocols. Despite not having Porter, and with Jamal Murray still not looking like himself, the Nikola Jokic train is running full steam and the Nuggets have now won four of their past five. JaMychal Green has provided strong minutes, and Gary Harris’ offense has come alive on this East Coast trip.
Last week: 11
What they say:
The Nuggets are a better team than they have shown this season. Nikola Jokic is balling right now but is not getting the support he needs. He’s averaging a triple-double for the season and had 27.5 points per game last week.
Jamal Murray has been inconsistent this season. He scored 31 and 36 points to begin 2021 but has since had 13-, 21- and 14-point performances. Gary Harris is continuing his downward shooting trend.
To make matters worse, they will be without Michael Porter Jr. for at least another week for health and safety protocols. The last time he played for the Nuggets was December 29 when he scored 30 points against the Kings. It is just not easy for them to replace his production.
The Nuggets swept their series with the Wolves, lost a tough game in overtime to the Mavericks, were gifted a win against the short-handed 76ers and beat the Knicks to improve to 5-5 this season. This could be the start of a nice run if the rest of the supporting cast gets going.
Last week: 25
The Denver Nuggets had a solid 3-1 week but that should have been expected. They twice played against the hapless Minnesota Timberwolves and then faced the Philadelphia 76ers in a game that the NBA insisted proceed with even though Philly only had seven active players. Anything less than these results would have only been further cause for concern.
Gary Harris played his best game of the season against the Sixers, further fueling the need for hesitance. The game is essentially a throwaway. No one for the Nuggets played even 30 minutes, so let’s focus on the rest of the week. Jamal Murray was explosive in the first game against Minnesota (36 points on 20 shots) then disappeared the next (13 points on only seven shots).
Nikola Jokic is playing like an MVP so far this season and his line is fantastic. He is averaging 25.9 points, 11.6 rebounds (sixth in the league) and 10.9 assists per game (third). Denver is still missing Michael Porter, Jr. but Jokic has made that almost negligible.
The worry around this team may just be overstated. They went deep into the 2020 postseason and overachieved, increasing expectations. Add in roster turnover and the time missed by Porter and a sluggish start makes sense. Jokic will keep them in the running as long as he keeps up this level of play.
Last week: 10
Denver took care of business against the Wolves, Knicks and a shell of a 76ers team this week, while losing a tight one with the Mavericks. Jamal Murray had a rough week in terms of scoring, but Nikola Jokic was in top form, averaging 27.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists while making 43 percent of his 3-pointers. They didn’t play against the world’s best offenses, but the defense took a step in the right direction.
Last week: 12
After a 1-4 start, the Nuggets have won four of their last five games, with the only loss coming in overtime (to Dallas on Thursday). The defensive numbers have been better, and their win over the Knicks was the first time that they’ve held an opponent under a point per possession this season. But the difference from the first five games has mostly been in how well their opponents have shot from 3-point range (33.5% vs. 42.0% through the first five games), and three of the five games have come against teams (Minnesota and New York) that rank in the bottom five offensively. So it’s too early to say that the Nuggets are on the right path on that end of the floor.
What may be more interesting is that Gary Harris has shot 23-for-38 (61%) over the last four games and was 7-for-12 from beyond the arc in Philadelphia and New York over the weekend. Harris struggled offensively over the last two seasons and had made just four of his first 29 3-point attempts this year, but he was once a guy who shot 41% on 649 3-point attempts over the 2016-17 and ’17-18 seasons, he has great chemistry with Nikola Jokic (who has assisted on 23 of his 42 field goals this season), and remains one of Denver’s most important defenders. He’ll could be guarding Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and Donovan Mitchell this week.