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NBA Power Rankings: Nuggets make a huge climb

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

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are on the up. After a perfect 3-0 week from toppling Oklahoma City and the Phoenix Suns twice on the road (Jamal Murray’s travel be damned), they are now two games above .500 and back in the thick of things in the Western Conference. Denver has now won 8 of its past 11 games and looks to be over the hill from the slow start to the season.

Nikola Jokic’s MVP campaign should be heating up as the Nuggets get more and more in the win column - but this week’s slate will be a test nonetheless as the road trip continues in Dallas, Miami and San Antonio before coming back home to face the red-hot Jazz again. Various outlets are becoming more optimistic about Denver, as the team is squarely in the top ten in the NBA across the board.

Check out what they’re saying below:

ESPN

Rank: 8
Last week: 11

The Nuggets are starting to look more like the team that reached the Western Conference finals last season. They’ve won three straight and eight of their past 11 games, Nikola Jokic is off to an MVP-caliber start, and Jamal Murray is gutting his way through an elbow issue. And Michael Porter Jr. is back after missing 10 games because of the league’s health and safety protocols.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 8
Last week: 15

Nikola Jokic has been playing at an MVP level, but the Nuggets’ record might hold him back. Last week was a good sign as Denver started to turn things around and climb the rankings as it beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and swept the miniseries against the Phoenix Suns in thrilling fashion.

The latter was a true battle. The first game went to overtime, and the second went to double overtime. In the end, the Nuggets came up with just enough stops to steal both. Jokic averaged 30 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, while Murray came up with big shots to force overtime.

The Nuggets’ improved play has started on the defensive end. Their defensive rating for the week was 104.3, down from 110.8 on the season. If Denver is going to continue its rise in the standings, that trend must continue.

The Nuggets did receive some good news on the injury front with Michael Porter Jr. returning from his long COVID-19-related absence. His return means Denver gets back its third-best scoring option.

Hoops Habit

Rank: 7
Last week: 10

All of a sudden, the Denver Nuggets are rolling, which is exactly what Nikola Jokic deserves. He has been playing like a top-five player this season. Finally, his teammates are cooperating and the wins are starting to come in turn.

Even if it is in double overtime, 29 points, 22 rebounds and six assists is an absurd stat line. Michael Porter Jr. was back and had 14 points and 11 rebounds against Phoenix as he looks to break back into the starting lineup again.

This is the most complete version of the Denver Nuggets the league has seen in nearly a month and that is good to see. They are a joy to watch and the league would be lucky to see them in a playoff series with either Utah or Phoenix as evidenced by the amazing games this week.

The Nuggets are far from a perfect team. They are still likely one big-time piece away from being actual title contenders but they are rounding into form. It is no longer just Nikola Jokic carrying them on his back to wins. They are back to their full fun form and it is a joy to watch them wreak havoc.

CBS Sports

Rank: 5
Last week: 12

Denver won all three games this week and certainly earned the last two, playing a total of three overtime periods on consecutive nights against the Suns. Nikola Jokic continues to play at an MVP level, averaging 29 points, 14.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists for the week. Jamal Murray struggled with his shooting, but made a clutch pull-up jumper in overtime on Friday before draining a ridiculous 3-pointer to force OT on Saturday. Michael Porter Jr. returned for the wins over the Suns after a 10-game absence, putting up 14 points and 11 rebounds on 3-for-4 3-point shooting in 35 minutes on Saturday.

NBA.com

Rank: 6
Last week: 12

Jamal Murray is dealing with an elbow issue and has shot 8-for-34 (24%) from 3-point range over the last five games. But he hit the 3 the Nuggets needed (after getting away with a travel) to send a second straight game in Phoenix to overtime. Friday’s was an offensive affair (120 combined points per 100 possessions), while Saturday’s was a defensive struggle (101 per 100), and the Nuggets won them both. Since their 1-4 start, they’re 8-3, with only three narrow losses to Dallas, Brooklyn and Utah. They’ll play two of those teams again this week.

Most encouraging is that the Nuggets rank ninth defensively over that stretch. And while Nikola Jokic is no longer averaging a triple-double (with only 20 over his last three, his assists have dipped to 9.6 per game), the Nuggets have outscored their opponents by 23 points in his 49 minutes on the bench over their three-game winning streak. Michael Porter Jr. made his return from a 10-game absence over the weekend and was one of two reserves (Monte Morris was the other) on the floor down the stretch on Saturday. The Nuggets have outscored their opponents by 18.3 points per 100 possessions in 123 minutes with Morris, Murray and Jokic on the floor together.