Last week was wild for the Denver Nuggets, culminating with the trades for Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee. We saw Gordon’s first stint with the Nuggets last night against the Atlanta Hawks and boy do the early returns look good. McGee didn’t get any run but looks to be an integral part of the interior defense moving forward. With these additions, the Nuggets have undoubtedly solidified their spot as a mainstay in the Western Conference.
The power rankings this week don’t necessarily reflect that, though. With a 2-2 showing last week with losses against weaker teams in New Orleans and Toronto that is to be expected. However, Denver will have a huge opportunity to move up if they can notch wins over Philadelphia tomorrow and the Clippers on Thursday.
Until then, see what the media is saying about Gordon and the Nuggets this week below:
Last week: 8
With the Lakers limping toward the postseason, the Nuggets saw their opening and made arguably the league’s biggest trade deadline move by adding Aaron Gordon. Gordon gives Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray another versatile and athletic above-the-rim scoring option. He also provides the Nuggets with more muscle to throw at LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs. JaVale McGee returns to Denver to provide rim protection, championship experience and another big body to throw at Davis. The moves also take pressure off Michael Porter Jr., who has been shooting lights out for over a month.
Last week: 7
At the trade deadline, the Denver Nuggets tasted blood in the water. They saw the injuries to the Los Angeles Lakers and the inconsistencies of the Portland Trail Blazers, LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks. The Phoenix Suns are inexperienced and the Nuggets like the matchup against the Utah Jazz. With that in mind, they took the swing to bolster their roster for the future.
JaVale McGee was the first move and while it may not be flashy it was necessary. The Nuggets have lacked decent rim protection off the bench all season and is a strict upgrade over Isaiah Hartenstein (who was traded) and Zeke Nnaji. Then came the Aaron Gordon trade.
Gordon came to the Nuggets in exchange for Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a future first-round pick. Harris has struggled in recent years due to injury but the reactions of his teammates upon finding out about his departure was telling. He was a valued member of the locker room and will be sorely missed. Hampton has shown flashes of the potential that had him at the top of his class in high school and was a smart flyer for the Matic to take.
All that being said, Gordon truly raises the ceiling of the Nuggets back to the top of the Western Conference. They have missed the presence of Jerami Grant since he departed in free agency and Gordon is a perfect replacement. He is the only player on the roster capable of guarding one through four, essential for competing against the best of the conference. Given the declining nature of his contract, this was a no-brainer.
Last week: 6
The Nuggets were one of the big winners of the trade deadline with their move for Aaron Gordon. Denver had to give up some backcourt depth with Gary Harris included in the deal. Gordon brings a lot on both ends of the court for the Nuggets. He’ll add another player to defend the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Offensively, Gordon will flourish as a cutter and secondary playmaker.
It was very fitting that Gordon’s first basket as a Nugget came off a Nikola Jokic pass for a dunk. In 21 minutes, he finished with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and flashed everything he will bring. He scored off cuts and as a roller, made the next pass and defended several different positions.
This trade is going to move Denver into the contenders tier and will have it climbing even higher in the rankings.
Last week: 7
The Nuggets pulled off arguably the most important deal of the deadline by acquiring Aaron Gordon, who fills a glaring need as a versatile forward who can guard multiple positions and knock down open 3-pointers. He took no time getting acclimated to his new teammates, putting up 13 points in 21 minutes in his debut against the Hawks on Sunday. Gordon joins Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to create one of the most intimidating offensive units in the Western Conference. Denver went 3-1 this week, and now sits just 1.5 games back of the Lakers for the No. 4 seed.
Last week: 6
One sentence to sum up the trade deadline for this team: The Denver Nuggets grabbing Aaron Gordon was a massive deal at the deadline, but will he be as reliable for them on the defensive end of the floor as Jerami Grant was last season, and can he be as good of an outside shooter as Grant?
Why are they ranked here? Picking up Gordon to help the defense is a big deal, so it moves them into the top five this week. But if the Los Angeles Lakers get healthy by the postseason, and all of these other teams in the West remain healthy, are we sure the Nuggets are a top-five team in the West? The Nuggets are really good, but the other top-six teams in the West are all monsters in their own right.
Last week: 9
So far, so good with Aaron Gordon in Denver. The 25-year-old forward scored 13 points in his debut on Sunday, making all five of his shots inside the arc (including one roll to the rim after setting a ball screen for Nikola Jokic), but just one of his four attempts from beyond. Gordon’s jumper is far from fluid and it should certainly be a worry that his 3-point shooting this season (38% prior to the trade) has been a deceptive small sample size, given how poorly he shot last season.
But the success of the trade will be determined more by the other end of the floor. The Nuggets’ new starting lineup (Paul Millsap goes back to the bench) allowed the Hawks to score just 38 points on 41 possessions on Sunday, with Gordon mostly guarding John Collins, who had a quiet 11 points two nights after scoring a career-high 38. Before Gordon gets a visit from his old team on Sunday, he’ll get to match up with Ben Simmons and Kawhi Leonard. The Nuggets’ first meetings with the Clippers (on Christmas) was one of their worst defensive games of the season.