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The Nuggets have scored some big wins lately. How far do you see Denver going this season? What has you believing (or not believing) in them?
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Steve Aschburner: Here’s how much I like the Nuggets -- if LeBron James had wanted first and foremost to win another championship ring, and do so quickly, I think Denver would have been a better summer destination for him than the Lakers. Coach Michael Malone is working with a great ensemble, in need mostly of that tent-pole guy and reliable closer. As is, I think the Nuggets can go as far as the Western Conference finals, particularly if they get marvelously skilled big man Nikola Jokic to consistently play more aggressively on offense.
Shaun Powell: You must believe in Denver because as good as this team has looked lately, they've yet to reach the ceiling. What happens when Will Barton returns? Are you a believer in Isaiah Thomas, who's also mending? Assuming these additions will only deepen and bolster the lineup, there's no reason not to believe the Nuggets will be a top-three team when the playoffs approach. Their deep lineup, solid defense most nights and freakish center in Nikola Jokic spells trouble for others.
John Schuhmann: It's fair to believe that the Nuggets are the early favorite to be the team that loses to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. They're the only West team that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, having seen the league's biggest improvement on defense (6.4 fewer points allowed per 100 possessions than last season). There's reason to be a little leery of that, because their new system (like that of the Bucks under Jason Kidd) can give up layups and corner 3-pointers, and much of their success is about their opponent 3-point percentage (lowest in the league), a number which can be a little deceiving at this point in the season. But the players have bought in and they've played more games against top-10 offenses (nine) than they have against bottom-10 offenses (seven). Their bench has been very good (Trey Lyles can play), and should be better upon the return of Will Barton.
Sekou Smith: The Nuggets came into this season on my teams-on-the-rise list and they've lived up to it so far. They've got the talent and depth to be a top-four team in the Western Conference playoff chase. They are that good. And yes, it's easy to believe in a team when they are tied for the No. 1 spot in the West. But what we're talking about is projecting where this Nuggets team is headed over the course of the next four-plus months. I'm not nervous at all about projecting the Nuggets as a part of that top-four mix. I am confident they won't see a repeat of last season, when they played for a playoff spot on the final night of the regular season (and lost it to the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime).