Nuggets Power Rankings Review: Denver maintains spot among NBA elite

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Denver Nuggets are coming off of a 3-1 week despite the continued absence of key starters and rotation players. Although Gary Harris and Michael Porter Jr. returned for Denver’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee have remained sidelined.

However, that hasn’t slowed down the Nuggets, who have gotten MVP-caliber play from Nikola Jokić and dependable production from the second unit as they racked up wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Pelicans and Houston Rockets.

As a result, the Nuggets sit at 32-14 and just one-half game behind the Utah Jazz for second in the Western Conference. The national media power rankings mostly rewarded Denver’s steady play with spots near or in the top five of the league.

ESPN: No. 6

What they said: Quietly, this has been one of the most impressive stretches of the season for the Nuggets. They are banged up all over but still won three of four, including a quality victory over Houston on Sunday. Nikola Jokic has been terrific, but Michael Porter Jr. continues to add intriguing depth as Mike Malone zeroes in on a postseason rotation. There was a little hiccup with some back tightness, but Porter says not to worry and his games against the Pelicans and Rockets should be good reason to listen.

Bleacher Report: No. 6

What they said: Gary Harris rejoined the lineup for Friday's 113-106 win against New Orleans, but Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee remain sidelined for a Nuggets team that still somehow managed to go 3-1 this past week.

It helps that Nikola Jokic is wrecking shop again. He put up 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in Sunday's 117-110 win over the Rockets, his second triple-double of the week.

Not only that, but Michael Porter Jr. looks like the best imaginable version of the high-risk, high-reward prospect Denver drafted in 2018. He tallied 20 points, 14 boards and four assists against Minnesota last Monday and is playing with a thrilling combination of star-level shot-making craft and end-of-the-bench hustle around the bucket.

With Jerami Grant also performing much better of late, the Nuggets are getting excellent frontcourt production.

NBA.com: No. 5

What they said: Michael Porter Jr. has a unique combination of size and skills, one of which is rebounding. Porter has averaged 13.5 rebounds per 36 minutes over his last six games and returned from a one-game absence (he was one of five rotation guys to miss the Nuggets' loss in Houston on Wednesday) to grab 19 boards in less than 48 minutes over the weekend. Seven of those 19 came on the offensive glass, where Porter helped the Nuggets rack up 53 second chance points in wins over the Pelicans and Rockets.

The 35 second chance points they registered in New Orleans on Friday is tied for the most for any team in a game the last three seasons. The Nuggets rank 21st in effective field goal percentage and 26th in free throw rate, but have a top-10 offense, in part because they lead the league in offensive rebounding percentage (and by a wide margin since Porter started getting more minutes after Christmas).

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