Nuggets Power Rankings Review: Denver rises after undefeated week

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

Following an eventful week full of trades and players returning from injury, the Denver Nuggets find themselves in second place in the Western Conference at 37-16 as the final week before the 2020 All-Star break begins.

Despite being shorthanded throughout the week (most notably in their win over the Utah Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back), the Nuggets went 3-0 last week as they continue to cement themselves as true playoff contenders.

Nikola Jokić has been playing at an MVP-caliber level while Jamal Murray has shot the lights out in his three games back. Paul Millsap joined in on the action on Saturday as he provided a double-double off the bench for Denver as it won in Phoenix.

As a result, the Nuggets were rewarded with comfortable spots in the top five in the national media power rankings this week. Let’s take a look at what various outlets had to say when analyzing Denver’s place among the NBA’s elite.

ESPN: No. 4

What they said: Isn't it about time to start the "Should Nikola Jokic be in the MVP race?" conversation? Though the Nuggets have been hampered by injuries in the past month, they are second in the Western Conference. And in 2020, Jokic is averaging 24.8 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7 assists, while his team is 14-6. Sometimes it looks like Denver could play four random fans alongside him and still be competitive. The Nuggets, however, are finally getting healthy, and Jamal Murray -- 67 points on 26-of-43 shooting in his past two games -- has them looking like they have a one-two punch about as strong as anybody.

Bleacher Report: No. 4

What they said: As long as Giannis Antetokounmpo is around, talk of others nosing their way into the MVP race will always be a little pointless. But if there's a sub-Giannis tier of the MVP discussion, Nikola Jokic may be moving toward the top of it.

Jokic, unbothered by the defense of Rudy Gobert, ripped off 30 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists as a seven-man Denver squad earned a 98-95 road win over the Jazz on Wednesday. That, after Jokic went for 29 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists to beat the Blazers 127-99 on Tuesday. And if you're into clutch play, nobody's better than the Nuggets center.

Sports Illustrated: No. 5

What they said: My goodness, Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets delightful center has been downright dominant in Denver’s last six games, nearly averaging a 27-point triple-double. Jokic turned in his best performance of the year against Utah on Feb. 5, becoming the third player in NBA history to score 30 points while adding 20 rebounds and 10 assists. The Serbian center is one of a kind and a true gift to the game. Perhaps he’ll have his Dirk moment in one Finals this decade.

NBA.com: No. 6

What they said: The Nuggets pared down their extended rotation at the deadline, but not to the end of upgrading their top 10. That's OK if Nikola Jokic (averaging 27.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 9.2 assists over a 5-1 stretch) and Jamal Murray (29.0 points on an effective field goal percentage of 74% since returning from a 10-game absence) continue to play like they have recently. The Nuggets have been without at least three of their top 10 guys in each of their last 13 games, but they haven't broken stride.

The Athletic: No.5

What they said: Phenomenal week for the Nuggets. They went 3-0 with wins over Portland, Utah and Phoenix. The win over Utah was simply ridiculous. They should have lost that game in like five different ways, and they just kept chipping away at Utah’s resolve. Nikola Jokic kept coming at the back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year and there was nothing really Rudy Gobert could do to stop him. The Jazz just had to hope for the Nuggets to miss some shots. Denver keeps building right now, even as it has had guys in and out of the lineup consistently.

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