Nuggets Power Rankings Review: Denver continues to climb after strong start

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@Eric_Spyros

Although the Denver Nuggets haven’t reached their peak level of performance throughout their first nine games, the team still sits at 7-2, tied for the best record in the Western Conference. This impressive start has mainly come as a result of Denver’s defense, which has locked down opponents while the offense continues to search for a groove.

Clutch, game-winning shots by Nikola Jokić led to two wins over teams with winning records this past weekend, but the Nuggets know they have more to figure out if they want to continue on their path to championship contention.

Throughout the national media power rankings this week, that appears to be the main message as well. Here is where Denver ranked across the board:

ESPN: No. 6

What they said: “Despite a solid start to the season as expected, the Nuggets aren't exactly acing the eye test. They won in overtime but went scoreless in the final 6:23 of the fourth quarter on Sunday, blowing a 16-point lead. Nikola Jokic hasn't consistently played like himself (despite his hitting a couple of game winners this week), and as a team, the Nuggets are struggling to make shots (27th in true shooting percentage). All that aside, they're 7-2, with wins against Miami, Philly and Minnesota this week. If this is "bad," then the Nuggets are very good.”

Bleacher Report: No. 6

What they said: “Home wins over two of the East's top teams, Miami and Philadelphia, helped change the vibe of a somewhat dispiriting start to the season in Denver. The Nuggets' record was fine coming into the week, but Nikola Jokic's lackluster play and the resulting team-wide malaise were troubling. Friday's incredible comeback win over the Sixers was particularly meaningful.

Sunday's win in Minnesota was Denver's fourth in a row and the second straight decided by a Jokic game-winner in the waning seconds. Though the center is still looking a little heavy and slow of foot, it's hard to criticize a 7-2 record and a dramatically improving defense.”

SI: No. 7

What they said: “No superstar has had a slower start than Jokic, but perhaps he was awakened by Friday’s win over Philadelphia. Jokic took control of the fourth quarter en route to a season-high 22 shots and 26 points, a welcome sign for Mike Malone and Co. Jokic needs to be more selfish for Denver to be title contenders.”

NBA.com: No. 4

What they said: “Nikola Jokic's scoring, shooting and rebounding numbers are all down from last season, when he got to the basket a lot more than he has this year. But the big man is the biggest reason the Nuggets are 6-1 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having shot 12-for-20 with six offensive rebounds and eight assists in the clutch. And on the tail ends of a huge comeback (the Nuggets trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter) against Philly and an epic collapse (they were outscored 16-0 over the final 6:43 of regulation) in Minnesota, Jokic hit two rainbow game-winners (one, two) against two of the league's other elite centers. The Nuggets have the No. 1 defense in November, having allowed just 93.2 points per 100 possessions over their four-game winning streak.”

The Athletic: No. 8

What they said: “What’s going on with Nikola Jokic? How much did the FIBA World Cup action this summer throw off his routine for prepping this season? The Denver Nuggets have struggled quite a bit this season, and yet they sit 6-2 with a pretty positive net rating. Their struggles are relative to the struggles of middling or bad teams because they entered this season with high expectations. While those expectations of the 1-seed, MVP consideration for Jokic, and a lot more growth are still well within reach by the end of the campaign, something feels off with this squad.

This team needs him to get back to being great to keep pace with both Los Angeles teams, along with everybody else at the top of the West trying to prove themselves worthy to sit on the throne abandoned by Golden State.”

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