Nuggets Power Rankings Review: Denver slips following 1-2 week

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Denver Nuggets have run into a rough patch of the 2019-20 season. Just 4-4 since the All-Star break, Denver went 1-2 last week, with both losses coming to teams that have been out of the playoff picture for several months.

A narrow two-point victory over another non-playoff team in the Charlotte Hornets wasn’t enough to avoid the alarm bells, which were rung by both fans and the national media. The results can be seen in the national media power rankings, which have been compiled below.

ESPN: No.6

What they said: There's a small identity crisis happening with the Nuggets right now. Coach Mike Malone is unafraid to rip his team when it plays poorly, so it isn't outside the norm to feel the anxiety coming out of Denver. But Malone was on-point with his criticism after Saturday's loss to the Cavaliers:

"Who are we? And who are we going to be? That's a decision that we have to really think long and hard about and make that decision because we are not playing as well as we're capable of, and that's kind of scary for it to be this time of the season."

Bleacher Report: No. 8

What they said: Shockingly beaten by Golden State at home, saved from what would have been another horrendous loss to Charlotte by Jamal Murray's game-winning jumper from the left baseline and then bested on the road by the Cavs, Denver just completed one of its most troubling weeks of the year.

No wonder it prompted soul-searching.

The Nuggets are disappearing for long stretches on offense and failing to summon consistent focus on D, particularly in transition. There's no good time for an identity crisis but losing a sense of self this late in the year is terrifying for a squad that has the personnel to be a fringe contender.

The Athletic: No. 9

What they said: Horrendous week for the Nuggets. They should have rolled through this week with games against Golden State, Charlotte, and Cleveland. Instead, they went 1-2 and were a Terry Rozier 3-point attempt away from going 0-3 in these games. Denver just can’t find consistency lately, and it has to be wearing on Michael Malone quite a bit.

Sports Illustrated: No. 7

What they said: Is there a more confusing contender than the Nuggets? Denver blew out Toronto on March 1, then dropped games against the Warriors and Cavaliers last week. It’s not quite effort that’s plaguing the Nuggets, but there is an evident malaise as we roll through March. Perhaps Nikola Jokic will assert himself throughout the postseason, but it’s hard to see the Nuggets sustaining strong play for three rounds to reach the Finals.

NBA.com: No. 10

What they said: The Nuggets do not want to see the Cavs in The Finals. On Saturday, with Jamal Murray missing almost the same exact shot he made to beat the Hornets two nights earlier, Cleveland swept the season series and the Nuggets fell to 7-5 against bottom seven teams in the East (with two games against the Bulls remaining). They struggled offensively against the league's 29th-ranked defense in the second half (going scoreless on eight straight possessions as they lost the lead in the fourth quarter), but they've also allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions over those five losses.

The defense is obviously the bigger issue and the reason why Michael Porter Jr. was DNP'd in Charlotte on Thursday. The Nuggets rank 29th on that end of the floor since the All-Star break, struggling to defend both the basket (21st in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area) and the 3-point line (23rd in opponent 3-point percentage). They allowed three of the six worst offensive teams in the league to score more than 118 points per 100 possessions last week, and four of their next five games are against four of the five best offensive teams in the league.

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