Denver Nuggets: Legitimate Playoff Contender?


The Denver Nuggets currently sit seventh in the Western Conference; thus, is the team a legitimate playoff contender?

The Denver Nuggets come off of a very disappointing 2014-2015 that saw the team lose 52 games and finish with one of the worst records in the NBA. However, by the Nuggets having a poor season, this allowed them to secure one of the top picks in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Nuggets ended up with the seventh pick of the draft, and they selected point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. By selecting Mudiay in the first round, the Denver Nuggets decided to trade veteran point guard Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets.

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Outside of Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, Mudiay presented the most value for the draft slot he fell to. The Nuggets got their guy at seven; thus, that made Ty Lawson expendable (also, a DUI did not help). With the departure of Lawson, the Nuggets looked to be in the midst of another rebuilding season; however, they look better than advertised early in the 2015-2016 season. With a road win against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Denver Nuggets currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference, with a 6-5 record. 

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While it is tough to gauge a team based off of their first 11 games, the Denver Nuggets have a nice lineup with a blend of veteran leadership and young players. The Nuggets’ backcourt presents its matchup problems across the board. Mudiay’s size and reach makes him one of the most dynamic point guards in the league, despite him only being a rookie. Moreover, Will Barton continues to develop into a fine player, seeing an increase in minutes each season as a member of the Nuggets. Finally, Danilo Gallinari is one of the best shooters in the league, but he also has the ability to drive to the basket as a shooting forward.

The Denver Nuggets’ frontcourt does not quite match the impressiveness of their backcourt. Outside of Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets lack a force on the glass, but they hope to get Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne back relatively soon. Recently, JJ Hickson has seen an increase in minutes due to the number of injuries to the Nuggets’ big men. Also, Wilson Chandler is out for the season after undergoing season-ending hip surgery. Once the Denver Nuggets are at full strength, they pose a threat to capture a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Western Conference is filled with great teams, and some teams have stumbled out of the gate (like the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies). However, the Denver Nuggets look like they can hold their own with most teams in the conference. Do not expect the Nuggets to finish in the top four of the Western Conference; however, anywhere between sixth and eighth is certainly attainable. The main factor lying in Denver’s way is health. Without their big men healthy, the team will struggle over the longevity of the season.

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The Denver Nuggets come off of an impressive road win against the New Orleans Pelicans, and now, they travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs. The matchup with the Spurs will give fans an idea of where the Nuggets stand in the Western Conference. The Spurs are one of the premier teams in the West, and they present multiple matchup problems for the Nuggets across the board, especially with LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan going up against a crippled Nuggets frontcourt. The Nuggets tipoff against the Spurs at 6:30 (MST).