Five teams remain on the Exclusive Eight list, and all five teams have a practical chance to contend for an NBA title. Considering the uncertain future of key players in Orlando’s bubble amid the threat of COVID-19, it’s a crapshoot for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The fifth team that’s on the cusp of being legitimate contenders, on the backs of two budding stars, is the Denver Nuggets.
5th, Denver Nuggets (43-22)
The combination of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Will Barton has become a problem for their foes, and it’s only going to become more of a problem in the coming years. Three other guys are also highly productive. Paul Milsap, Jerami Grant, and Gary Harris also average more than 10 points per game and can be on the court at any point in the game.
What makes the Nuggets special is the fact that they don’t have a superstar. Jokic is the closest thing they have, but at 25, he’s not there yet. It’s a community effort. With six players averaging double-figures per game, the Nuggets are easily one of the deepest teams in the league, full of young talent.
The reason why they’re contenders is the reason they could disappoint once the playoffs come. They’re just young. Denver reminds me of the Oklahoma City Thunder teams of 2009-11 where you can see they’re special, but a championship run may be premature.
The difference: the Thunder weren’t playing in the day of a pandemic. Depending on how the cards fall down the stretch, the Nuggets have a great chance to have some fun in the playoffs.