Well, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us. With its Disney Bubble premise in full effect, the 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The NBA is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each of the NBA playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch.
Let’s hit the Denver Nuggets.
Expectations: 2nd Round Exit
To be fair, Denver is being slept on HEAVILY as the 3-seed in a stacked Western Conference. They don’t have the big names of other top WC squads but they’ve been competitive all season long. A trip to the Western Conference finals is not out of the cards, but they likely get handled by PG and the Klaw in Round 2.
What’s Working for Them
1-2 punch of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. When I say Jokic and Murray, I’d hazard a guess that more people would think of a tennis rivalry than the duo in Denver. They’re easy to overlook with all the big names out West, but these guys GET IT DONE.
Jokic may be the most dominant offensive Center in the game today. He moves incredibly well for a man of his size and can physically dominate most guys defending him. With that presence inside, Murray has thrived as a score-first point guard that can facilitate via the pick-and-roll. Murray can go off for 30-plus points any night. Couple that with the consistency of Jokic and you have a pretty reliable foundation.
What Might Hold Them Back:
Middle-of-the-pack defense. While the adage of “defense wins championships” doesn’t always apply to the NBA, it’s critical when you’re lacking star firepower. Jokic and Murray can both score, but after that the waters get murky.
As expected from a team with this kind of size inside, they defend the paint well. Conversely, they struggle to keep perimeter shooters under wraps and don’t have dominant wings that can play on both ends of the floor. When it comes to defending guys like Lebron, Kawhi, and Paul George, they simply don’t have the bodies to do it. When push comes to shove, Denver doesn’t have the guys to hang around with the big dogs of the Western Conference.
Storyline to Watch
2020 offseason. Look, nobody thinks Denver is going anywhere this year. On top of that, Jokic, their best player, isn’t getting any younger at a position that is pretty unforgiving from a longevity perspective. However, they do have nearly $45 million coming off the books this year with the expiring contracts of Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee. Could this put them in play to sign a marquis free agent? Maybe that dominant wing this team is lacking.
Only time will tell but you can guarantee Denver will look to make some major upgrades in the abbreviated offseason.
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