The Broncos were a catastrophe this season. And as has been true for decades, whenever the Broncos play poorly, Denver slips into a collective depression. Unfortunately, this depression gets compounded by the cold, dark days of winter.
Thankfully, there’s a talented basketball team in town, just around the corner from the Broncos' stadium. The Denver Nuggets are running the show right now in the West and are bringing electricity to the Pepsi Center night after night.
Currently sitting atop the Western Conference standings, the Nuggets boast 24 wins and only eleven losses. The wins have been quality, too, coming against top teams like the Warriors, Thunder and Raptors.
Nikola Jokic is becoming one of the NBA's star players. NBA analyst Charles Barkley recently said that Jokic should be considered the frontrunner for the MVP award.
The Serbian national is playing top-notch basketball right now, averaging 18 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. That many assists per game puts Jokic at eighth overall in that NBA category this season. That assist stat line is even more impressive when considering Jokic is a seven-footer.
Aside from Jokic, 21-year-old point guard Jamal Murray has played well, even electric. On two occasions, Murray has come close to a half-century mark for points, scoring 48 points against the Celtics and 46 points against the Suns. That’s a sign of real scoring talent, which is promising, given how young Murray is.
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With stellar play from Jokic and the scoring threat of Jamal Murray, the Nuggets have amassed a winning record all while playing at less than full strength. Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Will Barton have all missed multiple games with injuries. Additionally, both first-round draft pick Michael Porter Jr. and Isaiah Thomas, the once-electric point guard, have still not yet suited up. But rather than settle for a mediocre record while awaiting the return of these players, coach Michael Malone has plugged those holes, and the Nuggets have continued their reign atop the Western Conference.
Perhaps most impressive about this Nuggets squad is its balance. Denver's offense is ranked ninth in the NBA, while its defense is ranked eighth. Showing just how good they are on defense, three players, Jokic, Millsap and Mason Plumlee, are all ranked in the top twenty for NBA defensive ratings.
It’s still too early to crown the Nuggets, who haven't made the playoffs in the last five seasons, as the NBA champions. Leading the Western Conference this early in the season doesn't always translate to post-season success. But the fact that the Nuggets are this good and have gotten to this point without shelling out a king’s ransom for a LeBron James or a Paul George shows that their future is bright.
Maybe Denver still isn’t a basketball town, but there's no need to be sad about the Broncos anymore. The Nuggets are here to dry our tears.