Denver has the No. 1 offense in the NBA
How unstoppable is this Nuggets offense? Last night vs. Atlanta, the Nuggets shot just 8-22 (36.4%) from 3-point range. That’s a below-average mark for Denver this season. Somehow, it didn’t matter. The Nuggets still posted 70 first-half points because Denver shot 20-32 (62.5%) from two. The Nuggets have the No. 1 offense in the NBA this season and the No. 1 offense in NBA history. I remark almost every night how I’ve never seen an offense score as easily as Denver.
The Nuggets are the most-accurate 3-point shooting team in the league too. They have the best offensive player in the league. They have the best starting five in the league, in my opinion. This is an offensive juggernaut operating at a Mile High elevation that can’t be stopped.
All five Nuggets starters are shooting at least 38% from 3. Bruce Brown is shooting 39.3% from distance off the bench. Vlatko Cancar is hitting a ridiculous 47.8% of his 3s this season. You can’t help off of him.
The Nuggets are the NBA’s 3rd best defense since Dec. 18
I was hard on the Nuggets’ defense over the first 1 1/2 months of the season. Denver looked lazy and disinterested on the defensive end of the floor. I didn’t think you could call the Nuggets championship contenders since they fielded the NBA’s 28th-ranked defense over their first 28 games. It was embarrassing. Denver was in a defensive tier with the Spurs (30th), Pistons (29th), Hornets (27th), (Rockets 26th) and Magic (25th). Those teams aren’t even trying to win this year.
But something changed (in the Nuggets’ schedule.) Denver returned to Ball Arena for its home-heavy portion of its regular season slate and the Nuggets started to defend. Denver has a 20-5 record across its last 25 games. That’s tied with the 76ers for the best record in the NBA over that stretch. The Nuggets are 17-1 at home in that span of games too. That one loss was on a last-second shot to the Thunder in a game that Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. didn’t play in.
Nikola Jokic has a 70.4 TS% and is the most efficient high-volume efficient scorer in the NBA
At the start of the season, here’s what we said needed to happen for Jokic to win another MVP.
- The Nuggets would have to be the No. 1 seed in the West and maybe run away with it.
- Jokic would have to average a triple-double.
- Jokic would have to post the most efficient season of his career.
All three are happening. The Nuggets are 4.5 games up on the Grizzlies for the No. 1 spot in the West. Jokic is averaging 24.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game. And he has a career-high 70.4% True Shooting Percentage and is shooting 63.2% from the floor. Jokic has never shot above 58.3% in his career. He’s gotten so good at basketball that he just doesn’t miss that many shots anymore.
Jokic has still shot under 50% from the field in only one game this season. That was Oct. 28 against the Jazz in Denver’s sixth game of the season. Nuggets won by 16 points that night.
Here’s some context on just how crazy that TS% stat is. There’s a larger gap between Jokic and Durant, who ranks 2nd in TS%, than there is between Durant and Joel Embiid, who ranks 9th.
TS% Leaderboard (minimum 500 shot attempts this season)
- Nikola Jokic 70.4%
- Kevin Durant 67.3%
- Domantas Sabonis 66.8%
- Lauri Markkanen 66.7%
- Steph Curry 66.5%
- Myles Turner 64.8%
- Damian Lillard 64.6%
- Anthony Davis 64.6%
- Joel Embiid 64.3%
- Christian Wood 63.6%
Jamal Murray is averaging 22.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in his last 25 games
It was special being in the building for Murray’s 41-point explosion Saturday vs. the Hawks. That was Jamal Murray. He was in that zone. He was absolutely dialed in from the opening tip. Man, that was a treat to watch.
Since Murray hit his game-winner in Portland on Dec. 8 a shot that many within the Nuggets’ organization believe jumpstarted his season, Murray is averaging 22.3 points (48.2 FG%, 41.7 3P%), 4.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. He’s impacting the game in so many areas and now has three straight 30-point games. He’s back. Officially.
Others deserve shoutouts too. I’ve been so impressed with Porter this season. He’s already dealt with a lot this year (injury and off-court family tragedy) and Porter has stayed solid. He’s stayed composed, and this season has tweaked, altered, and improved his game on both ends of the floor to give the Nuggets exactly what they need. There’s more coming from me on that front on Monday. Also, Aaron Gordon, the Nuggets’ rock throughout their first couple of months of this season before Murray found his rhythm, has been instrumental.
Christian Braun and Zeke Nnaji are playing consistently (I know this isn’t a stat)
Michael Malone has found the right combinations off his bench and the Nuggets have been able to stabilize their second unit. Braun and Nnaji are firmly in the bench rotation, Bones Hyland is about to get traded, and Denver’s second unit has an identity as a tough-nosed defensive-first group. They embodied that Saturday in Denver’s win over Atlanta.
It’s been obvious for some time that Braun needs to play regular minutes every night. You got the sense that Malone knew that too. But maybe the Hyland situation needed to fully play out before Malone went Braun’s direction for good. We’re there now. Braun logged 32 minutes against the Hawks. He recorded seven rebounds and two steals. He did make two 3-pointers but only shot 4-11 overall. Still, Braun was a +20 off the bench.
“It’s hard not to love Christian,” Malone said last night. “When he goes out there, he misses a shot. Who cares? He plays so damn hard. He plays winning basketball. The best thing you can say about that young man is he’s a proven winner. Everywhere he’s been the guy’s won, and he’s helping us win at a high level right now.”