What’s one of the secrets behind the Nuggets’ No. 1 ranked offense this season?

It lies in transition.

The Nuggets are not just a good fast-break team. They’re elite and by far the best in the league this year.

Denver is averaging 1.25 points per possession in transition. That’s No. 1 in the NBA by a significant margin and the best mark since NBA.com began tracking transition data in 2015. Philadelphia is second at 1.19 points per transition possession. The Nuggets are scoring on 56% of their transition possessions too. That’s also No. 1 in the league.

The Nuggets’ 67.8 Effective Field Goal Percentage in transition is putting every other team to shame. There’s as large of a gap between the Nuggets and the second-ranked Wizards, who have a 63.8 EFG% in transition, as there is between the 76ers and Raptors, who rank 19th in that category. The Nuggets’ EFG% on transition opportunities is also the best mark in the NBA since at least 2015.

“Once the other team misses, I feel like everyone starts smiling,” Bones Hyland said.

“We’re just so connected right now. There’s no stopping us.”

Denver’s transition prowess was again on full display Wednesday night against Phoenix. The Nuggets tallied 24 fast-break points in a 126-97 rout of the Suns, who were on the second night of a back-to-back and without Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.

The Nuggets looked to run early and often. Denver’s second basket of the game came on a fast break. Aaron Gordon simply beat every Suns defender down the floor after a missed shot.

The Nuggets’ transition offense of course starts on defense. Forcing a miss is the easiest way to start a fast break, and Denver’s defense has been forcing a lot of misses lately. The Nuggets held the Suns to 97 points on 43.3% shooting and turned Phoenix over 16 times. That’s lots of missed baskets and lots of transition opportunities.

Over the Nuggets’ last 15 games, Denver has held its opponent to 46.6% shooting. It’s the 10th-best mark in the NBA over that span and a huge improvement from where the Nuggets were at the beginning of the season. Across that same stretch of 15 games, Denver is also averaging 18.8 fast break points per game, the third-most in the NBA.

“It’s been a point of emphasis,” Michael Malone said. “Give our guys credit, they’ve done a really good job of being a really effective running team.”

Fast-breaking opponents like the Nuggets have as of late should be a core component of this team. Playing at a mile high, Denver has the biggest built-in home-court advantage in the league. The Nuggets need to use it as much as possible. Off of turnovers, makes and misses, Denver can naturally manufacture endless buckets off transition opportunities. Currently, the Nuggets’ 18.1 transition possessions per game ranks just 18th in the NBA. Better defense will raise that number.

There’s more behind the Nuggets’ record-breaking transition efficiency. Denver has athletes all over its roster that get up the court in a hurry. Malone has been especially pleased with how the Nuggets have been running the floor and spacing to the corners and rim.

The Nuggets also have Nikola Jokic, who finished with a cool 21 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists vs. Phoenix. That’s a big factor here. There’s not a more accurate outlet passer and fast-break starter in the league. Off every make or miss, Jokic looks to get the ball up the floor as quickly as possible. The Nuggets’ first two points of the third quarter came on a fast break but off of a Suns’ basket. Jokic quickly inbounded the ball and connected with an open Aaron Gordon on the other side of half-court.

“He’s the greatest passer in the world,” Hyland said of Jokic. “If he gets the ball, we just run.”

Denver’s unselfish nature helps its transition offense too. With Jokic running the break, everyone knows that if they sprint to their spots and are open then they’ll get the ball. It’s as simple as that. It’s a fun way to play. It’s exciting.

It also ignites the crowd at Ball Arena where the Nuggets are 18-3 this season and tied with the Grizzles for the best home record in the NBA.

“It’s just about getting a defensive rebound and leveraging the first person that is open,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope told DNVR. “We pick our guy in transition. We see who is open and who is not open, and then we just play.”


Harrison Wind is the Denver Nuggets beat reporter for DNVR Nuggets. The University of Colorado alum grew up in Boulder and has covered the Nuggets for the last three seasons. You can hear him every weekday on the DNVR Nuggets podcast. Follow Harrison on Twitter - @HarrisonWind