Can the Nuggets Finally Be Finals Favorites?


The Denver Nuggets have made their way to the 2023 Western Conference Finals, and they looked good doing it.

While this should come as no surprise, it might just be for some.

Despite the Nuggets having the best record in the conference, most people were taking other teams as their favorites. Some saw the Milwaukee Bucks as the best team in the league, other liked that the Boston Celtics ranked second in both offensive and defensive ratings. Some even chose the lower-seeded Los Angeles Lakers or Golden State Warriors over them.

While some of those are still possible, none of those teams have performed as well as the Nuggets.

The road so far has not been necessarily easy. After earning the first seed in the West, Denver was forced to face a team with two big men to throw at Nikola Jokić and an athletic wing they could find difficult to defend in Minnesota. Following them, Denver would face arguably the best duo in the NBA.

Kevin Durant and — more importantly — Devin Booker gave the Nuggets all they could. Through five games, the Suns made the Conference Semifinals among the most competitive series in the postseason.

The Nuggets faced all kinds of questions before the series started. They answered all of them.

Denver killed the Timberwolves in five games and only lost in overtime. Then, behind an all-time performance from Jokić, they overpowered the Suns in six games after some impressive offensive displays.

Even if the T-Wolves and Suns were missing players, the Nuggets not only defeated both teams, they only lost a total of three games between both series. Denver was also the first team to clinch a Conference Finals spot.

All of this, behind the leadership of their franchise center.

Jokic is taking the best-player crown

With the Bucks’ shocking loss in the first round, the best-player-in-the-world title is up for grabs. Nikola Jokić has officially thrown his hat in the ring.

The two-time MVP’s stats for the first two rounds were unreal.

During the closeout game against the Suns, The Joker produced the same number of points that Phoenix had in the first quarter (points scored and points created by assists). While this is impressive alone, his impact this postseason has gone beyond the stats.

Jokić has proved this postseason that he has the ability to rise a level every single game. After seemingly not caring about his numbers and the MVP for the last weeks of the regular season, he stepped up to whatever challenge he faced.

His leadership during the playoffs catapulted the Nuggets to new heights against the Suns. His dominance reached such levels that Kevin Durant praised him after the sixth and final game of the series.

“Jokić is an all-time great… He’s going to go down as one of the all-time great centers to ever touch a basketball,” said Durant after the 25-point loss.

Whatever the Nuggets needed, Joker came through. When they needed him to score, he went above and beyond his usual averages to get the stats. When they needed him to find the open man, he did what he does best.

As the true leader he is, Jokić led his team to victory and promises to lead them even further. But unlike other years, this time he was not alone.

Nuggets Have Ample Supporting pieces

When the Nuggets were eliminated last year, many defended them for not having a healthy roster. With the return of a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., there were no excuses for the contenders. Lucky for them, the supporting pieces came to play.

Murray has officially proven that the “Bubble Murray” identity was more than just a fluke. This postseason, Murray has averaged 25.9 points, 6.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. By turning up in the playoffs, the point guard has once more cemented his status as the team’s second star and someone who can be the top offensive option if need be.

It does not stop with him, however. Although inconsistent, Porter Jr. has shown splashes of brilliance, like his performance in Game 5 against Phoenix.

Everyone else has played their part. Aaron Gordon has been as solid as the team expects from him, as have role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown, Christian Braun and Jeff Green. Whenever coach Michael Malone called any of their numbers, they show up.

Being able to count on contributions like these ones would be important for any contender. For a group that has witnessed how bad a team can be without its depth, this is an invaluable factor.

Are the Nuggets Championship favorites?

The Nuggets have looked like the best team in the playoffs so far, but that does not mean the rest of the road will be easy.

To reach the Finals, they must beat the Lakers. Not only is this a veteran team than has proven it can go far, they took the Nuggets out en route to their 2020 ring.

Granted, the Lakers eliminated a young and inexperienced version of this Nuggets roster, and their own was significantly different. Nevertheless, the win is all that counts— all that is remembered.

If the Nuggets survive against the veteran roster, they then face whoever comes out of the East. The Celtics had to grind their way out of the Conference Semifinals, but they are still the defending conference champions, and Jimmy Butler turning into prime Michael Jordan is always dangerous.

Raising the Larry O’Brien will not be an easy feat for Denver, even if they are finally regarded as Finals favorites. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Jimmy Butler all stand in their way.

Regardless, Jokic and the Nuggets have proved to be the most championship-ready team these playoffs. The roster’s performance against intense competition sets it apart from other contenders, even if some still believe other groups are better suited to win.

Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic bobblehead

It’s time to draw The Joker from your deck. Play with a full hand and the Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets Bighead Bobblehead by your side!

About Jesús Feliciano-Batista

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