The Denver Nuggets won seven games in a row since they pulled the trigger on a trade with the Orlando Magic to bring Aaron Gordon to Colorado. With the addition of Gordon, along with a sizzling-hot Michael Porter, Jr, the Nugs are the hottest team in the NBA at the start of April.
The Denver Nuggets (33-18) moved into the #4 seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They passed the LA Lakers (32-19) and now have their sights set on catching the LA Clippers (34-18), who lead them by just a half-game.
Denver stumbled out of the gate with a 1-4 record. At the start of February, the Nuggets dropped three games in a row and sunk to 12-11. That was their low point and, they’ve gone on a tear since mid-February with an 18-5 run.
The Nuggets offer up tremendous value at +1600 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship. The Nugs are also +800 odds to win the Western Conference.
The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz lack the same playoff experience as the Nuggets, who posted two deep runs during the past two postseasons. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis both out for the Lakers, the Clippers look like the only other team among the elites in the Western Conference that could string together a championship run. Then again, there’s the curse of the Clippers, who have never reached the Western Conference finals, let alone won it.
Welcome to Denver, Aaron Gordon
The Nuggets were a two-man show in the postseason for the past two years, with MVP-candidate Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray leading the way. Their lack of a consistent third scorer is what derailed their shot at upsetting the Lakers in the NBA Bubble last fall.
With the addition of Gordon after the Orlando Magic’s fire sale — and the emergence of Porter — the Nugs are looking stacked right now on offense. They have a third and fourth option ready to help out the Joker and Murray.
Gordon is playing like a guy who has a new lease on life. That’s what happens to players who are stuck in a rut on a bad team and losing franchise.
In 25 games with the Magic this season, Gordon averaged 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He’s only averaging 12.5 ppg with the Nugs this season, but Gordon led the Nugs with a team-high 24 points in a comeback victory over his old team. The slow-starting Nugs rallied back from down 18 points.
“A lot of teams that get down by 18 in the first half, they would just let go of the rope, they would just give up,” said Gordon. “Not these guys. It’s a testament to where this team can go.”
In a victory over the LA Clippers, Gordon provided stellar all-around play with numbers all over the stat sheet. He scored 14 points with six rebounds, six assists, three steals, and two blocks.
Porter is in the middle of a torrid shooting stretch in which he’s nocking down more than 50% of his 3-pointers since late February. It’s no coincidence that the Nugs turned around their season at the same time Porter heated up.
He’s on pace to average 45% from 3-point range this season, which no player under 22-years old has done for an entire season.
“I’m just staying locked into my routine and staying present,” explained Porter.
Porter averages 17 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this season. Since the start of March, he’s averaged 20 ppg. It’s his third year in the league, but he missed an entire season while he recovered from surgery. He struggled with consistency during his rookie campaign, averaging 9.3 ppg, but he shot 42.2% from 3-point range. This year, he’s knocking down 45.2%.
“His teammates always said he was the best shooter on the team, and guys around the league didn’t believe it,” said LA Clippers head coach Ty Lue. “Until now.”
Murray is an absolute sniper and old-school scorer who can drop 50 on you if you’re not careful. When his teammates, including Murray, say Porter is the best of a team of stellar shooters, well that speaks volumes.
The crazy thing is that Porter can get better. He’s still young in relative NBA terms, and has yet to fully develop into a pro.