Cold comfort for Denver Nuggets fans to be sure, but at least the team got bounced from the playoffs last year by the eventual Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns.
This year, the Nuggets faithful are hopeful for a lot more, this despite not having budding superstar Jamal Murray available until probably playoff time as he makes the slow, potentially year-long comeback from a torn ACL.
Listen: The Nuggets have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is looking to somehow improve on his 26-10-8 season, Michael Porter Jr. — vaxxed or not — is looking to take the next step to offensive superstardom, and a healthy (at least for now) Will Barton is always going to keep defenders on their toes.
We had Nikola mic'd up during Monday's game.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) October 6, 2021
Add in a full season of defensive powerhouse Aaron Gordon and the steady hand of point guard Monte Morris, and the Nuggets’ starting five — while not Brooklyn Nets-worthy — is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Of course, the Nuggets have their work cut out for them in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. The best odds for the Nuggets to win the conference can be found at BetMGM at +1100, behind the Los Angeles Lakers at +170, the Golden State Warriors at +425, the Suns at +700, and the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, both at +750.
For their division, the Nuggets are +400 on FanDuel to take down the Northwest, with the Jazz at -250. This is potentially the best place for value, especially if you think the Jazz exceeded the expectations last year not only of experts, but also of the team’s actual talent level.
And if you’re of the belief that Jokic and Co. can make it all the way to the promised land, the best odds for the banner to be raised at the Ball Arena can be found at Caesars for +2500 (consensus is +2000).
On the player prop front, Jokic isn’t getting potential back-to-back MVP respect while listed at +1600 at BetRivers, BetMGM, and FanDuel. In fact, he’s listed seventh right now at FanDuel, behind Luka Doncic (+480), Giannis Antetokounmpo (+700), Joel Embiid (+800), Kevin Durant (+800), Stephen Curry (+800), Damian Lillard (+1200), and LeBron James (+1400).
Notable: FanDuel also has Michael Porter Jr. listed at +24000 to take home the MVP award, which is doubtful, but you never know. What you do know, however, is not to bet on Jamal Murray at +12000. Talk about dead money.
Last year, Jokic won the MVP award in large part due to his talents, but also partially due to a rash of injuries to the other contenders. But if Jokic starts putting up even better numbers early — and if the Nuggets topple preseason expectations — expect his MVP odds to get significantly tighter.
Porter, despite his very public will-he-or-won’t-he COVID-19 vaccine status, is the favorite on DraftKings at +800 to win the NBA Most Improved Player award. And for the Nuggets to take the next step, you better believe Porter will have to take the next step himself. Perhaps a Porter MIP bet can be hedged with an under bet on the total side, figuring if Porter doesn’t step up, the Nuggets will take a step back.
Michael Porter Jr. — one of the biggest stars in the NBA — says he will not get the COVID vaccine. https://t.co/0a3Stvl6MU
— TMZ (@TMZ) September 30, 2021
A few other notable opportunities at DraftKings include Jokic to lead the league in points per game (+10000), rebounds per game (+2500), and assists per game (+1800).
And lastly, Mike Malone is +1400 to win Coach of the Year.
While expectations aren’t — forgive us — mile high for the Nuggets this year, getting into the playoffs with a healthy and rejuvenated Jamal Murray should be the goal as the season nears.
Speaking of …
Opening night for the Nuggets will be Oct. 20 in Phoenix, where they are early consensus 5.5-point underdogs.
Photo: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY