With Addition Of Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets Are Looking Like A Serious NBA Title Contender

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Before the NBA trading deadline on March 25, the Denver Nuggets were +2600 at most sportsbooks to win the NBA title.

Today, that number has fallen to +1600 on DraftKings.

And based on the way the Nuggets have looked post-deadline — with a perfect 5-0 record heading into Tuesday night’s home tilt against the woeful Detroit Pistons — that +1600 is poised to fall even lower. Fact is, the Nuggets are looking sharp since their deadline deal for former Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon.

Long an electric, if inconsistent, player, Gordon brings tremendous offensive and defensive skills to the table. On the defensive side, Gordon is elite, and is capable of guarding not only some of the top wings in the game, but also the top point guards. In short: Gordon’s defensive acumen allows the rest of the players on the court to settle into their natural roles, or, if there’s a lot of offensive firepower on the other side, easier roles.

And on offense? Considering he’s not being counted on to be the team’s number one focus — or, for that matter, their number two or three — he’s already getting easy baskets from the human assist machine, Nikola Jokic.

It is entirely reasonable at this point to call Gordon the steal of the trade deadline. Yes, the Nuggets had to give up Gary Harris and youngster R.J. Hampton, but thus far, it’s hard to argue with the success. 

In fact, on the offensive side of the ball, the Nuggets are number one in the NBA over the last five games in offensive net rating at 120.3. Furthermore, when it comes to their starting five of Gordon, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., and Jokic, well, it’s reasonable to say this is the most dangerous top-to-bottom offensive lineup in all of the NBA right now.

NBA title coming to Denver?

And while the Nuggets +1600 NBA championship chances on DraftKings still might be too low, some other books are lagging behind. FanDuel and FOX Bet have the Nuggets at +1800. (BetMGM is in line with DraftKings at +1600.)

Ahead of the Nuggets on all sites are the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers. Obviously, all strong squads, but most of them are not without their questions.

The Nets are hoping the all-of-a-sudden oft-injured Kevin Durant can make it through the playoffs. The Lakers are clearly counting on a return to health for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Clippers are basically Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and a bunch of role players. The Jazz may be playing above their heads. The Bucks are strong, but have to get through the Nets, and the 76ers are a Joel Embiid injury away from not being able to compete with the Nets and Bucks.

And none of these teams has Jokic, who is doing nothing but racking up triple-doubles and making a strong case for the NBA MVP. In fact, as of now, he is the clear-cut favorite, with -134 odds on DraftKings — all the way down from his pre-season number of +2200.

James was the MVP favorite all year, then he got hurt. Embiid was having a career year, but then he got hurt. Giannis Antetokounmpo is having a fine Giannis year, but isn’t setting the world on fire. James Harden has taken over the Nets, but NBA MVP voters probably won’t forget his early season craziness in Houston.

Barring disaster, Jokic will become the first Nugget player to win the MVP since … well, since never. No Nuggets player has ever won the NBA MVP. In fact, only one Nuggets player — Spencer Haywood — won the ABA MVP. That was in the 1969-70 season, and the Nuggets were known as the Rockets.

A few other notable Nuggets nuggets: The team is +800 across most of the sportsbooks to win the Western Conference, and … and, well, that’s really it. Coach Mike Malone is a +2800 longshot on FOX Bet to win Coach of the Year, and Jokic, at +3000 on DraftKings, has a shot at most improved player, but outside of that, bupkis.

In short: The Nuggets are led by one of the NBA’s most dynamic players in Jokic, and the surrounding cast is clearly jelling at the right time. Getting through the Western Conference will be no small feat, but this team is clearly ready for primetime.

Jeff is a veteran journalist, working as a columnist for The Trentonian newspaper in Trenton, NJ for a number of years. He's also an avid sports bettor and DFS player. He can be reached at jedelstein@bettercollective.com.

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