The relatively recent reemergence of the Denver Nuggets into NBA relevance has been a trifecta of exciting, fascinating and intimidating.
Exciting for fans who weathered the squad’s five-year postseason drought from 2013 through 2018.
Fascinating for bettors who’ve discovered that Nuggets’ moneyline is once again a profitable wager.
Intimidating for teams in an already-stacked West who have to circle yet another tough matchup on their schedules.
Regardless of where you fall on the aforementioned spectrum, the Nuggets have centered themselves as a part of almost every NBA title-contender conversation. With two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic leading the charge on the court, and veteran coach Michael Malone designing winning strategies from the sideline, there’s no denying it – Denver is here to stay.
Denver Had Early Playoff Exit Last Season
The Nuggets finished last season with an overall 48-34 record. They accomplished this without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Denver clinched a spot as the sixth seed but lost in the first round to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.
If you’re going to get bounced from the playoffs, why not lose to the best?
So, with that in mind and with the NBA tipoff on the horizon, we are diving into a preview of Denver’s 2022-23 season.
Denver Nuggets — Your Next NBA Champions?
Currently, at DraftKings, the Nuggets at +1800 have the ninth-best odds to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season. As part of the top 10, the squad is surrounded by elite company.
The Los Angeles Clippers have the best odds at +550. Their roster boasts a healthy Kawhi Leonard, veteran Paul George, and new pickup John Wall. Behind them are the reigning champion Golden State Warriors at +600. With Finals MVP Stephen Curry, Splash Brother Klay Thompson and enforcer Draymond Green all returning, the Warriors’ path back to the NBA Finals should be as easy as Steph pulling up for 3 from any spot on the hardwood.
Look a little further down the board, and you’ll find that the Lakers’ championship odds, like the Nuggets, are +1800.
Even with LeBron in Year 20, an embattled Russell Westbrook at point, a perpetually injured Anthony Davis at center, and new head coach Darvin Ham on the sideline, bookmakers like LAL’s championship chances well enough to place them in the top 10. Perhaps we can attribute the Lakers’ storied legacy to their current odds.
At any rate, elite company is where Denver finds itself among championship contenders. And at +1800, bettors might want to buy in now.
But to get to the Finals, the Nuggets have to get out of the West.
What is Mile High’s forecast on that front?
Best in the West … Almost
Do the additions of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown and DeAndre Jordan make Denver the best team in the West?
According to oddsmakers, not quite.
At DraftKings, the Nuggets’ odds to win the Western Conference are +850. Those fifth-best chances sit behind the Clippers, Warriors, Suns and Lakers.
Why aren’t the Nuggets’ odds to make it out the West more favorable? They have, after all, been one of the league’s most consistent teams spanning the last four seasons. The answer?
The ACL injury that point guard Jamal Murray suffered in April 2021 sidelined him for the entire 2021-22 NBA season. No Murray meant no Jamal-Jokic scoring tandem that had been so successful in the past. No Murray also meant that Denver missed out on his 36.7% 3-point shooting.
A few months later in November, forward Michael Porter Jr. was forced to exit stage left with a back injury. That injury kept him off the NBA’s stage for the remainder of last season. With both Murray and Porter Jr. missing from the lineup, Denver and Jokic had their work cut out for themselves.
If Murray and MPJ show in the first few weeks of the season that they’re healthy, fired up and ready to go, expect this +850 to shorten quickly. And expect Denver to make a case for itself as one of the most formidable teams in the grueling West.
Denver Over or Under?
Over or under 51.5 wins? That is the question.
At FanDuel, the over/under for Nuggets’ wins is set at 51.5. That number is actually achievable for this new-look Denver squad.
In four of the last five seasons, Denver has won at least 46 games. Last year’s regular season win total was 47. The Nuggets accomplished that without two of their max-contract players.
There is one particular stretch that will be crucial to Denver eclipsing that 51.5 benchmark. That begins Nov. 25 when they play the Clippers in LA. From that date through Dec. 10, they face a feisty Atlanta team, the New Orleans Pelicans, who return a slimmed-down Zion Willamson, a tough Dallas Mavericks squad led by Luka Doncic, and a Jazz team at Utah which could easily be a trap game.
Another challenging stretch for the Nuggets comes at the end of the season. Between March 30 and April 6, Denver faces New Orleans, Phoenix twice and Golden State. If Denver wins most of its matchups during those two stretches, the squad should easily win at least 52 games.
Player Prop — or Two — Worth a Sprinkle
Our favorite player prop for the Nuggets right now features none other than the Joker. At DraftKings, the reigning MVP’s over/under of average points per game is set at 26.8.
Over Jokic’s seven seasons with Denver, the big guy has averaged 19.7 points per game in the regular season. So, for us, this is an easy Under.
We’ve already established that much of the Nuggets’ success in the 2022-23 season will rely heavily on the health of Murray and Porter Jr. But Nikola’s points per game average will also be impacted. He has already proven that he can carry a team on his 7-foot shoulders. But lucky for him, with his healthy teammates returning, he’ll have a lighter load to personally manage.
The 26.4 points he averaged in the 2020 season and the 27.1 Jokic averaged last season were anomalies. Expect that to drop back to the 18.5 to 19.9 ppg range we saw him post from 2017-19.
We also like the player prop of Jokic averaging at least six assists per game. At FanDuel, Jokic to average six or more assists per game has a lot of juice at -750. And that’s because he has consistently averaged at least six apg since the 2017 season.
So, throw a few bucks down on that now and walk away feeling pretty confident that you’ll get a return on your investment next year.
Denver Will be a Force
Again, we cannot overstate how tough the West will be. As is the case in most years, the last team standing will get there with a combination of strategic coaching, high-level talent, health and luck. The Nuggets organization has proven in recent years that it can master half of that list.
If Denver can master the latter two, buying the Nuggets right now at +1800 to win it all is a really good wager.
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