Denver Nuggets are disrespected again in new NBA poll

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

As the NBA season nears its halfway point, polled 30 beat writers to gauge who they see as the championship favorites, as well as the current leaders in awards and most exciting games. Despite winning 13 of their last 16 games and holding the top spot in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets are not viewed as a title contender by the media. What more do they have to do to earn their respect?

The perceived frontrunners.

The primary focus of the poll was on who voters think are the best teams in the NBA right now, and what teams they expect to meet in the NBA Finals in June. A staggering 97% of media voters expect an Eastern Conference team to win the NBA Championship, with Boston, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn each receiving votes. The NBA media has made it clear that they believe the Western Conference’s run of dominance is over, and they give the West little chance to take home the hardware this year.

The lone Western Conference team seeing votes to win the championship is the LA Clippers, who still received only a measly 3% of the share. For most voters, it was those Clippers, who the Nuggets just dominated on Thursday night, to came out as favorites to represent the Western Conference in the playoffs at 34% of the vote.

The problem with LA.

It is hard to see what the voters might see in Los Angeles as true title contenders. Even as stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have come back from injury to more regular playing time, the team has still struggled to find its footing, as they sit at 21-21 and seventh place in the Western Conference. They hold a top six defense, but a bottom three offense in the NBA, not a recipe for sustainable success.

The Denver Nuggets, led by MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic, have sustained their top offense in the league, now tied with Boston for the best offensive rating in the NBA. They have also improved their once bottom three defense into the 23rd ranked defensive rating. While still much lower than they want to be, marked improvements have been made, and the team has seen enough success to hold the top spot in the Western Conference for multiple weeks now.

When comparing the Clippers and Nuggets, it remains clear that voters value the star power of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George more than the home-grown talent of Denver. Both the Lakers and Clippers have fallen victim to leveraging their future too much on getting flashy names, and it has left their team construction subpar.  Voters seem to hold a similar sentiment, as they have chosen the star-studded Nets and Clippers over the team that has won the second most games in the NBA since 2019, Denver.

The Nuggets’ edge over other contenders.

Doubt may be cast on the Nuggets for their relative inexperience deep in the playoffs compared to the stars of the Clippers, Nets, and Bucks especially. The continuity of their starting lineup, outside of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, has been building for years now, and they are now seeing the best results since this roster was created. What they lack in championship experience, they make up for in stability and cohesion, and as the Nuggets’ stars continue to grow together, their championship will as well.

As their homestand continues, where Denver has gone 17-3 thus far, they will look to extend a lead in the Western Conference, and continue to gel together as their starting lineup plays more games together. Whether continued success would sway the opinions of the NBA remains to be seen, as it seems they might always be an underdog in their eyes.

The Nuggets shouldn’t be worried though, as they’ve shown they can run the table in the West and should be poised for a deep playoff run, in spite of what the media thinks.