The Denver Nuggets’ top 3 playoff threats in the West

Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic Jamal Murray Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic Jamal Murray Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 5
Deandre Ayton Nikola Jokic
Deandre Ayton Nikola Jokic (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

1) The Phoenix Suns

Before the trade deadline, the Phoenix Suns would probably not have made this list. Now they slide into the No. 1 spot for one simple reason: Kevin Durant.

The addition of Durant to an already well-rounded Phoenix offense seems almost unfair.

While they did lose Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and a barrage of draft picks, the Suns managed to keep the trio of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton while acquiring one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.

Even after the blockbuster deal, Phoenix is not without flaws.

Equipped with a solid defensive unit prior to the trade, the Suns gave the Brooklyn Nets their best defender. The loss of Bridges will leave the less talented Torrey Craig to fill in his absence as the primary defender for most star wings on opposing teams.

Phoenix may also take a while to build chemistry as they integrate Durant into their offense. Fortunately for them, a player of Durant’s caliber and playstyle should not take long to adjust to a new environment.

Despite the departure of Bridges and Johnson, Durant’s offensive value should turn the Suns into Denver’s stiffest competition out west. In fact, Vegas currently favors Phoenix to make it out of the conference.

In order to contain an offense that could measure up to Denver’s elite unit, the Nuggets will need to be at their best defensively.

Over their last eight games, Denver has trended upwards with a top-10 defensive rating in the NBA. The performances of two-way standouts like Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would prove vital to the success of the Nuggets in the event of a matchup with the Suns.

Denver has beaten Phoenix in both of their contests this season as Jokic has averaged an unreal 31.0 points, 16.5 boards, and 12.0 assists through two meetings.

A Nuggets-Suns series would provide blockbuster basketball in every respect, and Denver would certainly crave revenge for their 2021 postseason defeat.