Nuggets playoffs: Mapping easiest and toughest paths to repeating as NBA champions

Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets / Brendall O'Banon/Clarkson Creative/GettyImages
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Round 3 (WCF): Easiest - Kings, Toughest - Mavericks

No disrespect to the Thunder or Clippers, but the Mavericks are probably the toughest possible matchup for the Nuggets out of every team in the West. They have one of the only players in the world who can possibly go toe-to-toe with Jokic in a series in Luka Doncic, who has the best sidekick of his career right now in Kyrie Irving - who has had a great season.

Their two-man game is as good as its ever been and the pieces around them are working. Dante Exum has been a revelation as a defender this year and Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington are both looking like great trade deadline acquisitions. Rookie Dereck Lively II has proven to be an excellent draft pick as well.

This team has been playing really well for a couple of months now and can match up decently with Denver. They have the luxury of being able to put a big forward like Washington or Maxi Kleber on Jokic while always having a true rim protector and rim runner down low with Gafford or Lively. They’ll always have at least one offensive engine on the floor - and often two - plus plenty of shooting around them. This would be a hell of a series.

While it’s the most unlikely scenario, a West Finals matchup with the Kings would be a dream come true for the Nuggets. Sacramento has zero history of playoff success. One of their best players, Domantas Sabonis has been woeful in his playoff career and would be in for a rude awakening in a matchup with the Joker. 

One small bit of hope for the Kings is that if they were to make it this far they could possibly get Sixth Man of the Year hopeful Malik Monk back from injury. But they’d still be missing key player Kevin Huerter. Even at full strength, this team doesn’t have near the firepower nor defensive chops to compete with Denver in a playoff series.