The Denver Nuggets were already rolling prior to acquiring Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic. Three games into Gordon’s arrival, these new-look Nuggets are looking even more deadly and are an even greater threat in the loaded Western Conference.
Aaron Gordon made some pretty bold claims just after his Nuggets debut, where he scored 13 points in their 24-point drubbing of the Atlanta Hawks. Following their dominant win, it didn’t take long for the 6-foot-9 forward to believe just how unstoppable Denver is going to be when everything comes together for them:
“I see no limits for this team,” Gordon said, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “It looks like we have all the pieces that we need. We have the depth. It’s like we are covered in a lot of different spots offensively, defensively. As long as we are all working together, there’s no stopping us.”
Those were definitely strong words, considering just how much of a bloodbath the West is. Nonetheless, coming off a Western Conference Finals appearance, that is definitely in play for a Denver squad led by a transcendental superstar like Nikola Jokic. Two more impressive outings after Gordon’s claims, the Nuggets may have just proved that their newly acquired forward isn’t playing around.
Matt Moore of The Action Network laid out the early returns of how dominant the Denver starters have been through three games. In 64 total minutes thus far, the five-man crew of Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, and Jamal Murray boast an insane net rating of plus-37.9. As you can see in the numbers below, not only are they hitting on all cylinders on the offensive end, they have also clamped their opponents on the other side of the ball. This also includes an impressive 101-94 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, where the same unit turned in a net rating of plus-31.3 in 26 minutes together on the floor:
Nuggets starters tonight:
Offensive rating: 131.3
Defensive rating: 100.0
Here’s their mark through three games with Gordon, 3-0: pic.twitter.com/aRv7a1d14y
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 2, 2021
According to StatMuse, this ranks as the top offensive and defensive rating in the NBA over this span:
The Nuggets are 3-0 since acquiring Aaron Gordon.
The Murray/Barton/Gordon/Porter/Jokic lineup has played 64 minutes and outscored their opponents by 48 points.
That 5-man lineup have had the league’s best offensive rating and defensive rating in that span. pic.twitter.com/aCptsoOzOp
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 2, 2021
The Nuggets look to spoil the Battle of L.A. again, huh?
Gordon was essentially Denver’s replacement for Jerami Grant, who played well for them in the 2020 playoffs but departed in the offseason for a larger role with the Detroit Pistons.
Though he was largely inconsistent during his tenure with the Magic, perhaps having a defined role with the Nuggets will help Gordon establish his niche in the NBA. Everybody probably knows the 2015 No. 4 overall pick for his high-flying theatrics, but Gordon has actually proven to be a plus-defender for his career so far. His speed and versatility allow him to switch and effectively defend elite guards and wings, and his size makes him capable of defending bigger players.
For the most part, defense has always been the main issue with the Nuggets. They have always been a middle-of-the-pack defensive team with this core, but perhaps cashing in their chips for a switchable and versatile defender like Gordon could eventually turn their fortunes around on that end.
Being in the Western Conference, all signs point to Gordon getting the unenviable task of defending the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and perhaps even Anthony Davis. This will definitely be a tall order, but based on Gordon’s words, he looks confidently up to the task.
The past three games have looked promising so far for Denver. Obviously, it’s still a small sample size, but if this is any indication of how the Nuggets will look for the foreseeable future, they will definitely be a threat out in the West.