Somehow, only seven games separate the Denver Nuggets from the impending postseason.
But that does not mean the Nuggets’ future is set in stone.
There still are many variables left to play out down the stretch. And those variables will factor into Nuggets betting in Colorado:
- Will the Nuggets avoid the play-in tournament and secure a top-six seed in the tightly contested Western Conference?
- Will Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. return from injury?
- Regardless if either return, what is the Nuggets’ realistic ceiling in the playoffs?
Let’s dive in with five key questions to answer.
Will the Nuggets be able to take care of business on the road?
Of Denver’s final seven games, three of them will be on the road.
On Monday, the Nuggets headed to Charlotte to take on the Hornets. The hosts currently are fighting for a top-eight seed in the Eastern Conference and a chance to move onto the playoffs with a single win in the play-in tournament.
Then, on Wednesday, Denver will head to Indiana to take on the lowly Pacers in a game Denver absolutely should win.
Just be sure to shop around for the best game odds on Colorado’s online sportsbook apps.
The final road contest will be in Los Angeles against the dysfunctional Lakers on April 3.
That contest comes after arguably the most important game of the season when the Nuggets host the Minnesota Timberwolves on April Fools’ Day. But more on that game later.
With the T-wolves surging up the standings by winning 11 of their last 14 games, the Nuggets cannot afford to slip up on the road at this juncture of the season.
Any of those three games could be the difference between the sixth seed and an automatic playoff berth or falling into the play-in tournament by virtue of landing in the seventh seed.
Can Denver remain among the West’s top six?
In addition to winning games on the road, the Nuggets need to find it within themselves to beat teams they are better than.
That might sound reductive on the surface, but seemingly every game has been a tough grind for Denver.
The Nuggets face only one team in the top-six seeds of either conference the rest of the way. That contest comes April 7 when they host the Memphis Grizzlies in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Other than that, they play a hodgepodge of teams who are obviously flawed.
The Nuggets’ April 1 battle against the Timberwolves in Denver is the most important game remaining on the schedule.
If Denver can secure that win, it would go a long ways to help secure the Nuggets’ position as a top-six seed in the West.
If the Nuggets beat the bad teams they play and pull out a win over the Timberwolves, it’s highly unlikely they will slip into the play-in tournament.
Is exhaustion catching up with the Nuggets?
Over the past couple weeks, a startling circumstance has become apparent: The Nuggets currently look like they did against the Suns in the playoffs last year.
They look like the burden of picking up the slack for so many injured players has taken its toll on their overall energy level.
The players most affected by that process seemingly are Will Barton, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic. All three have been asked to carry the majority of the responsibility on both ends of the floor.
Now that Denver has been forced to play that way for nearly an entire season, the cost is becoming obvious.
The Nuggets lack the same urgency and level of intent when getting into offensive possessions.
They might have two or three good defensive rotations. But any further scrambling results in an open shot as they struggle to keep up with crisp opponent passing around the perimeter.
Denver’s rebounding has fallen off, turnovers have spiked and the inconsistencies have become extremely consistent.
It’s fair to wonder if all of the injuries over the past few seasons has left the healthy Nuggets players compromised as the 2021-22 regular season comes to a close.
Will Murray or MPJ return in time for the playoffs?
The simple answer is no one knows.
But at this point, with just seven games remaining in the regular season, it seems increasingly unlikely either Murray or Porter will see the floor for any meaningful playoff minutes.
Even if both were cleared for full basketball activities, it can take weeks until they are conditioned well enough to play real postseason roles for the Nuggets. Simply put, time is running out.
Expecting either of Murray or Porter to return this season seems like a very unlikely bet at this juncture of the season.
Even if Murray and/or Porter return, expecting any more than 80 percent of their best with so little ramp up time is generous at best. It is highly unlikely a late-season return by either could dramatically improve the Nuggets’ odds at a championship this season.
What is the Nuggets’ playoff ceiling?
This is the tough question because, even with the uncertainty surrounding the returns of Murray and Porter, the Nuggets still arguably have the the best player in all of basketball in Jokic.
That means on any given night, Denver can win.
But the postseason requires securing four wins in seven tries against the same team. Being able to win on any given night is a nice luxury, but it is not dependable against the elite teams in the NBA.
The Nuggets do not have the requisite talent to go deep in the playoffs this year without some type of assistance such as an opposing team dealing with injury issues or a chemistry implosion.
Again, the best player on Earth can drag a team through the postseason. But he will need help at some point.
If Denver can get that assistance from their role players to complement Jokic, they could make noise.
Even with a road map to success, though, Denver does not have any margin for error.
The Nuggets need to somehow produce absolute perfection if they hope to reach the NBA Finals which means their ceiling in the postseason is not high. This iteration of the Nuggets is not Finals contenders.