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Denver Nuggets Still Getting No Respect in NBA Championship Odds

Nikola Jokic defends Marcin Gortat
Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License]
  • The Nuggets have the ninth shortest odds to win the NBA Championship despite having the best record in the Western Conference
  • Can Denver continue to hold off Golden State in the crowded West? 
  • Will anyone be able to be able to stop the Warriors once DeMarcus Cousins returns?

By now you’ve probably heard all about the upstart Nuggets, who have the best record in the Western Conference and the second best record in the NBA. Denver is in the midst of a four-game winning streak and ranks in the top five league-wide in defensive rating, net rating, assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounding percentage, and plus/minus.

Given their many accolades and accomplishments you’d think they would be among the favorites to win the 2019 NBA Championship. And that’s where you’d be wrong.

Despite being 21-9 and a half game ahead of the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets have just the ninth shortest odds to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this June. To some, their +3300 odds almost look like a misprint.

2019 NBA Championship Odds

Team Odds to Win the 2019 NBA Championship at Bovada Odds (12/19/18)
Golden State Warriors -155
Toronto Raptors +700
Boston Celtics +950
Houston Rockets +1400
Los Angeles Lakers +1600

The Nuggets’ long odds are especially surprising given the caliber of teams they’ve defeated. Denver is 11-4 against 2018 playoff teams and has recorded huge wins against the Warriors and Raptors.

Denver looked especially impressive on Sunday as they downed Toronto 95-86 behind 26 points from MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets committed just nine turnovers and held the Raptors to 20% shooting from beyond the arc.

So what gives? Why are the Nuggets getting so little respect from Vegas? We’ve done a little digging and have discovered three reasons why Denver isn’t being taken more seriously.

1. The Warriors Still Haven’t Peaked

There’s been no shortage of headlines this season about how the Warriors are falling apart at the seams. Everywhere you look there are stories about how Draymond Green and Kevin Durant can’t stand to be in the same room together, and juicy anecdotes about how the rest of the team’s core is suffering from mental, physical, and spiritual fatigue after four straight trips to the NBA Finals.

And yet, despite all of the bad juju and internal discord, Golden State is 21-10 and has won six of its last seven games. Green and Steph Curry are both back on the court after prolonged absences, and DeMarcus Cousins is just weeks away from making his long-awaited season debut. The rest of the league should be very, very afraid.

2. Paul Millsap Could Be Out Another 5 Weeks

The Nuggets were dealt a devastating blow on December 7th when Paul Millsap broke a toe on his right foot in a 113-107 loss to the Hornets. It’s the second significant injury he’s suffered during his two years in the Mile High City after a wrist injury limited him to 38 games last season.

Denver struggled to stay above .500 when Millsap sat last year and can’t afford to lose any ground in the crowded Western Conference, where the top 11 teams are separated by just 5.5 games.

3. The Nuggets Aren’t Even the Best Team in their Division

As good as the Nuggets have been, they’re still a rung below the Thunder, who have won 19 of their last 25 games after starting the year 0-4. OKC has a former MVP in Russell Westbrook, a proven five-time All-Star in Paul George, and they’re scheduled to get defensive stopper Andre Roberson back early in the New Year.

Roberson’s name might not have the same cachet as the Thunder’s other stars, but he’s indispensable on both ends of the court. The 27-year-old wing is responsible for guarding the opposing team’s top perimeter threat on defense, and for improving the team’s spacing on offense. OKC’s D was 12.5 points worse per 100 possessions when Roberson sat last season, and his return will help the Thunder rise to the top of the Northwest Division once again.

The Nuggets Are Fool’s Gold

There’s plenty to dig about the Nuggets, but it’s still far too early to consider them legitimate championship contenders. The West belongs to the Warriors, and it’s just a matter of time before Golden State begins putting a little distance between themselves and the rest of the league.

In the meantime, enjoy watching the continued development of Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris with the knowledge that you could be witnessing the birth of the NBA’s next dynasty.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own weekly column for Fox Sports, and now serves as SBD’s resident NBA and MLB expert.