May 26, 2024

Ranking the potential first-round playoff matchups for the Nuggets from easiest to hardest is the focus of this analysis. With the regular season near its conclusion and the Nuggets poised for a top-four seed in the West, the likely opponents range from the fifth to eighth seeds. Considering the strengths and weaknesses of each potential matchup, here’s the breakdown:

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6th Hardest: Sacramento Kings Despite the Kings’ 3-0 record against the Nuggets in the regular season, playoffs present a different challenge. Sacramento’s offense, reminiscent of Denver’s but less effective, relies heavily on players like Sabonis and Fox, who lack playoff experience and have flaws in their game. The Kings’ defensive shortcomings and reliance on a high-paced offense would likely falter against the Nuggets in a playoff series.

5th Hardest: Los Angeles Lakers Although boasting seasoned stars like LeBron and Davis, the Lakers struggle against the Nuggets, as evidenced by their previous matchups. Denver’s superiority in both offense and defense, coupled with effective defensive matchups against the Lakers’ key players, makes this series a predictable outcome in favor of the Nuggets.

4th Hardest: Dallas Mavericks Despite having Luka Doncic, the Mavericks lack viable options to contain the Nuggets’ star player, Jokic. Their defensive lineup options are weak against Jokic’s dominance, and Denver’s strong perimeter defense could neutralize Doncic’s impact. While Doncic and Irving could shine, the Nuggets’ defensive depth and Jokic’s prowess would ultimately give them the edge.

3rd Hardest: Phoenix Suns Although the Suns challenged the Nuggets in previous playoffs, their depth and consistency have been lacking this season. While stars like Booker and Durant can shine, the Suns’ struggles with injuries and depth concerns could limit their playoff success. Despite potential for individual brilliance, the Suns may not pose a significant threat to the Nuggets’ playoff aspirations.

2nd Hardest: New Orleans Pelicans The Pelicans’ inconsistency belies their potential as a formidable playoff opponent. With a roster boasting talents like Williamson, Ingram, and McCollum, supported by deep bench options and defensive prowess, the Pelicans could present a challenge to the Nuggets. If New Orleans finds cohesion and consistency at the right time, they could pose a significant threat in a playoff series.

Hardest: Golden State Warriors Despite their struggles earlier in the season, the Warriors have regained momentum with improved performances and defensive prowess. Led by Curry and supported by emerging talents, the Warriors’ championship pedigree and defensive resurgence could make them a formidable opponent for the Nuggets. While Denver should have the edge, the Warriors’ potential to elevate their game in the playoffs makes them the toughest potential matchup for the Nuggets.

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