Why the NBA’s best team can’t compete for a title

The best team in the NBA resides in Denver.

We know what you’re thinking. Which way are we going with this.

Nikola Jokic Lol GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY

Well, considering ‘team’ is in italics, you should know that there is a catch.

At 38-17, the Denver Nuggets have the fifth best record in the NBA. Among the league’s best squads, they have the least superstar talent, making their first half the season even more impressive.

Unfortunately, that same lack of firepower looks like it will result in the Nuggets’ early exit from the Western Conference playoffs come April and May.

The Nuggets fell in overtime to the Lakers on Wednesday night, yet they were barely mentioned in that clip. And that’s because the Lakers feature LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and Denver features Nikola Jokic.

And superstars earn the headlines – and more often than not, the victories.

In fact, the Lakers superstars are so dynamic that they are compared and contrasted to each other as opposed to the other team’s star players.

Interestingly enough, while James and Davis combined for all those numbers, two Nuggets players – Jokic and Jamal Murray – combined for 54 points, 16 assists and 14 rebounds, numbers at least in the same ballpark with the Lakers duo.

But, it didn’t seem to matter.

When Jokic did get a few mentions, it was in the context of playing against LeBron.

Even the Denver crowd was getting more attention than its players.

Seems like a guy whose name is on this list…

…would garner more respect for his team.

But the NBA is a superstars league. And if your team doesn’t have one or two high-flying, rim-rocking, MVP-winning, championship-earning, stepback-three shooting superstars, you’re not in the running for a title or any love on social media.

Jokic is certainly one of the best players in the NBA.

Just this week, he was winning Western Conference acclaim.

On the season, he is 7th in the NBA in PER, one spot above LeBron.

That PER also lands him two spots above Joel Embiid – his only real challenger for the title of ‘best center in the NBA’ – and it’s namely due to his passing ability.

Jokic averages 6.9 assists, 13th best in the NBA. Embiid averages 3.2.

However, Jokic’s below-the-rim, finesse style of play – although effective – just isn’t always appealing to the eye, meaning he isn’t often mentioned among the game’s current greats.

See what we mean?

Two points is two points, but geez.

Furthermore, while the Nuggets have good pieces around their superstars – five players not named Jokic average double-figure points – do they have great pieces?

Jamal Murray, Gary Harris Jr., Will Barton and Paul Millsap are all high-end NBA players, but not the type of cast that will overcome either of the Los Angeles teams in the playoffs, which they will presumably have to do if they hope to make a run to the NBA Finals.

That’s really nasty.

But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Jokic is the Nuggets’ leading scorer at only 20.6 points per game. Second is Murray at 18.9.

For context, Russell Westbrook and James Harden average nearly 63 points per game combined, Davis and James average nearly 52 points combined, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton average a combined 50 points, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George average right under 50 points combined.

Nba All Star GIF by Twitter - Find & Share on GIPHY

Oh snap is right. The Nuggets need a co-star for their superstar.

Denver’s lack of superstar talent became most evident with this year’s All-Star Game.

Look closely at these rosters. Tell us what you see:

Denver – like Portland (as of today, Phoenix), Dallas, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Atlanta and New Orleans – has only one All-Star selection.

So, why does it matter more for the Nuggets than the rest of those teams?

The Nuggets are the only team in the top 10 of the league standings with only one All-Star. The Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Rockets, Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Heat and 76ers all have two.

Denver has a star problem.

And until they solve it, don’t expect to see them in the atmosphere of an NBA title.