The Denver Nuggets X-Factor: Aaron Gordon
The Denver Nuggets knew this was the season to go for it all. Coming off of their first Western Conference Finals appearance in over a decade, the team was ready to truly contend. Led by MVP front runner Nikola Jokić and the sharp-shooting duo of Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray, this team felt like they were almost there.
Rumors swirled around this year’s trade deadline about Denver going big to compete in the high-powered Western Conference. Could they pry Bradley Beal away from the Washington Wizards? Maybe they should swoop in and nab Kyle Lowry from a disappointing Toronto Raptors team. In the end, the front office decided to address their biggest need, which was a lockdown perimeter defender. A guy that could guard LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, or Luka Doncic on any given night. The Nuggets found that guy in Aaron Gordon, and they went out and got their man.
Who do the Denver Nuggets need to step up to have playoff success?
Life was great for the Nuggets immediately following the trade. Nikola Jokić found the lob threat he was always dreaming of and Malone received a defensive stopper. However, the Nuggets’ title hopes took a serious blow when Jamal Murray tore his ACL midway through April. Consequently, the NBA limelight wrote off the Nuggets. However, Denver is not ready to accept that. They know the duo of Nikola Jokić and Michael Porter Jr. are capable of leading a team.
Nonetheless, even with the domination of Jokić and Porter, the Nuggets need some more firepower. Who might be able to bring that extra punch and help alleviate some of the pressure off of that duo? Maybe Will Barton or Monte Morris? Nah, playoff success rides on three guys: Jokić, Porter, and the Denver Nuggets’ x-factor, Aaron Gordon.
Why should Aaron Gordon be the Nugget’s X-Factor?
Aaron Gordon entered the league as a high-flying forward who thrived in the Arizona Wildcats’ high-paced offense. The young wing showed off effortless athleticism and enough of an offensive game to entice the Orlando Magic to select him in the 2014 NBA Draft.
That athleticism and ability to cut has been showcased during his brief tenure in the Mile High. Having Nikola Jokić and his surprisingly deft passing at the helm, Gordon’s offensive efficiency has seen an uptick.
Gordon’s ability to finish at the rim as well as slow down some of the league’s superstar wing players, makes him the Denver Nuggets’ X-Factor. The Nugget’s path to the Finals is going to include some of the NBA’s best. Whether it’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the first round or LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a potential semifinals matchup. Gordon is going to be the one in charge of making those guys’ lives difficult.
On the other end, Gordon is going to showcase that he is a capable scorer. Although he isn’t shooting the ball particularly well, his ability to cut and finish through contact will just give the Nuggets another way of attacking opponents. Jokić has already shown that Gordon is going to be his wide receiver threat when he corrals a rebound and looks for the home-run hitter.
The Nuggets made a jump last year thanks to the help of Jerami Grant‘s perimeter defense and cutting ability. With him being gone, the Nuggets were seen as having taken a step back. Now that Gordon is filling that role (and potentially more) the Nuggets may still have just enough to navigate through the West. We’ll just need to see if Jokić, Porter Jr, and Gordon are ready to carry this team to new heights minus the breakout star of last year’s playoffs in Murray.