Contenders and Pretenders: 3 NBA teams that are the real deal, 3 that aren't

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks
New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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Contender: Denver Nuggets

The defending champion, the Denver Nuggets, look as dominant as ever. With 56 wins on the season and a chance to clinch the one seed once again in the West, the Nuggets are well equipped to not only contend, but go back-to-back.

Nikola Jokic is well on his way to a third MVP, and he has somehow elevated his game this season. He is averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists while shooting 58 percent from the field. He is the engine that makes this Denver team go and there is not a team in the West with an answer for him.

In addition to Jokic, his supporting cast is nothing to brush off. Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope round out one of the most complete starting lineups in basketball. Murray is the second option assassin capable of going off any given night. Porter is an efficient shooter, and Caldwell-Pope, and Gordon are solid offensively, but they also bring a lot on the defensive end for Denver.

The Nuggets are also sixth in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating. They are one of the most complete teams in the league. While the concerns remain with the non-Jokic minutes for Denver, they showed last year that they can overcome that when they need to. They also may not have the West’s number one seed. Make no mistake, the road to the championship runs through Mile High.