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Denver Nuggets

Are you buying or selling on the Nuggets and Thunder heading into playoffs?

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Paul George, Gary Harris [NBA Getty Images]

The Denver Nuggets were destroyed by the Houston Rockets on Thursday.

On the second half of a back-to-back, they strolled into Oklahoma City on Friday and got a huge bounce-back win over the Thunder, 115-105.

Later on in the weekend OKC dropped a home game to the struggling Dallas Mavericks and later on that night, Denver fell at home to the struggling Washington Wizards.

Each of these teams have looming questions heading into the postseason in two weeks. This could even be a first round playoff matchup, with the Nuggets currently in the No. 2 seed and the Thunder holding down the No. 8 spot.

So are you buying or selling on the Nuggets and Thunder heading into the playoffs?

Denver Nuggets

Scott Rafferty ( @crabdribbles ): I'm buying on the Nuggets.

I have real concerns about them - they have almost no playoff experience and I don't think they're as good defensively as the numbers suggest - but I want to believe in them. There are few players I enjoy watching more on a nightly basis than Nikola Jokic and the biggest thing holding Jamal Murray back from being an All-Star in his early 20s is consistently.

When he's on, as he was against the Thunder on Friday, Murray is almost unstoppable.

Surrounding them are several veterans, including Paul Millsap and Will Barton, plus one of the deepest benches in the league, led by Monte Morris.

There are times when Denver's youth and inexperience shows, but I like its chances against most of the teams currently at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture. And as long as the Nuggets avoid the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in the second round - which they would based on the standings right now - I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that they make the Western Conference Finals.

That's why I'm buying right now, not selling.

Kyle Irving ( @KyleIrv_ ): I'm selling on the Nuggets.

I know this seems harsh. They've been right around the top of the Western Conference for the entire season. They've proved time and time again that they're as good as their record shows, but I don't think that any team in the West is truly afraid of them.

I think if OKC got Denver in the first round, they'd be thrilled with the matchup. It sounds downright ridiculous after the Nuggets just swept the Thunder 4-0 in the regular season, but the playoffs are a different beast.

And if they were to draw the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz or LA Clippers, I don't think any of those teams would be dreading the matchup either.

Jokic is a legitimate MVP candidate. Their starting five is solid and they have a deep and talented bench. But I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest if they were to be sent home after the first round.

They play seven consecutive games against Western Conference playoff teams before the season's end. You can't place too much value on these end-of-season games, but teams are still fighting for seeding and the Nuggets are still battling for the No. 1 spot, so it'll be worth monitoring in the slightest.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Scott Rafferty ( @crabdribbles ): I'm selling on the Thunder.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about how the Thunder have been playing since the middle of February. Not only are they 7-12 over that stretch, they have the third-worst offensive rating in the league and the 12th-ranked defence.

The slip on offense is more concerning than the slip on defence. They were already more of a defensive-minded team, so going from being average on offence to Knicks-level changes the calculus on them completely.

There's obviously a chance that they still figure it out before the playoffs, but I'm becoming less optimistic with the way Paul George has been playing. Whether it's the lingering effects of the shoulder injury he sustained in February or regression to the mean, he's shooting only 39.2 percent for the field and 31.3 percent from 3-point range in his last 16 games.

With how Russell Westbrook has been shooting all season long, the Thunder can't afford for both of their stars to be inefficient scorers. We saw how that worked out last postseason.

Kyle Irving ( @KyleIrv_ ): I'm buying on the Thunder.

They've lost six of their last eight, struggling mightily at the very worst time of the season, but I have faith in Westbrook and George to turn things around in the playoffs.

Like I said with Denver above, the playoffs are a completely different animal. These two, along with Steven Adams, are well-versed in the playoffs. They've all had success in the postseason before and know what it takes to advance.

Their offence has been a glaring weakness, especially since the All-Star break, but a lot of that has to do with George going cold. PG is known for stepping up in the playoffs and after a rough first round last year, paired with his MVP-calibre season this year, I think he'll be back with a vengence.

I also cannot see Westbrook allowing the Thunder to have another early exit.

With all this being said, they have to avoid the Warriors in the first round or none of what I said will hold. As of today, that's their first round matchup. So as long as the Thunder figure things out in the last two weeks of the season, they'll be just fine in the playoffs.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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