Why this surprising teams leads the NBA in offense in 2017

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets

The NBA season is all about momentum and consistency over a grueling, physical 82-game season. 

The season is typically broken down into two halves — before All-Star weekend and after — but another clean split is the start of the new year. It comes slightly before the halfway point of the season, and serves as another way to segment the 82-game campaign.

One team has quietly had an impressive run since January 1, 2017 hit, dominating teams with their offensive efficiency. It has them in position to make a run at the playoffs for the first time since 2013. 

The Denver Nuggets suddenly find themselves running the deadliest offense since the new year hit, averaging a scorching 113.4 points per 100 possessions, according to data gathered on NBA.com. The observation comes in thanks to Matt Moore of CBS Sports

Denver has improved 7.7 points per 100 possessions over their 2016 portion of the season. Seven players on the Nuggets are averaging double-figures in scoring since January, led by the emergence of Nikola Jokic.

Jokic leads the team in scoring at 20.1 points per game while shooting an astonishing 58.8 percent from the field. He's the driving force of their offense, scoring at will around the rim. 

Here's a look at Jokic's shot chart since 2017 hit, which is a great visualization of how focused and effective he's been in the paint:

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Your eyes aren't deceiving you; the big man is also shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range on 2.3 attempts per game. 

Two big changes have gone down in Denver since 2016. The first is the benching of Emmanuel Mudiay, the former draft lottery selection. Mudiay has been demoted in favor of veteran Jameer Nelson, seeing his minutes and role diminish in 2017.

Mudiay put up the second-most field goal attempts per game (11.8) on the Nuggets in 2016 and averaged 29.1 minutes per game. The problem with how reliant they were on Mudiay is his alarming 38.1 percent shooting percentage.

Head coach Mike Malone has Mudiay down to 7.6 attempts in 21.1 minutes per game in 2017. 

The other change in their frontcourt was trading Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers. Nurkic has been a great pick-up for Portland, but his days in Denver were number with the emergency of Jokic.

Denver's focus has shifted to using Jokic as their primary option on offense, and the big man has been a revelation. His scoring numbers alone would be enough, but he's also dishing out 5.6 assists and pulling down 11.3  rebounds per game in 2017. 

Suddenly, the best player on the Nuggets — young or old — is 22-year-old Jokic out of Serbia. 

The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors might get all of the attention, but Jokic has the Nuggets in position to make the postseason as an under-the-radar team. 

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