By Jesse Sarles

(CBS4) – The Denver Nuggets made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season thanks to the leadership of All Star center Nikola Jokic and the passionate, determined playing of point guard Jamal Murray. The two dynamic players are both listed among the Top 100 NBA Players in a new list from CBS Sports, and in Murray’s case there’s a noticeable jump in his position compared to last year.

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets celebrate their win over LA Clippers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets celebrate their win over LA Clippers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs. (credit: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Murray was ranked No. 40 in the 2019-2020 rankings, which come out before the start of each regular season. CBS Sports noted at the time that despite the high rank, Murray needed “to continue to improve his effort on defense and consistency on offense to take the next step in his career.” After he scored 504 points in the playoffs, it’s pretty safe to say that Murray has done that. This year CBS Sports has Murray ranked at No. 22, and the description written by Brad Botkin is filled with superlatives:

Did Murray make the proverbial “leap” in the bubble? I take issue with that word in this case because nothing Murray did in the playoffs surprised me. His consistency is the question, but even that discussion is skewed because of the presence of Nikola Jokic, who controls so much of Denver’s offense. Pretty much every other point guard with Murray’s ability has complete control of his offense, so Murray’s scoring numbers are going to fluctuate more on nights when Jokic is in attack mode. Bottom line: There are only a handful of guys in the league I would rather have on my team in a playoff series than Murray, who is, amazingly, still just 23 years old. What a future the Nuggets have brewing.

Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets dunks during Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round.

Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets dunks during Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round. (credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Jokic scored 464 points in the playoffs and “has proven that he can be the best player on a championship contender,” according to CBS writer Colin Ward-Henninger, but his ranking hasn’t budged in last year’s list vs. this year’s. That’s just the way things go in today’s talent-crazy NBA. (Damian Lillard (9), James Harden (8), Kevin Durant (7), Luca Doncic (6), Anthony Davis (5), Stephen Curry (4), Giannis Antetokounmpo (3), Kawhi Leonard (2) and LeBron James (1) were all ranked above him.

Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic shoots as Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles, right, and Rudy Gobert, center, defend during the NBA Playoffs on Aug. 21, 2020.

Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic shoots as Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles, right, and Rudy Gobert, center, defend during the NBA Playoffs on Aug. 21. (Photo by Ashley Landi-Pool/Getty Images)

Jokic was ranked No. 10 in the 2019-2020 rankings. And that’s where he remains in the 2020-2021 rankings: No. 10. In this year’s description, Ward-Henninger calls him “likely the best passing big man of all time” and praises his “ball-handling, rebounding and shooting ability.”

No other current Nuggets players made the Top 100 list, although some fans might have been hoping to see Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, Paul Millsap or Gary Harris on the list. Jerami Grant, one of several Denver role players who contributed in a big way during the Nuggets playoff run, was ranked No. 88.

“Grant parlayed an excellent playoff performance into a $60 million contract with the Pistons, who believe he possesses untapped offensive potential,” Colin Ward-Henninger wrote.

Jesse Sarles