The Denver Nuggets approach next week’s trade deadline as a team that is stuck between the present and the future.
With a record of 21-32, and 5.5 games out of the West’s final playoff, a playoff berth is not out of the realm of possibility, but remains highly unlikely that the Denver Nuggets will put together a winning streak capable of lifting them into the postseason. As the All-Star Break beckons, and with the outlook of the regular season looking more bleak, should the Denver Nuggets make a move at the trade deadline in an effort to help with their rebuild?
Even though the Denver Nuggets are winner of two of their last three games, I think that the team should make a move. The Denver Nuggets are a team at a crossroads: in between a rebuild and wanting to contend. The Nuggets roster is a mixed bag of young and talented players and some savvy veterans. The problem is that front-office cannot decide what they want the team to be right now.
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Players like Emmanuel Mudiay and either Nikola Jokic or Jusuf Nurkic are foundational players that can lay the groundwork for the future. Other players, such as Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur and Randy Foye are still solid contributors at the NBA level, but would be better suited playing for a contender. Other players such as J.J. Hickson and Mike Miller have not contributed much all season; and frankly, are just taking up roster spots.
Also, the Denver Nuggets have three young centers in Jokic, Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne. Having all three on their roster is somewhat superfluous. One of the 3 (actually 2 of the 3) could be moved for other pieces. Also, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried are effective starting caliber players that could provide a key boost to a playoff bound team, and could net a significant return.
It would benefit the Denver Nuggets greatly in the long-term if they were to make a move at the trade deadline. Teams like the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are two clubs that are struggling and are shopping at the trade deadline. An offensive minded player like Danilo Gallinari or an All-Pro rebounder like Kenneth Faried could give these teams a great edge going into the postseason. Saying goodbye is difficult, but if each team offered up a package of first-round picks and movable assets to open up cap-space, the rebuild just got shorter.
The Boston Celtics began their “rebuild” a couple of seasons ago by trading away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge decided to shed the big contracts of his aging veterans and acquire young and controllable talent, while also managing to procure a litany of first round picks for years to come. While it was difficult to let go of Pierce and Garnett, there was no point in postponing a rebuild for another year or two of mediocrity. The Celtics are now 3rd in the Eastern Conference, and were even ahead of schedule last year as a playoff team.
I believe that the Celtics are a great model for the Denver Nuggets to follow. There is no reason to stay in neutral for the rest of the year. Trade for expiring contracts and draft picks in order to afford the front-office more maneuverability going into the offseason. With the cap about to sky-rocket because of the NBA TV deal that will kick in this summer, the Denver Nuggets will have even more money to work with.
The Denver Nuggets would be wise to shop players like Darrell Arthur, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and one of their three young centers. Playoff teams will come calling, and will give the Nuggets a good haul to help aid in the reconstruction process.
No, it’s not easy seeing a team tear down for the future. But with the team not accomplishing anything in the short term, making a move at the trade deadline is the best possible option right now for the Denver Nuggets.