Losers: Denver Nuggets
Introducing one the most puzzling teams in the NBA, ladies and gentlemen, the Denver Nuggets!
Puzzling, that’s certainly one way to describe the Nuggets. The team started off with some positive trades, for a rebuilding team (which Denver clearly should be given that they play in the West), then proceeded not to unload a bevy of veterans who could have brought in a return anywhere from decent to sizeable.
First with the good—the Nuggets somehow managed to extract two first-round picks from Cleveland for Timofey Mozgov (the Carmelo Anthony trade, the gift that keeps on giving) earlier in the season.
The Nuggets later traded Aaron Afflalo to Portland for a first-round pick, which is a positive. The team also acquired young players Will Barton, Victor Claver and former fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson in the deal only to waive Claver and Robinson. Essentially, they got Barton and a first-round pick for Afflalo. It’s not outstanding, but it’s not too bad either.
After that, the moves (as well as lack of moves) started to become puzzling.
Denver burned a first-round pick to rid themselves of JaVale McGee’s contract by sending the pick and the center to Philly (one of my trade deadline winners, you can read about that here). For a rebuilding team, ridding themselves of a first-round pick doesn’t make too much sense.
While losing Mozgov, Alonso and McGee would signal a tear-down rebuild in Denver, the team didn’t trade away any of its other veterans who could have fetched some sort of return.
Wilson Chandler’s name was thrown around as a potential trade candidate, but is still on Denver’s roster. Similarly, Ty Lawson could have been moved. While extremely talented, the point guard’s age (27) likely prohibits him from being part of a rebuilding process. Considering the high-returns fellow point guards Reggie Jackson and Michael-Carter Williams fetched in trades, it may have been prudent for Denver to deal the former Tar Heel if they were all-in on rebuilding.
Additionally, over-30 guards Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye could have brought in some kind of return given the pair’s respectively modest salaries.
While Denver could have traded all those players, the team didn’t. It’s as if they have one foot in rebuilding mode with the other firmly planted in the land of contending.
If anything, the fact that Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried are still on the roster, coupled with an attempt to stockpile assets and clear salary means Denver will likely try and reload for next season.
The team’s brass will have its work cut out for them in the offseason. Having major contributors like Lawson, Gallinari, Chandler and Faried in their respective primes signals an intent to win. The presence of veteran role players like Nelson and Foye only reinforce that notion. However, while half of the roster is built for contending, the other half may not be. Younger players like Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris and Barton need major minutes to flourish, they likely wouldn’t get major minutes on a contending team.
Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix , Denver and coming soon—Minnesota.