Well everyone, it’s that time of year. Late February. And you know exactly what that means. It means the NBA trade deadline is approaching; therefore, all our wildest dream scenarios about acquiring LeBron James for pennies on the dollar are on the brink of coming to fruition. OK, so maybe that’s not exactly correct. Maybe it’s the furthest thing from the truth. But here at RMC we’ll be damned to be robbed of our totally unrealistic trade fantasies. So despite Adrian Wojnarowski’s recent tweet about the Nuggets being “unlikely to make a deal,” we’ve decided to ride on into the blue and yellow sunset with visionary trade talk firmly on our minds, which we’re happy to share with you in our latest 5-on-5.
1. Should the Nuggets consider trading a key rotational player before the deadline at the risk of damaging the team’s current chemistry?
Kalen: No. I know this is a disappointing answer to some Nuggets fans, but the fact is: Denver is playing its best basketball since the Melo era. Another big-impact trade would likely devastate this team more than it would help. The Nuggets are a young group that have grown together over the last several years and are finally hitting a stride. Too big of a trade could threaten the team’s chemistry, and above all else, give George Karl yet another reason to lose more games than he should.
Matt: If the move can somehow make the Nuggets better, then yes, they should consider moving a key rotational player. Chemistry or not, this team’s ceiling seems pretty clear. They can win a first-round series and maybe make someone’s life hard before bowing out in the second round. We haven’t seen this team win on the road consistently yet and come playoff time many of the opportunities they get right now will probably dry up. This team needs to add a shooter and if it costs a rotation piece so be it.
Charlie: I think the Nuggets are still in the early stages of building a good team and lack the kind of chemistry you’d worry about damaging. It’s naive to think that at least several current Nuggets aren’t open to a change of scenery and new opportunities elsewhere. Chemistry is a concern but it should be secondary to the Nuggets’ main goal of developing all the young talent they have.
Tom: The Nuggets have solid but not spectacular chemistry. The potential downside to chemistry in a trade of a key player is real but small. There are plenty of remaining regular season games for any new teammates to get integrated into the lineup before playoff time. Rotation players shouldn’t be traded to save money, but trades that upgrade or consolidate talent are worth considering.
Joel: Probably not. At the very least, the core of Lawson, Iguodala, Gallo, Faried, Koufos and McGee should remain untouched. Outside of that, it’s questionable that the value they might bring back for any combination including Miller, Brewer and/or Chandler would be worthwhile. Unless an “Offer You Can’t Refuse” caliber player is put on the table (and are any even on the block right now? I don’t think so), it’s hard to see Denver finding a trade that messes with the rotation players which improves their prospects while keeping chemistry and morale intact.
2. Which one player on the present roster should be totally off limits?
Kalen: Iguodala, without question. Just like Chauncey Billups saved the Nuggets (and Karl’s job) in 2008-09, Iguodala is undertaking a similar task this year. He’s changed this team’s fortune. No longer are the Nuggets an awful defensive team who only hope to outrun their opponent to victory. The Nuggets now have at least some semblance of an identity on defense and it’s all thanks to Iguodala. Without him, Karl is exposed yet again and the Nuggets are a surefire one-and-done in the playoffs.
Matt: To me this answer is quite clear based on what we have seen in the month of February. Ty Lawson should be completely off limits for anyone but a superstar. Lawson has been able to control games with his driving and passing abilities recently and just signed a contract that, if he continues to grow or even plays at the level he has in February, is a bargain. He has also shown the ability to shoot better this year which would make him even tougher to defend. This team should be building around Lawson.
Charlie: Gallo has picked up his play at the right time and is proving to be an indispensable presence on both ends. The Nuggets have not really been able to gauge his development thus far thanks to health issues and a lockout, neither of which have been a problem this season. There are some pretty good players on the market currently but not one who’s a clear upgrade and a better fit than the Rooster.
Tom: There are no truly off-limits players on the Nuggets roster. If a top tier player like Kevin Durant was on the trading block, every Nuggets player would be a potential trade asset. Kenneth Faried is the closest thing to untouchable — given his age, rebounding ability and two more years on his rookie contract. He would be very difficult to part with except for a top-tier player.
Joel: Gallinari. If I could name two or three I’d include Lawson and Faried. There’s a good argument to be made that they both excel in their fortes more than Gallo does in any area of his game. But Danilo is the most complete player on the Nuggets roster. He’s a skilled defender; he has the most diverse scoring skill set on the entire team; his height creates invaluable mismatches; he’s never tentative in making the big play (as Lawson can be sometimes); and he’s a competent distributor. Emotionally, it would pain me more to see Ty get traded, but objectively, Gallo is a more rare and valuable commodity.
3. Which one player on the present roster should be on the trading block?
Kalen: Andre Miller. Andre Miller. Andre Miller… Did I say Andre Miller? His comments about not being content to accept a backup role were it for me. He’s been a mild disappointment ever since returning to Denver several years ago and has morphed into Karl’s most dangerous crutch since Anthony Carter. Mark my words: If the Nuggets do not trade Miller he might very well end up being the downfall of this team come playoff time.
Matt: Andre Miller. He doesn’t fit the up-tempo style the team wants to play, says he wants out and now has let his unhappiness seemingly affect him on the floor (see: Boston). I doubt the team can get much for him but this seems to have gotten to the point where they shouldn’t have to get more than a draft pick to move him. The relationship has turned sour and the Nuggets cannot afford to let it cost them games, like it already has.
Charlie: Corey Brewer. Great guy, better teammate, and a questionable long-term fit. He should rightly seek a raise and a bigger role this summer, neither of which make sense for a team that already has Gallo, Hamilton, Fournier, Chandler, and Quincy Miller clogging up the wings. And that’s without Iguodala being re-signed, which presumably the Nuggets will do. Brewer is a luxury Denver can’t afford without a significant reshaping of the current roster.
Tom: Andre Miller. He is a poor fit on a fast, athletic team that relies on aggressive defensive switching. He has expressed discontent with his limited role. His minutes often come at the expense of better players. But he is still valuable enough to bring back a solid return in a trade.
Joel: Mozgov. His combination of modest expiring contract and big 7-1 frame should make him an appealing trade target for any team looking to bolster their size and/or trim some fat financially. He’s already effectively out of the rotation, which squarely locates him in “easily expendable” territory, but he’s still young enough that a team might take a flier on their chances of developing him into a regular rotational player. This may be a cop-out answer, since it’s long been rumored that he’s already on the block, but he’s there for a reason and it’s a good one.
4. What is a realistic trade scenario the Nuggets would greatly benefit from?
Kalen: The Nuggets trade Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov to the Lakers for Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks. As we all know, the Nuggets are still a limited team until they acquire more All-Star caliber players and the ever evasive “superstar.” Yet, not long ago Gasol was considered the premier big man in the game. All he needs is to get out of L.A., clear his head and he’ll start to produce once again. Meeks is the sniper the Nuggets need. Meanwhile, Denver only gives up one major rotational player (Andre Miller) and opens up more time for Hamilton and Stone in the process.
Matt: The Nuggets trade Wilson Chandler to Milwaukee for Mike Dunleavy and Tobias Harris. This is a tough one since I think there are really only two players that are available and would help the Nuggets. J.J. Reddick would cost the Nuggets too much, making Mike Dunleavy the target. This trade gives the Nuggets a shooter in Dunleavy who is also a good passer and rebounder and brings in Harris, who seems to have fallen out of favor in Milwaukee and would give the Nuggets a player who can score in the post. The Bucks on the other hand gain Chandler who can give them much needed front-court scoring.
Charlie: The Nuggets trade Jordan Hamilton and Wilson Chandler to Milwaukee for Tobias Harris and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Milwaukee takes on just a tiny amount of extra salary to bolster their playoff push with two guys who can really fill it up. The new-look Bucks, under Jim Boylan, need to upgrade their scoring badly, while Denver has too much depth on the wings to accommodate Chandler and Hamilton long term. Meanwhile, consummate role player “LRMAM” immediately shores up the Nuggets’ biggest area of weakness: front-court defense. Tobias Harris also fits nicely in Denver’s stable of long, versatile athletes who can fill a variety of roles in the George Karl system.
Tom: The Nuggets trade Chandler, Brewer, Mozgov, and Hamilton to Dallas for O.J. Mayo and Shawn Marion. The Nuggets turn depth into quality, picking up a pair of players who can stretch the floor and create shots for themselves and their teammates. Marion is also a strong defender, a great locker room presence and a capable center when Karl goes small. Dallas can begin rebuilding with two young and versatile players in Chandler and Hamilton, a pick from Denver and potentially more picks from flipping Brewer and Mozgov to contenders.
Joel: The Nuggets trade Mozgov to the Timberwolves for Derrick Williams. A large part of why Minnesota would do this is predicated on the notion that they are in the process of trying to move out Nikola Pekovic, who may demand too much in free agency for the Wolves to pay for. And the coaching staff has apparently given Williams an ultimatum on his work ethic. He’s struggled this season, but the Nuggets do well with struggling players (see JaVale McGee), and would really benefit from having a stretch four. Unfortunately, Ryan Anderson is not available, and Williams might be the best – and least costly – prospect out there.
5. At the end of the day, how active will the Nuggets be at the deadline and what do you predict will ultimately transpire?
Kalen: They’ll get a lot of calls and they’ll listen. If the offers get lopsided enough Ujiri will not hesitate to pull the trigger. But I don’t see that happening. Ujiri and Karl are most likely very satisfied with where the team is at right now. The Nuggets have a great chance of landing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and perhaps even winning a round… for once. That’s something Nuggets fans have been desperate for during Karl’s tenure and something Ujiri won’t want to pass up just for the sake of making a tiny improvement to the roster.
Matt: I think the Nuggets will be active but in the end I don’t see anything of significance that gets done. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of useful players on the market that are worth the prices that teams are asking for. So while the Nuggets may be trying to use Chandler, Mozgov and Miller to get useful parts, I don’t think any team would see a package built around any of the three players as enough. This deadline seems set up to produce a whole lot of smoke but in the end, no fire.
Charlie: The Nuggets are letting it be known they aren’t actively seeking a trade, and it’s probably time to believe them. Denver already has lots of depth and scarce playing time has led to a growing backlog of young talent who can’t get minutes. Unless they can trade Chandler to a team willing to send them back less long-term money, there isn’t a win-win deal to be made. I expect the Nuggets are resigned to the fact they can’t win in this current market.
Tom: Masai Ujiri has given every indication that he’s willing to make big moves to make the team better. I predict he’ll keep the starting five together along with JaVale McGee, but will move at least three bench players and make yet another trade-deadline splash.
Joel: Minimally active, if at all. Ujiri, while unafraid to make a big move, stated at the onset of this season that this team as currently constructed deserves a chance to play. With the team having started slowly, and with Chandler having only recently returned, I suspect he still has a foot firmly planted in the “they’re still getting it together” camp. My prediction is that if any deadline moves are made, they will be tinkerings outside or on the fringes of the rotation, and that bigger moves – if Ujiri deems them necessary – will not go down until summer.