Off-topic, but is this the Colorado Gold Rush of 1858? Perhaps that’s a bit far-fetched, but don’t tell Nuggets fans that after their trade moves this season.
Fresh off a magical run a year ago, most expected the Nuggets to stay competitive despite a roster turnover that included losing Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig, and Mason Plumlee to free agency. An uneven start and injuries combined with inconsistent play didn’t help matters.
As the fifth seed in the West sitting at 26-18, the Denver front office found itself at a crossroads – continue with the current group or shake things up with a bold roster shakeup. It’s inconceivable to ask Nikola Jokic, a generational talent, to carry this team as presently constructed. Not even putting up MVP-worthy numbers can withstand that type of burden without sufficient help.
Nuggets’ First Trade Acquires JaVale McGee
Talk about a bank robbery.
Because McGee gives the Nuggets a needed rim protector, Nikola Jokic finally has a quality backup with championship experience to hide his defensive deficiencies (which the Jazz, Clippers, and Lakers exploited repeatedly). This move also gives Jamal Murray another pick and roll option, more so for lobs rather than jump shots. With JaVale McGee’s added value as a defender, late rotations won’t be as problematic.
Tim Connelly was just getting started as the deadline approached.
Denver’s Bold Trade Moves Land Aaron Gordon
Pulling a virtual Hocus Pocus trick, Denver’s GM acquired disgruntled forward Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark Jr. from Orlando merely hours before the deadline passed. In exchange, Denver shipped away Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a protected first-round pick slated for 2025.
Because of these trade moves, each squad’s dynamics will improve for foreseeable future.
For the Nuggets, they landed a 6’10 forward who can challenge LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. We saw the impact Jerami Grant had on guarding each. Losing him to Detroit, as suspected, became detrimental. That’s not to say Gordon will completely take those guys out of games, per se. However, to have James or Leonard work twice as hard to score their points is a luxury the Nuggets were missing because of Grant and Craig’s departure.
Losing Harris’ perimeter defense will sting, but injuries and a lack of offensive production the past few years (career lows across the board since his rookie season) were proof that this trade needed to happen. I wasn’t sold on R.J. Hampton as he’s merely a project that wouldn’t crack Mike Malone’s rotation.
In short, the Magic underwent a complete rebuild with useable draft capital so they could create their future. Meanwhile, the Nuggets added two pieces to shore up their middling defense and another potential core piece along with Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and the Joker.
Well played, Tim Connelly. You literally pulled two rabbits out of your GM hat.
Nuggets Grade: A
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