Examining the Denver Nuggets’ decision to stand pat at the deadline

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 09: Denver Nuggets Guard Gary Harris (14) jokes with Denver Nuggets Forward Trey Lyles (7) on the bench during an NBA preseason game between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers on October 9, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA.
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 09: Denver Nuggets Guard Gary Harris (14) jokes with Denver Nuggets Forward Trey Lyles (7) on the bench during an NBA preseason game between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers on October 9, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. /

The Denver Nuggets decided to let the 2019 trade deadline come and go without making a move. What does this mean for the team for this year as well as moving forward?

The Nuggets know that they have a strong, young core. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Michael Porter Jr. (once healthy) are the four main pieces that the Denver brass feel can make the Nuggets championship contenders. They have great secondary pieces in Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jarred Vanderbilt. They have solid veterans in Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, and Isaiah Thomas. Since the team has so many good players already on the roster, the decision to stand pat at the deadline was a simple one.

There just wasn’t a need for Denver to make any high profile moves. They have established some of the best team chemistry in the NBA, and the risk of bringing in a player who messes with what chemistry they’ve already established isn’t worth it. Part of what is making this Nuggets team so good is that they all believe in and root for each other. In some cases that can be hard to come by, as certain players ego’s come before the team.

The Nuggets brass and coaching staff also believes in what they’ve built over the last few years. They are big on homegrown talent, and they also love to bring along young guys at their own speed. This has been apparent with the developments of Malik Beasley and Monte Morris, who both received high amounts of G-League minutes before becoming solid contributors for the big league squad.

Denver doesn’t see their players as trade assets, they see their players as team assets. Assets to help the team win and perform at a high level. There was some speculation about moving struggling power forwards Trey Lyles and Tyler Lydon due to their expiring contracts and unlikelihood that either returns after this season. However, if they had traded either one, it would have sent a message to the rest of the Nuggets team that if you’re struggling, you might be on the chopping block. That’s the opposite message that the Nuggets higher ups are trying to parlay.

Instead, the message they’ve sent is that even if a player is struggling, the team will stick with them and bet on their potential. They did that with Nikola Jokic, they did it with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, etc. They could have traded Michael Porter Jr. for a star like Anthony Davis or Blake Griffin. Instead, the team decided to bet on Porter Jr’s potential and hope they have the next big thing.

For a young team like Denver, sending a positive message creates trust. As we saw with the Los Angeles Lakers trade drama, leaked reports came out that almost everyone on the Lakers roster had been offered for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. This in turn created mass amounts of drama and unwanted media attention, and that turned into poor play, highlighted by an embarrassing 42 point loss to the Indiana Pacers.

The Nuggets didn’t want to trade their assets for a player who might not want to stay around and instead leave after one year. They value the commitment that players like Nikola Jokic have made to the city of Denver. Some of these players have fallen in love with the city, and finding players who want to play in a smaller market can be hard to come by in today’s NBA.

They also didn’t want to trade their assets for a bad contract. Blake Griffin was rumored to have put the Nuggets on his wish list of potential trade candidates, but he is owed upwards of $34 million dollars for the next three years. Denver wants to have the financial flexibility to resign some of their own guys, and adding a contract like Griffin would hinder that ability. Griffin is no doubt a great player, but giving up assets and risking that there wouldn’t be enough money to go around for players like Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley is a risk that the Nuggets didn’t want to take.

Sure, a Noah Vonleh or a Julius Randle would have been nice to have as the backup power forward behind Paul Millsap. Wayne Ellington or Trevor Ariza would have been  a great “3 and D” player to have on the roster to shore up some of the defensive issues on the team. However, the Nuggets trust their core and want them to grow together, not with pieces constantly being brought in and shipped away. The possibility of being traded can get into anybody’s head, but it can be extremely tough for a young team to handle. Denver sent a strong and clear message today:

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They trust their guys and are ready to ride out the growing pains on their way to a championship.