The Denver Nuggets have every excuse under the sun to not push too hard this season. They’re down two of their three best players with season-long injuries, COVID is taking its toll on the league, and next season is the organization’s true goal.
It’s the ideal proving ground to scour for talent that can help the 2022-23 season, but that doesn’t mean the team has to throw away the season on hand.
Recent roster moves, including trading away Bol Bol, bringing in DeMarcus Cousins, and giving Davon Reed a permanent roster spot indicate that Tim Connelly isn’t going to sit idly by while the Nuggets wither away at .500 this year.
In the playoffs last season, many pundits believed that an injured Denver Nuggets team would struggle to get past the first round but a group of solid role players and an MVP were enough to overpower the Portland Trail Blazers.
Even if this season doesn’t end with a Larry O’Brien trophy, it doesn’t mean that Denver can’t make some noise in the playoffs. If Boogie can stick as a solid backup center and Reed builds on the wing depth, Michael Malone may have quite a beefy rotation for the remainder of the season.
Cousins is currently only on a 10-day contract but trading away Bol Bol essentially opens up a permanent roster spot. Rodney McGruder will occupy it for the meantime, he may even get a chance to play for the spot, but it’s anyones for the taking.
With Will Barton in the health & safety protocols, Denver brought in James Ennis with the hardship exception. This move seems to be more of a stopgap solution while Barton sits, but he’s another name who could fight for the McGruder roster spot if he overperforms.
The timing of all these moves is important as well. With the trade deadline officially under a month away, Connelly gets a solid sample size with these moves to see what else the roster needs before making potentially bigger moves later on.
And speaking of bigger moves, Mike Singer, The Denver Post reported that the Nuggets will be in the mix for wing types this trade deadline, saying:
“I’d monitor wings on non-contending teams. Perhaps there’s a deal to be made with Portland, Indiana, Orlando, or Oklahoma City — teams that should be unequivocal sellers at the deadline.”
Everyone in the NBA could do with more pure wings but Denver more than other playoff teams. Singer pointed to the injuries to Jamal Murray, P.J. Dozier, and Michael Porter Jr. as well as the fact that Will Barton and Aaron Gordon’s best positions aren’t at the three.
“I can’t say whether [Eric] Gordon or [Terrence] Ross are on Denver’s radar, but you can deduce from their interest in a wing player that Denver isn’t conceding the season. For a minute, there was mild talk of tanking, but that was never in Denver’s plans, even after Dozier went down. I’d expect a move to shore up their perimeter play, either via trade or on the buyout market.
Those quotes are great to hear. Singer is plugged in with the Nuggets and is usually the first to hear of any news from the basketball side of things.
After his successful stint with the Milwaukee Bucks, it’s looking like a safe assumption to say that Boogie will shore up the Nuggets big man rotation.
Bucks GM Jon Horst says that he’s thankful for the hardship stints that DeMarcus spent with Milwaukee but the team needed to focus their resources elsewhere, telling Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN:
“We wouldn’t have been able to get through this difficult stretch of the season as successfully as we did without DeMarcus… He was so good for us, and hopefully, we helped him, too.”
With Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and Cousins behind the starting frontcourt of Jokic and AG, the focus should very much be on the perimeter.
For the rest of January, the Denver Nuggets will be scouring the league to see what wings are out there to help them this season (and hopefully the next). As for the price range of that wing player, Singer says that it’s likely we see JaMychal’s $8.2 million salary used in any deal.
This isn’t a lost season, the Nuggets want to make some noise and it’s music to my ears.