Why staying put at the trade deadline was the right move for the Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The much-anticipated NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and while the Eastern Conference saw a huge shakeup at the top, the Denver Nuggets went with the group they have moving forward.

The Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards saw huge contracts swapped, with Kristaps Porzingis headed to Washington and Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans going to Dallas. A move like this was always out of the cards for Denver, as unless they traded one of their three max contracts (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr.), they are simply too handcuffed to take on any big contracts.

Denver was unable to move any of their first-round picks until 2027 at the earliest, making trade offers less appealing. It took a protected 2022 first-round pick for Cleveland to land Carvis LeVert, so the Nuggets wouldn’t have been able to get a player of anywhere close to that caliber at the trade deadline with their pick five years in the future.

The main trade chips Denver had to offer were second-year point guard Facundo Campazzo and veteran power forward JaMychal Green. Green had a no-trade clause since his one-year deal could result in him gaining Bird Rights with the Nuggets.

Campazzo has seen his role diminish with the rise of Bones Hyland and trade for Bryn Forbes, and would’ve been an excellent candidate to get moved, but perhaps other teams saw the reason he has struggled to get playing time, and decided not to take a chance on him at the deadline.

Denver also could’ve dug into the young players they have, with Bones and Zeke Nnaji certainly being attractive pieces to any team playing for the future.

Both have found significant roles in the rotation as of late, and appear determined to keep those positions once players return from injury. Moving them would’ve seen Denver completely all-in on a two-to-three-year window, when realistically their contending window could last far beyond that, with their star players all being 26 and younger, and signed for multiple years.

Denver hasn’t been completely dormant, in late January they swung a deal for sharpshooter Bryn Forbes. Additionally, DeMarcus Cousins was just re-signed to his third 10-day contract with the team.

While they have both shown spots of great production, these aren’t the franchise-changing move that many Nuggets’ fans have been clamoring for. Getting rid of the few future prospects and draft picks they have could be a disaster for the franchise, however.

Denver has additions looming for the team that are far more impactful than any trade they could’ve made with their limited tradable assets. Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray are hopeful that they will be coming back in time for the playoffs this year, and it cannot be overstated how important they could be if they are anywhere close to 100 percent.

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Denver fans should remember the last time those three were together in the playoffs, and the 2020 bubble run was the most memorable and successful playoff run in franchise history. No trade the Nuggets could have reasonably pulled would have brought them anywhere close to that level.

Denver has one of the ten easiest remaining schedules according to Tankathon, and last year they showed they can go on an extended run without Murray to strengthen their playoff position. With their big three back for the playoffs, they’ve shown that you can never count them out, even on the brink of elimination.

Many fans might point to defense as the main area that needs improvement, but Denver ranks right in the middle of the league in defensive rating. Denver’s Murray-Barton-Porter-Gordon-Jokic lineup showed it was one of the best in the league, on both ends, last year, and with that lineup, the team can hang with any other in the league.

Denver certainly has work to do, and players coming back from injury the same as they were before is never a certainty, but staying the course was the right move for them for now and for the future.

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