In past offseasons, the Denver Nuggets have been focused on building up their core of young talent based around Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr., and Jamal Murray. This season, at full strength and with championship aspirations, the Nuggets are building to win a title and should do whatever it takes to do so.
Despite the small sample size, it’s clear that Denver’s big three works wonders with Aaron Gordon, so let’s expand this conversation to how can Tim Connelly and the Denver Nuggets work their magic this offseason to surround them with title-worthy talent?
After winning his second Most Valuable Player trophy, Connelly, Michael Malone, and owner Josh Kroenke traveled to Sombor, Serbia to surprise the Big Honey, congratulating him on the gargantuan accomplishment.
The ad hoc award ceremony was followed by interviews with various media outlets as well as some classic photos in front of Jokic’s own horse stable.
While this was all happening, Denver Nuggets Twitter was abuzz. While on the timeline, I came across this tweet from YouTuber and Denver Nuggets fan SwipaCam:
But then I thought to myself: “no, this is the offseason that the Nuggets should be making huge swings for the fences. They have plenty of young talent on the roster, several tradeable first-round picks (outside of the ones owed to the Orlando Magic), and a core ready to compete today.”
Instead of trying to fill defensive holes with the mid-level exception, draft somewhere in the late-first-round, and roll everything out as it is, the Nuggets can, and should, swing for the fences this offseason.
What can the Denver Nuggets trade this offseason?
When talking about superstar trades in recent seasons, our minds think of the bigger deals like those for Anthony Davis, Paul George, or James Harden (twice). These deals see multiple first-round picks, useful matching salary, and supreme elite talent swap teams for a win-now superstar player.
Given the recent history of superstar trades and their exorbitant prices, it makes sense that we all assume the teams sitting on an abundance of assets will be the ones to make the next moves. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder or New Orleans Pelicans, who have young talent to move and a bevy of future assets.
But this brings us to another trend we’ve been seeing: players requesting trades and essentially choosing their destinations.
There aren’t many star players who want to be traded to a losing situation. In fact, a lot of the time, these players are getting out of losing situations to have a shot at an NBA championship.
A team like the Denver Nuggets, one with great chemistry, selfless stars, and plenty of shots to go around all of a sudden rocket up a potential trade candidate’s lists of destinations.
This offseason, the Nuggets can trade away their 2022 first-round pick, their next available first-rounder (more information on that here), and two players will promise on their rookie deals in Bones Hyland and Zeke Nnaji.
Yes, it would suck to trade Hyland after his incredible rookie season but at 22-years-old, Bones might be better off to this Nuggets team if he was swapped for a veteran contribution alongside picks.
Who is out there on the market for the Denver Nuggets?
The obvious stars we’ve heard of on the trade market are Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and Donovan Mitchell. If one of those three signals that they’d be interested in joining the Nuggets, Denver might have one of the more appealing trade packages.
If Denver gets into a bidding war for one of these stars (should they request a trade, it’s good to keep that in mind), would Connelly be willing to part with Michael Porter Jr.? He’s an injury risk after missing nearly all of the 2021-22 season with a back injury but he might be the most established young star on the market.
Looping back to Swipa’s list of defensive role players, what would it take to trade for Dejounte Murray? If the San Antonio Spurs are tired of picking in the mid-lottery, would they be better off completely rebuilding this roster? Would two first-rounders and Bones get a deal done? Would it be too much?
If the Chicago Bulls aren’t pleased with the direction of their current roster or if Zach LaVine leaves in free agency, would they want to quickly look for a value deal for Alex Caruso? It might be a bit expensive, but a young player and first-rounder for one of the best defensive guards in the league would work. Imagine Caruso’s defense next to Jamal Murray.
If none of those options are viable or if their teams don’t want to trade them, the Nuggets could look to use their assets to clear cap space and make a run at some of the better role players in free agency.
What free agency options are there for the Denver Nuggets?
My colleague, Rowan Fisher-Shotton, Nugg Love, has already run through three early candidates for the Nuggets this offseason but what if Denver wanted to clear some more cap space and make a run at a bigger name?
Denver could try and dump Will Barton’s $16.6 million salary for next season or JaMychal Green’s $8.7 million to open up a bit more wriggle room before Nikola Jokic signs his own supermax deal this offseason.
If the Nuggets are going to be a tax-paying team this offseason, as Connelly eluded to, the front office should have the freedom to sign who they see fit in free agency before taking themselves over the salary cap to re-sign Jokic.
The mid-range of free agents is always hard to predict, but who is out there in Denver’s price range? Gary Harris? Thaddeus Young? T.J. Warren?
It’s not a list of superstars but if you consider trading away Barton to sign one of those players, would they fit better than Will the Thrill?
There are plenty of questions out there for Connelly and this front office and while the games are still being played, we simply don’t know enough about who’s on the market and where things are headed.
The only thing that is certain is that the Denver Nuggets should be pushing as hard as they can this offseason to bring Denver its first NBA championship.