It’s no secret that the Denver Nuggets have some difficult decisions to make this summer. Not only will they be a luxury tax team for the first time in over a decade, but they also have some massive holes to fill before they can expect to compete for an NBA championship. Most notably on the defensive side of the ball.
Even with the reigning MVP of the league, Nikola Jokic, and the return of core players like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The Nuggets are still far from a contender. As a result, the Denver Nuggets have been linked to various players for the last several months.
What’s also added fuel to the fire is the recent hire of Calvin Booth. Who, by all accounts, is expected to make some bold decisions for the Nuggets this offseason.
In fact, Shams Charania of The Athletic recently spoke to The Fan’s Zach Bye and Brandon Stokley. Providing the following statement on the Denver Nuggets and their freshly minted GM.
"“The approach that Calvin Booth will take and the idea they’re already formulating inside that Denver Nuggets organization. I think this is an organization that you can expect to be aggressive and make moves moving forward here to try to get into championship contention,” Charania said. “I don’t expect Calvin Booth to run a front office that will be shy about making the moves necessary to win a championship.”"
Taking this into consideration, it feels very possible that Denver could swing big this offseason to provide their team with a better chance of competing for a Western Conference title. Specifically with Goliaths like Golden State, Phoenix, Dallas, and Memphis all expected to take steps forward as well.
And there appears to be one blockbuster trade staring them right in the face.
One particular deal the Denver Nuggets front office could look to execute involves them, the Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz. At this point, you can probably guess the names who would be involved in the transaction. But just in case, here’s how the trade would go down:
Why it makes sense for the Denver Nuggets
Chatter surrounding an OG Anunoby trade out of Toronto has been going on for a while now. Particularly with the recent reports indicating that Anunoby (as well as other Raptors players) is unhappy with his role within the franchise.
This is something Denver could easily capitalize on.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “why would the Denver Nuggets give up MPJ for two role players averaging less than 20 points per game?”. Well, allow me to explain.
First of all, even though Porter Jr. is expected to be at full strength by the start of the regular season, that doesn’t mean that he can’t reinjure himself. Which, knowing his track record, wouldn’t be all that surprising quite honestly.
When healthy, MPJ is one of the most talented scorers in basketball. However, I also believe that availability is the best ability in sports and Porter has yet to play a full season as a pro. He’s also owed $172.5 million ($145 million guaranteed) over the next five NBA seasons, per Spotrac. Which is a pretty substantial amount for a player with an extensive injury history.
So, I think that Denver would be wise to seize the opportunity, and take advantage of MPJ’s beaming potential by reeling in not one but two instant-impact type players this offseason.
Enter OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr.
Anunoby is the truest definition of a three-and-D specialist and one of the more underrated young players in the association. Over the last three NBA seasons, he’s upped his scoring averages from 10.6 to 17.1 points per game. As well as his steal totals, going from averaging 0.7 steals per game over his first two seasons in the league, to averaging over 1.5 steals per game in 2022.
Meanwhile, he’s always been a solid rebounder and a reliable playmaker. Not to mention an efficient scorer, with .470/.371/.709 shooting splits over the course of his five-year NBA career.
While Trent Jr. too carries similar attributes, which would allow him to slot in perfectly alongside Jamal Murray to form one of the more balanced backcourts in basketball. Or help lead the second unit alongside Bones Hyland, providing the team with one of the more dangerous bench mobs in the NBA.
Trent and Anunoby also happen to be two of the more versatile defenders in the league, which would give Malone more flexibility to mix and match with certain rotations. Above all else, it would allow the team to reliably run eight deep with Murray, Trent, Anunoby, Gordon, Jokic, Morris, Hyland and Barton. Not to mention whoever they choose to sign this offseason.
It doesn’t hurt either that the Denver Nuggets have already shown interest in acquiring Anunoby, according to Matt Moore of The Action Network.
Why it makes sense for the Utah Jazz
As for the Utah Jazz, chances are that they will move on from their longtime center, Rudy Gobert, this summer. With the defensive-minded big man supposedly on the trade block and linked to various teams spread across the NBA.
Part of the issue is Gobert’s monstrous contract (5-year, $205 million through 2026, per Spotrac). However, this is also exactly what makes Utah a good trade parter in a deal involving OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. Both of whom are owed a combined $123.8 million in guaranteed money through 2024 and 2025, respectively.
If this trade were to go down, Utah would be receiving one of the most exciting and efficient youngsters in the NBA, Michael Porter Jr. Who could team up with Donovan Mitchell and immediately provide the Jazz with one of the deadliest one-two scoring punches in the league.
As a 6’10” do-it-all forward that can shoot the lights out or take opponents off the bounce, there aren’t many prospects out there as enticing as MPJ. So, the idea of trading an aging defensive stalworth in Gobert for a budding offensive superstar in Porter Jr. should be more than enough to entice Danny Ainge and the rest of Utah’s front office.
While perhaps a bit of a gamble, I doubt any Jazz fan would be too upset with an MPJ – Gobert swap.
Why it makes sense for the Toronto Raptors
The truth is that OG Anunoby is likely to be on his way out of Toronto. Furthermore, many believe that the Raptors plan to add a big man this upcoming offseason to create a more balanced rotation. Which has created a general belief that Gobert and Anunoby will be involved in some sort of offseason trade one way or another.
Although, I think the Denver Nuggets could easily sneak their way into the deal as well.
Now, I do feel like the Raptors would be the hardest team to convince in this scenario. Sure, giving up a disgruntled Anunoby doesn’t seem all that bad, even if he is one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. Though, asking them to part ways with Gary Trent Jr. is something entirely different.
Trent is coming off a magnificent season in which he put up career-highs across the board. Finishing as the team’s third-leading scorer with 18.3 points per game on .414/.383/.353 shooting splits. As well as one of the league leaders in steals, averaging 1.7 per game.
Nevertheless, I also know that Masai Ujiri isn’t particularly shy when it comes to shaking things up. So, I feel like if the Nuggets would be willing to part ways with their first-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for an early second-round pick in this year’s draft (along with Utah’s offer of Gobert). It might just be too big of a deal for Masai and Raptors’ GM Bobby Webster to pass up on.
Gobert would instantly provide Toronto with more size to mix in with their young core of Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam. As well as vastly improve their interior defense, which was a major problem for the team last season, particularly in the playoffs.
The Raptors could then look to the mid-level exception, or use the first-round pick they’d be receiving from Denver, to make up for the loss of Trent Jr.