Denver Nuggets: Why the Monte Morris trade rumors are concerning

Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets looks on before the game against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on 30 Mar. 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets looks on before the game against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on 30 Mar. 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Denver Nuggets haven’t finished cutting costs when it comes to next season’s roster with backup point guard, Monte Morris, looking like he’s on the move.

After trading JaMychal Green into the OKC Thunder’s cap space in exchange for the 30th pick in this year’s NBA Draft and two future second-round picks, Calvin Booth isn’t finishing clearing salary.

Jake Fischer, Bleacher Report believes that the Denver Nuggets will look to replace Monte Morris’ production with one of their first-round picks:

"“With Denver having acquired the No. 30 pick, league sources expect the Nuggets will target a point guard such as Gonzaga ball-handler Andrew Nembhard. Denver has engaged various teams in trade conversations regarding Monte Morris, the sturdy reserve point guard who filled in as its starter with Jamal Murray sidelined for the season.“Some rival executives were prepared for Morris to be replaced by Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic, whose rights are held by OKC, as part of the Green trade.”"

The only issue is that Morris is one of the best backup point guards in the league and there’s a minute chance that an incoming rookie will be anywhere near as solid.

He’s probably the sixth or seventh man on a title-contending Nuggets roster but that player still plays in the playoffs. He could well be the most valuable seventh man in the league so whoever they trade him for (if it’s not just a salary dump) is going to be a downgrade on that spot.

Monte also excels with Denver’s best players, carving out a nice two-man game with Nikola Jokic and for the past few seasons, has kept the pressure on defenses next to Jamal Murray at the start of the second quarter.

Big Game Tae averaged 12.6 points and 4.4 assists while starting in Jamal’s stead this past season. That increased production was mostly due to his bigger role but when coming off the bench, Monte helps give Michael Malone 48 minutes of solid playmaking.

He’s in the 75th percentile among all guards in terms of points per 100 shot attempts and his 8.1 turnover percentage is behind only Terry Rozier, Tyrese Maxey, and Tyus Jones per Cleaning the Glass (min. 1,000 minutes).

Bones Hyland’s rise eases this transition but he projects as a bench scorer, stretching the floor for other playmakers or finding his own shot. A lot of his shots came next to a supreme playmaker like Jokic or Monte, if the front office believes a rookie can replace the playmaking of one of the best backup guards in the league, good luck to them.

Additionally, when using Stadium Speak’s Two-Man Game app, it’s clear that Monte and Jokic have some pick-and-roll chemistry. The small guard hits over 70 percent of his shots at the rim when running something with the Serbian – an elite level for any NBA player, let alone the smallest player on the court.

Why a Monte Morris trade should scare Denver Nuggets fans?

There’s little-to-no on-court reason to trade Monte Morris. No, he’s not a superstar but he’s one of the best bench players in the world right now. He might not contest the Sixth Man of the Year race, but he’s a cog in the larger Denver Nuggets machine.

Similar to the JaMychal Green trade, a trade here would be purely financially driven. And that should scare Denver Nuggets fans.

When Josh Kroenke held a press conference a few weeks ago, he said all the right things: told fans it’s now championship-or-bust, said the inability to work out a TV deal was disappointing, and indicated ownership’s ability to pay the luxury tax.

But is this really true? If the Denver Nuggets re-sign Nikola Jokic to his supermax, something that’s likely to happen, the team will already be right up against the tax. But how far are they willing to go? Trading JaMychal and potentially Monte suggests not very far.

We don’t know the protections on the 2027 first-round pick that Denver traded to OKC in the Green deal but if it’s only lightly protected, OKC might’ve just robbed the Nuggets. Denver won’t feel the effects for years to come, but a lightly-protected first five years in the future is too much of a wildcard just to shed salary.

You also have to keep in mind that this comes weeks after they let the architect of this team, Tim Connelly, walk because they didn’t want to pay him.

Kroenke suggested the Minnesota Timberwolves came in the “side entrance” to sign Connelly away from the team but now that we know that the equity part of the deal is performance-based, it just comes right down to money. Minnesota wanted him more and offered him more.

We haven’t even finished the NBA Finals but the direction the offseason is headed for the Denver Nuggets should scare fans across the world.

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