Could the Denver Nuggets beat an offer for Dejounte Murray?

San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) passes the ball in the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena on 22 Oct. 2022. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) passes the ball in the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena on 22 Oct. 2022. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) /

The San Antonio Spurs are willing to trade Dejounte Murray this offseason but if the Denver Nuggets are to make a move, they need to outbid some very thirsty teams.

At the moment, it’s looking like the Atlanta Hawks are leading the race after Zach Klein, WBS-TV Atlanta reported that the two teams are getting into the finer details of a trade package:

This report comes after Jake Fischer, Bleacher Report outlined that it’d take a “Jrue Holiday-like package” to pry the 25-year-old All-Star from the Spurs. Holiday was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a four-team deal that saw New Orleans receive matching salaries (Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams from the OKC Thunder), two future first-round picks and swap rights for two more first-round picks.

It’s a huge commitment for any franchise but after winning the 2021 NBA championship, the ends justify the means for the Bucks. The idea behind a Murray deal for any team is that he would be able to push the team over the top.

Would a Trae Young-Dejounte Murray backcourt be enough for the Atlanta Hawks? Would a Jamal Murray-Dejounte Murray backcourt with Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic be better?

Given the Nuggets are further along on their timeline, Dejounte joining Denver is a much more exciting prospect as he could be the defensive guard between MPJ and Murray that solves all their issues. But do the Denver Nuggets have what it takes to trade for him?

What could the Denver Nuggets offer for Dejounte Murray?

For starters, Dejounte Murray is on a very team-friendly contract, only making $16.4 million next season with another year remaining in 2023-24 worth $17.7 million – very tradeable. This offseason, a straight swap with Will Barton’s contract makes the money work.

So outside of current players, what could Denver send back in terms of draft compensation?

The Denver Nuggets currently owe the Thunder their 2023 first-round pick if it falls outside the lottery from the aforementioned Holiday trade. The Nuggets were able to sneak in and trade for the 24th overall pick in the 2020 Draft, picking R.J. Hampton.

Hampton was then moved to the Orlando Magic in the Aaron Gordon trade alongside a future first-round pick. This pick isn’t set in stone as it’s described as “two years after the Nuggets transfer a first-round pick to the Thunder”. Assuming Denver makes the playoffs next season, this will be a Denver 2025 first-round pick.

And then we have the recent JaMychal Green trade that saw Denver send out a 2027 first-round pick to dump Green’s salary and net the 30th pick in the 2022 Draft.

All these draft obligations work within the Stepien Rule, stipulating that a team can’t be without a first-round pick for two consecutive seasons. Teams have worked around this rule by trading their own draft pick on draft night but that won’t work for the Denver Nuggets as the next pick they own is their 2024 first-round pick.

Another workaround for the Stepien Rule is by including the right to swap picks but why would the Spurs do that when they know Denver will have a better record than them for the foreseeable future, especially if they’re trading their best player in Dejounte Murray.

So after all that, Denver could send out matching salary and an unprotected 2029 first-round pick, hardly a Jrue Holiday-type package.

Outside of draft picks, would the Spurs be interested in young prospects? If so, a deal for Dejounte Murray might look like this:

It’d completely exhaust the Denver Nuggets of assets and young players (outside of 2022 draftees who can’t be moved immediately) but this is Calvin Booth’s Godfather offer right now and I’m not sure it beats what the Hawks could send back.

Atlanta could send back Danillo Gallinari who would expire after one season with the Spurs, clearing even more cap space for the Texas team, while sending as many of their own firsts and pick swaps as they like.

The Hawks have no outgoing first-round picks and could offer firsts and pick swaps as far as the eye can see. Additionally, they own the Charlotte Hornets 2023 first-round draft pick if it falls outside the top 16 which they received in the Cam Reddish trade.

From here, we move into the Michael Porter Jr. trade discussions, offering the Spurs the scoring wing alongside the prospects and 2029 first-round pick:

At this point, the Denver Nuggets should be wondering if it’s worth moving this much for a complementary player. MPJ’s back issues are concerning but he’s a major part of the reason this team is so threatening on the offensive end.

The major benefits to adding Murray are playmaking and defense on the perimeter, moving MPJ eliminates much of the reason Denver needs defense and playmaking in the first place.

From the Spurs point of view, a Dejounte trade is more about tanking for future drafts instead of adding talent to be better in the present. We’re seeing this with the preference for cap space and Gallinari as opposed to John Collins and immediate returns.

The trade competition for Dejounte Murray is already beating out the Denver Nuggets so a deal here is looking unlikely.

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