The trade deadline is either the best, or the worst day as a fan of an NBA team. Oftentimes it is either incredibly disappointing, or massively exciting. However, the Denver Nuggets were largely middling today. Ultimately they came out with a slightly better team than they had the day before.
That wouldn’t be a problem on most deadlines, but the Western conference had an arms race today. Most teams got better — the Mavericks got Kyrie, the Lakers got a more solid supporting cast around LeBron and AD, the Clippers got a bolstered second unit, and the Suns had the deal of the deadline to get Kevin Durant.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, got a solid backup 5 and traded Bones Hyland for some second round picks. Thomas Bryant is a better player than Bones, but not by much. He may not play in the playoffs due to his defensive flaws, and was unhappy with his playing time in LA behind Anthony Davis.
He likely won’t get more minutes in Denver than he got in LA, and has the same flaws of being a one-way player that Bones Hyland did. It just seems like a fairly lateral move, but one in a slightly better direction for this season and slightly worse long term.
The Nuggets were the best team in the West heading into the deadline, but with the rest of the West getting significantly better, mild victories don’t seem as big. The Nuggets doubled down on their roster today, and it’s a damn good one. They’re still a contender and are among the West’s elite.
However, the path to a title got significantly harder today than it was yesterday. The Nuggets still can beat any team in a series, but the list of teams that could reasonably beat them increased significantly. The Suns will have Chris Paul setting the table for Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, the Mavericks will have Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving being able to give each other better looks.
Other teams made solid moves on the margins too — the Warriors secured Gary Payton II, a key rotation member from their championship run. The Clippers got old friends Bones Hyland and Mason Plumlee to help give their second unit an extra boost. The Lakers got Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and D’Angelo Russell for Russell Westbrook and a first.
The talent in the Western Conference is significantly more abundant than before the deadline, and seeing the Nuggets not make any moves — not using the Monte Morris TPE despite having an open roster spot, not getting some of the cheaper veterans like Jalen McDaniels, Gary Payton II, or Saddiq Bey for multiple second round picks, and not making an all-in move can be a little frustrating.
The real evaluation of this deadline will have to come after the Nuggets get someone off the buyout market like Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook, Danny Green, or Kevin Love. If they can get a contributor from the buyout market, then it gets better. However, they are now on equal footing with a lot of teams rather than being the outright favorites.
Overall, I’d call this a neutral sort of outcome. It isn’t a failure, but it definitely isn’t a success either. It’s a ground ball single, not a home run and not a strike out. I’d give this deadline a C- for the Nuggets, pending the buyout market.