Aaron Gordon trade looks better by the day for Nuggets

Denver's 2021 deal for AG was always a great move, but it has never looked better than it does now.
Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets
Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

With less than 90 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Denver Nuggets' Game 5 against the Lakers, the defending champions were down one point and in danger of dropping their second in a row to Los Angeles. Doing so would have made the series much more interesting than it ever needed to be.

As Jamal Murray drove into the lane and jab-stepped into a step-back jump shot, the crowd waited with anticipation. Miss this shot, and the Lakers would likely gain possession of the ball up a point, with the ability to stick a dagger into Denver's heart.

But when Jamal's shot rimmed out, in came none other than Aaron Gordon crashing the boards and battling hard for the rebound. Kicking the ball back out to Murray on the perimeter, he let it fly for a three-pointer that hit nothing but the bottom of the net to give the Nuggets a two-point lead.

Just a minute later, Jamal hit the eventual game-winner for Denver, which is of course the play most will walk away remembering. But we should not overlook the fact that Murray's game-winner never happens without Gordon fighting tooth and nail to earn the most crucial rebound of the entire contest.

Aaron Gordon continues to be vital to Denver's championship approach

That play was just the latest example of how significant Aaron Gordon's impact has been in his Denver Nuggets tenure. He is not an All-Star caliber player, but he is a seamless fit with this group and one of the best complementary players imaginable alongside Nikola Jokic. The cherry on top? AG has willfully accepted a lesser role to help his team work toward a greater goal.

From a big picture perspective, it is players like Gordon that can turn a great team into a championship-level one. As we have seen recently with a team like the Phoenix Suns, simply stacking All-Star talent on a roster with no clear vision for the future is a good way to find yourself swept out of the first round of the playoffs and with no assets for the next half-decade.

Instead, figuring out who your star players are and putting your trust in them while carefully building around them is a tried-and-true way to build a team worthy of a championship. Cutting corners is a tactic that is seldom rewarded, and the Nuggets stayed patient for long enough without needlessly firing a coach or trading a key player that they found themselves on the NBA mountaintop less than a year ago.

Suffice to say, Denver's March 2021 acquisition of Aaron Gordon remains one of their biggest milestones on the path to becoming a perennial championship contender. The Nuggets sent out Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a protected 2025 first-round pick, getting Gordon back in the process. What appeared to be a solid trade at the time has quickly become one of the best moves in franchise history.

Adding AG to Denver's roster was always going to give them another tertiary player to complement the likes of Jokic and Murray. But his impact has been even greater than envisioned, and there is perhaps not a player in the league that fits beside the soon-to-be three-time MVP better.