4 Potential Denver Nuggets targets to fill backup center spot

With Zeke Nnaji struggling, Denver is looking shallow at the 5. Can the Denver Nuggets pickup a true backup big on the trade market?

Zeke Nnaji against the Houston Rockets
Zeke Nnaji against the Houston Rockets / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages
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Just a few short months ago, with Bruce Brown off to Indiana, it was looking like the Denver Nuggets were going to be on the hunt for viable guards. As it happens, Reggie and his indoor shades have been absolutely crushing it.

Zeke Nnaji, unfortunately, not so much. And without Vlatko, DeAndre Jordan is carrying a greater than expectd load. Currently, the only 3 Nuggets listed at Center who are not the reigning MVP are DeAndre Jordan, Zeke Nnaji, and Jay Huff.

DeAndre has had his moments lately, but he's a traditional big, and it's no secret he's pushing the limits of NBA viability. Zeke is listed as a 'Forward-Center'. He's not playing the 4 and he's not shooting enough to be much help in that department. Jay Huff has played all of 2 minutes.

Aaron Gordon fills in occasionally, and Peyton Watson is theoretically at the end of the rotation, but that's a fringe philosophy. As it stands, Denver's strategy of cultivating stretch bigs is looking to have stretched a big hole in their rotation.

Can the Nuggets trade for a character who can at least give DeAndre a run for minutes? The shelves are looking barren. The Nuggets are well above the salary cap, and a struggling Zeke Nnaji just signed a rookie extension that makes him a tough piece to trade. It may be a long shot, but here are 4 trade prospects that could land a true backup 5 for the Denver Nuggets.

Day'Ron Sharpe

If there's a deal to be had, Sharpe would slip nicely into that space between Jokić and Jordan. He'd absolutely bring some rebounding. And he'd fill a role as a target under the basket. He's not bringing 3's, but neither are the minutes he'd be replacing.

Sharpe is seeing nominal minutes in Brooklyn at present, and the Nets could benefit from a shooting big. Normally, Nnaji's rookie extension would make a trade here near impossible, but the Nets are sitting on a plethora of trade exceptions from breaking up their super-team last season.

Jalen Duren

Considering the dumpster fire that is the 2023-24 Pistons season, a deal with the Pistons might just be possible. Denver could benefit greatly from Duren's rebounding and efficiency, though his recent injuries are somewhat concerning.

And Duren isn't exactly what Detroit needs to not keep losing. He's an athletic, 2nd-year big who gets rebounds, and who does not attempt 3's. It seems crazy, but it's not entirely out of the picture that Zeke could walk into a starting role at the Pistons 5, and they would improve.

There's an argument to be made that a Zeke's shooting is what Detroit needs. They've been running mostly two bigs and just letting the floor collapse around their best pieces. Zeke might just remedy some of their glaring issues: turnovers, fouls, and a lack of shooting.

Omer Yurtsevin

Deep at the heart of the least-contending Utah Jazz in recent memory, Omer Yutsevin is wasting away on 12 minutes/game.

In comparison to Nnaji, Omer is an upgrade in efficiency and rebounding. He also brings a solid assist/turnover ratio and just the right 3-point percentage to space the floor while you're yelling at him not to take the shot. This is everything the Nuggets have asked of Zeke, and then some.

Omer may well be the most gettable piece on this list. He's not crucial to Utah's plans, and he's on a $3 Million contract with a floundering team. The Nuggets could probably get Yurtsevin without giving up Nnaji. Salary-wise, that would take giving up on Hunter Tyson and Jalen Pickett. Depending on how hot you are on Tyson and Pickett, Omer may not be worth the squeeze.

Aleksej Pokusevsky

This one is outlandish, but hear me out...

The OKC Center, lovingly (occasionally less-lovingly) referred to as 'Poku', is a... unique talent. In his 4th season, on a young, prospect-stacked roster, and coming off an injury that seems to have drastically reduced his role on the team, he would appear very gettable.

Poku is in a terrible slump. But he has a few things going for him that Denver can appreciate. He is tall, Serbian, and he can pass. Given a role upgrade with Denver, could the Nuggets tow Pokusevsky back to something more inline with what he looked like just last season?

The stats aren't there today. And this is the kind of thing that could (and likely would) blow up bigger than Facundo. But he was really impressive last season, and it's fun to consider. The sicko in me would love to see this guy in the Nuggets lineup.

Now, OKC also has a much more sane trade target in Jaylin Williams. Not 2nd place 2023 ROTY 2023 Jalen Williams, the other one. Theoretically, if the Nuggets sent out Hunter Tyson and Zeke Nnaji, they could get back Poku and Jaylin Williams together. Or, better yet, if they sent out Nnaji, they could get back Jaylin and Tre Mann... Interesting.

Takeaways

The options are slim. To complicate matters, Zeke Nnaji (the most attractive trade piece that Denver might be willing to move) just signed his rookie extension. Trading Nnaji now would mean that the Nuggets would release $4.3 Million from their books while the team accepting Nnaji would be adding $7.2 Million. This discrepancy causes a lot of problems. In practicality, it means that any team above the first apron is off the table as a direct trade partner.

Finding what the Nuggets have long been hoping to get out of Nnaji could make the difference this season. But shifting the right pieces to get that done is going to take craft and a fair amount of luck. We'll see a move. Given Calvin Booth's steady hand and focus on reliable talent that can hold the course, the chances that we'll see any big shakeups from the Nuggets are minimal.