Grade this crazy trade: Nuggets deal MPJ & picks for a star upgrade

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Three
Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Three / David Berding/GettyImages

It’s that time of year again when mock drafts, fake trades, and free agency grades and rumors are crowding timelines far and wide. Speculation and conjecture about what the Nuggets will do are all over the place at the moment, from standing pat to taking big swings on the trade market. There isn’t a clear consensus and that’s what makes this such a fascinating and important offseason in Denver.

Whatever the team decides to do (and is able to pull off), they must be sure to explore every available option and move with purpose to make the moves they believe in. Nothing should be out of the question at this point; the front office needs to be diligent and willing to get creative. Leave no stone unturned.

Fake trade sends Lauri Markkanen to the Nuggets

One possible option we’ve dug into a bit is trading the big salary attached to Michael Porter Jr. and trying to add a third star to team with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. That’s exactly what was suggested by a recent Bleacher Report article, 1 Trade Idea for Every Team Not in the 2024 NBA Finals. Grant Hughes proposed a trade for the Nuggets that saw the team deal MPJ, this year’s 28th overall pick, first-round pick swaps in 2026, 2028, and 2030, and 2nd round picks in 2025, 2026, and 2028 to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Lauri Markkanen.

MPJ for Lauri

Markkanen has thrived in Utah; he was named an all-star last season, averaging over 25 points a game and it followed up that campaign with another strong season this year, shooting 40% from three-point range on 8 attempts a game. Lauri, the Finnish star, is still just 26 years old and stands a solid 7 feet tall.

Why would the Nuggets do this?

He’d be a legitimate upgrade over Porter Jr., a guy who can impact the game in more ways and a much better scorer and rebounder. He’s also not a star that needs the ball to thrive and his offensive role would be a seamless fit along with Murray and Jokic. This deal would be a small price for the Nuggets to pay to create what should instantly be the premier offense in the league.

The team would save money in the short term but they would have to pay a massive extension after next season to keep Markkanen. Along with likely new deals for Murray and Aaron Gordon, the team would easily be one of the most expensive in the league and they’d be far over the salary cap’s second apron. But it might just be worth it for this collection of talent to make an aggressive run at winning multiple championships.

Why would the Jazz do this?

Now, here’s the problem for Denver; the Jazz would almost certainly never do this. The team has struck gold in Markkanen and he can still be a massive part of their current rebuild. They seem to want to build around Lauri and other young players, but he’s a big part of what they want to do. 

Furthermore, if they actually were to entertain offers for the big Fin, they would need a whole lot more than this package in return. The Nuggets’ picks have very little appeal and will likely fall very late in the draft order. Porter Jr. is a solid player, but his contract isn’t going to be desirable for a young team like the Jazz. Markkanen would be one of the most sought-after players on the trade market and teams trying to take a big leap, with assets to work with would outbid the Nuggets in a heartbeat. If by some miracle they can pull this off, do it and laugh all the way to the bank, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Markannen > Nuggets. MPJ, picks, & swaps > Jazz. Nuggets acquire Lauri Markkanen. MPJ Lauri Grade. A+