Grade the trade: Nuggets balance roster, send running mate for Wemby to San Antonio

Detroit Pistons v San Antonio Spurs
Detroit Pistons v San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

With only eight teams still standing in the NBA playoffs, it’s offseason time for almost three-quarters of the league. With that comes rumors and speculation running rampant and that’s not restricted to teams that have already been eliminated.

Bleacher Report put out a column on Thursday titled, “Blockbuster NBA Trades for Teams Ready to Risk it All” creating hypothetical trades for teams around the league. One team included in these hypotheticals was the Nuggets who were down 0-2 in their series with the Timberwolves at the time of publishing and could consider “risking it all” if their season ends in round two.

Here is the proposed trade, which Bleacher Report subtitled, “Nuggets flip Michael Porter Jr. for deeper rotation”.

MPJ to Spurs

While I understand the idea behind this deal, I can’t get behind the execution here. For one, Porter has been excellent in these playoffs. He’s been the only Nugget shooting the ball and he’s raised his defense in a major way. Overall, he’s probably been the team’s second-best and most consistent player in the playoffs behind Jokic.

Why would the Nuggets do this deal?

So the timing isn’t great, but again, I understand in principle. The Nuggets are getting extremely expensive and they’ll have to pay up to keep other stars around in the coming years. Porter signed a 5 year, $179.3 million contract extension that began just last season.

The Nuggets are obviously going to prioritize Jokic and Murray and if they are going to pay big money for a third guy it would probably be Aaron Gordon. Plus, the Nuggets have limited means to actually improve this roster in a meaningful way. Logically, selling high on Porter Jr. this offseason would make a fair amount of sense.

Why would the Nuggets reject this deal?

But if that is the route the front office chooses, this return is just not appealing enough. Keldon Johnson is a fine player but would be a downgrade from MPJ on the wing and is a significantly poorer shooter. The main attraction there would be that he will make less than half as much as Porter Jr. over the next three seasons and he’s just 24 years old. You could talk yourself into that downgrade to vastly improve other parts of the roster.

The rest of this deal just doesn’t accomplish that. Tre Jones is a solid backup point guard, but he’d be a tough sell in the starting lineup if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leaves this offseason. He’s also a bit of a defensive liability and he’d be hard to part with Murray. Zach Collins is also not a huge needle mover. He’s a fine backup center, but not someone I’d automatically trust in the playoffs. Plus he’s due almost $35 million over the next two seasons.

Collins would not be a significant upgrade on Zeke Nnaji, who is signed for longer and much cheaper. Swapping the backup bigs doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Nuggets. Sending out a first-round pick, albeit a late one, just makes this deal a total head-scratcher to me. With the rising cap, Porter’s contract isn’t nearly bad enough that the team would have to attach a draft pick just to get three role players in return.

So if the Spurs call the Nuggets with this offer, the answer should be a firm no. MPJ is far from untouchable, but a team is going to have to come up with way better than this to get a deal done.

Grade: D