To trade or not to trade: What should the Nuggets do with their first-round pick?

The Nuggets are short on movable assets this offseason and may look to trade the 28th overall pick for a player who can come in and contribute to winning immediately
Strength and agility testing at the NBA Draft Combine
Strength and agility testing at the NBA Draft Combine / Anadolu/GettyImages

The Nuggets have a very limited pool of assets at their disposal and they will have to get creative this summer if they hope to improve the team in any meaningful way. The top priority in Denver has to be keeping their starting lineup in tact. That will likely mean throwing an uncomfortable amount of money at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency to make sure he stays.

But the starting lineup was outplayed badly in these playoffs and the team needs upgrades elsewhere. They have to nail the moves on the margins and find ways to improve the bench and overall depth.

Especially if they keep KCP, that will likely make it difficult to keep Reggie Jackson and Justin Holiday, who were the 7th and 8th men in the playoffs and two of only three bench players Michael Malone trusted when it mattered.

The Nuggets will be up against it financially, basically hoping they can sign players to minimum contracts. They have a number of young players drafted over the past few years, but the only one Malone trusted in this year’s playoff run was Christian Braun. One way or another, the Nuggets need to have more rotation players they can trust next season. 

How should the Nuggets use the 28th pick?

One asset that Denver does have this offseason is their first-round draft pick, 28th overall. This is supposed to be a weak draft overall with no clear stars at the top. But there are good players in every single draft and the Nuggets don’t necessarily need a star, just somebody who can come in and contribute.

But if the Nuggets don't love a player at 28, and aren’t sold that somebody is available who can contribute, they need to think about moving the pick for someone who can. The team can’t afford another young player who will rot away on the bench. The team is built to win now and they need guys Malone will actually trust. It’s a disservice to bring in a young player who won’t even get a chance to develop and play. 

What could the Nuggets get in a trade for the 28th pick?

The entire goal in trading the pick should be acquiring a veteran role player who can eat up minutes and the team can trust during the playoffs. Teams aren’t going to be banging down the doors to acquire a very late first-round pick in this draft, but if the Nuggets are smart, they should be able to target a young, rebuilding team that has a good player who doesn’t fit their team.

The Nuggets could attach a salary like Zeke Nnaji’s $8.8 million and bring back a player making roughly $9 million. Some teams should be willing to do that and can send someone to Denver who can help a contending team. These players are out there, the Nuggets just need to do their due diligence and be smart about finding the right guy(s).