With the trade deadline fast approaching on the 23rd of February, the Denver Nuggets loom as a team that is poised to strike a deal that could fast track their rebuild.
While the Nuggets do not have any current All-Star caliber players, they do possess a range of valuable assets in the likes Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried (to name just a few). The Nuggets are also reported to be actively shopping around big-man Jusuf Nurkic.
The Nuggets may find themselves becoming a proverbial treadmill team should they fail to compliment their current crop of dynamic young players with similarly youthful prospects. The young core that the Nuggets boast are guard heavy, while the frontcourt hinges around up and coming center Nicola Jokic. Because of this, it is most likely that if the Mile-High team were to initiate a trade they would target a forward.
Denver has been criticized recently for having too many "good" players and not enough great ones, a problem the Boston Celtics are well acquainted with. But while the Celtics supplemented their roster with Al Horford through free agency, the Nuggets have no similar target and instead look to trades to bolster their squad. Asset wise the Nuggets have the aforementioned veterans, as well as the Memphis Grizzlies' 2017 first round pick as bargaining chips.
A combination of players and picks could give the Nuggets the opportunity to land a skillful young player or valuable pick in what looks to be a stacked 2017 draft class.
Potential Trade Partner: Phoenix Suns
Someone who I think may be a prospective trade partner for the Nuggets is the Phoenix Suns. Both the suns and Nuggets are under .500 for the season so far and a trade between the franchises could be mutually beneficial. The Suns should be in the market for a proven veteran forward (or two) on valuable contracts such as Gallinari, Faried, and Chandler. In return, they may be willing to give up a combination of assets including a young prospect such as Marquese Chriss or TJ Warren.
It is certainly well worth a ponder to think about where the Nuggets could strike gold ahead of the trade deadline. The Nuggets front office may also be consulting their scouts and I would not put it past Denver to trade their way into a high projected pick in the 2017 draft.
Any NBA fan can probably see that unless something drastic happens, Denver are unlikely to contend anytime soon. It must also be a focus of the Nuggets to make themselves an attractive location for free agents in the coming summers. This would involve pulling the pin on a big trade this season, and then developing a core of young players to the point where they would strongly compliment an incoming free agent.
So who has Denver been linked with?
Recently rumors have swirled around the New Orleans Pelicans and the Washington Wizards. Both of these teams each have their own respective superstars in Anthony Davis and John Wall, but the franchises have been unable to supplement these stars in order achieve consistent success. New Orleans has few trade assets of value which may stifle any chances of a trade, although the lack of long-term contracted talent on their roster may make them increasingly desperate and might see them willing to send multiple picks Denver's way.
Potential Trade Partner: Washington Wizards
Meanwhile, Washington could be willing to part with Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr, as well as potentially moving upcoming first round picks. Bradley Beal's recent injury troubles may even have the Wizards curious about what value they could receive in return for him.
The success of any trades Denver makes will, in my opinion, be determined by the value of a combination of players/picks that Denver can put together, as they simply don't have the superstar value to trade one player alone for a big asset in return. The only asset that Denver has which would be able to be traded alone to land a big player is their own 2017 pick although I can't see Denver trading the pick as it is currently their only insurance if they drop out of the playoff race. Dropping out of playoff contention this season may be a worthwhile price to pay for having some prolonged success in future.
Soon enough the "good" veteran players on valuable contracts will be players past their prime on expiring contracts. So go on Denver, humor us with some trade winds.