At 48-34, the Denver Nuggets earned the six seed in the western conference, where they got a first round match up against the Golden State Warriors. They ended up losing to the Warriors 4-1 on April 27.
With their season over, what is next for the Denver Nuggets?
Are their practical ways for this current roster to improve?
Can they contend for the title, despite injuries to Michael Porter JR and Jamal Murray?
Will they have to trade one (or both of) their guys to make the moves necessary?
Will these moves improve their roster and chances at building a title contender around their Nikola Jokic?
Now being the two-time MVP (or most valuable player) as of Monday, Jokic is clearly not only their best player but a top 10 player, with the ability to elevate his team to (at least) the playoffs. Now the Nuggets have to surround him with the talent necessary to build the correct team around Jokic. Let’s take a look and see what they can do.
Upgrade the Bench
After their series versus the Warriors, it’s clear that the Nuggets need more production from their second unit. Sure injuries to some starters have played their part of their bench being depleted, but it doesn’t hurt to help build it up. Bones Hyland has potential to be a solid young guard, but is too young and could use more experience.
Guys like Austin Rivers and Brandon Forbes are one dimensional players. Basically good at one skill and that’s it. Jamychal Green is a solid bench big but also undersized and DeMarcus Cousin has been ok as the back up 5. However Cousins is now past his prime and long term option for their bench.
Denver needs to solidify their wing rotation for their bench and find players that are versatile and can fit alongside Jokic. If they can get someone like Derrick Jones Jr, bring back Torrey Craig or bring someone similar to that type of player to their bench, it can do wonders for them.
Ps: I know they have Jeff Green on this team, but he has been one of their starters due to the injuries they have on the roster. Keeping him (and/or Gordon) as well as getting one more solid athletic wing guy, will unlock the Nuggets on both ends of the floor.
Trade one of Porter Jr or Murray
Maybe it’s time to change course from Porter Jr and/or Murray and see what you can get from those guys. Turning one of their injured stars into two (or three) solid core players could be the way to go to solidify the roster around Jokic. I still say that Murray has more value (even thought he hadn’t played since the NBA bubble in 2020) than Porter Jr in a trade.
Giving one (or possibly both) away in a trade to retool the roster, may just be just what the Nuggets need. You can say maybe trade both but I don’t think it’s a good idea unless you are getting a true star back to pair with Jokic with one or both guys in the trade. Trading both guys for pieces could signal a rebuild and not make Jokic happy.
Then there’s plan C, which would be trading Aaron Gordon. Gordon made sense for this team when they were more healthy to be the final piece, but not as the second scoring option. Gordon makes $16,409,091 million a year, which is near max money, if not the max. He’s a bit over paid and not good enough (offensively) for the money to be worth it to be honest. It kind of reminds me of the Rudy Gay situation with Memphis (and Toronto) where as soon as his old team traded him for some useful role players and pieces that fit the team better, the team became so much better.
As good as Gordon is on defense, his offensive game doesn’t help Denver enough to keep him on the team, so shake it up a bit. Before you bring in Gordon’s numbers into it, remember that Murray and Porter Jr are out and someone has to score on this team other that Jokic (and possibly Will Barton). Gordon doesn’t space the floor or dribble well enough to become a solid playmaker on his own, meaning that a lot of times someone has to set him up on that end to score.
Gordon has only shot .335 from 3 this season along with 15 points per game and 5.9 rebounds a game. Thus, seeing how mediocre his numbers are for a second option, it’s better to let him go and see what you can get.
Either way you look at it, the Nuggets have to make some sort of change to shake up the look of this team. Before you suggest a Will Barron trade, I don’t think trading him would make a difference either way.
Nuggets management needs to do something to raise the ceiling of the team before Jokic’s prime runs out. Let’s make a move, Denver!