Well, while it’s still early in the season, there’s been a lot of talk recently about our struggles at point guard. Ty Lawson, who many see as the future of the Nuggets franchise (I don’t personally), seems to have lost his confidence and his shooting stroke. Chauncey Billups’ low shooting percentage is no longer masking his poor shot selection and lack of assists. Both have made costly turnovers in the closing minutes of games that could have been won with better execution.
Chauncey does tend to escape a lot of criticism since he is our native son and his arrival brought us within an inbound play or two of the NBA finals. Chauncey’s leadership, while important for that playoff run, was certainly overstated. Chauncey may be the vocal and emotional leader of the Nuggets, but we’ve seen him get costly techs, force penetrations and take ill-timed 3’s during some of our notorious mental breakdowns. George Karl has given him free reign to play his game while keeping JR on a leash so short he gets yanked after forcing one shot.
To be fair to Chauncey, I don’t think his game has changed that drastically, but his poor shooting is now accentuating his other faults. He’s normally a great shooter and is still one of the better point guards in the NBA, but he is not a floor general in the sense that he feeds guys that are hot or need to get offensively involved. I’m not writing this simply due to his current shooting slump, but because I think a pass first point guard is exactly what this team needs.
ESPN has reported that Steve Nash would be a potential trade option sometime this season. While it’s pretty clear at this point this is just more ESPN rumor mongering, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched if the Suns continue to struggle this season. Nash is incredibly loyal and unlikely to request a trade, but I cannot imagine he would enjoy playing the last years of his career on a team that has no chance of competing for a title. The Suns are at an interesting point where it appears they should rebuild, but they refuse to do so. If the Suns continue to struggle this year, they may ultimately decide to unload expensive, long term contracts such as Hedo Turkoglu and move Steve Nash to a contender. Hedo is 2 years removed from being a critical component of the Magic’s finals run. The Suns have him playing minutes at PF for some reason, which seems destined to fail. We can trade them JR’s expiring contract and Chauncey who has a team option next year that they can decline. This would unload all of their sizable long term deals (other than Childress) and allow them to fully rebuild with a shiny new draft pick.
Denver Trades: Chauncey Billups, JR Smith, 1st rounder
Denver Receives: Steve Nash, Hedo Turkoglu
Steve Nash is the ideal PG for the Nuggets and George Karl. George’s philosophy is clearly to let the players play. He is not interested in set plays or calling timeouts to make in-game adjustments or substitutions. He expects the players themselves to understand and execute adjustments on the fly. Steve Nash is incredibly efficient and smart and has to be the best floor general in the NBA. He knows how and when to get guys involved and when to take over and score. The “random offense” we employ, would be a lot more effective with Steve Nash directing it. A Steve Nash/Carmelo Anthony duo, with our depth this year, would be strong contenders to represent the West. This year’s Nuggets are arguably more talented than last year’s Suns and are certainly better defensively, when fully healthy. Knocking off the Lakers is likely our only shot at convincing Melo to stay. If Melo leaves anyway, we could flip Nash to a contender. In this scenario, the Suns would decline Chauncey's team option leaving him free next year to go where he pleased.
Turkoglu’s contract certainly is unpleasant, but in the event Melo does depart he can step in at SF. To me, he seems like an older version of Danilo Gallinari. He is still shooting 44% from 3 pt range and we’ve seen on the Magic, he is capable of being the go-to guy to take the last shot. I think playing him at SF next to our bigs would be much more effective than trying to stick him at PF like the Suns. He’s certainly not ideal if we end up getting burned by Melo, but with no Melo or Chauncey we still would have some financial freedom for the future.