It seems like it was only a matter of time before the Denver Nuggets were mentioned in serious trade talks with the Orlando Magic with the name Dwight Howard being mentioned. What wasn't expected, from Nuggets Nation, is that Denver would be one of four teams helping to get D12 to the hated Los Angeles Lakers.
As of now, everything is just a rumor and Alex Kennedy, of Hoopsworld.com, is reporting that while talks are serious - the names involved could be quite different than originally reported. As of now, the Nuggets would be surrendering Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington and getting back Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers.
What would Iguodala mean for the Nuggets? Let's break it down ...
Iguodala will turn 29 years old this January. He'll make $14.9 million this season and has a $16.1 million player option for the 2013-14 season. So, Iggy would likely be seeking an extention, while still in the prime of his career or he could bolt Denver after the coming season in hopes of greener pastures. Oh, and he would continue the fine tradition of shooting guards with odd names for the Nuggets (yes, he'd play a lot of minutes at the 2).
Afflalo will be 27 years old in October. He'll make $7.75 million this season the same amount for two additional seasons with a player option for the 2015-16 season for $7.9 million.
Harrington will be 33 years old in February and is coming off knee surgery with complications this off-season (staph infection). He will make $6.68 million this season, $7.1 million for the 2013-14 season, and $7.6 million for the 2014-15 season. Harrington can also be bought out after the coming season for roughly $7.35 million (a big chunk of change for Josh Kroenke and the Nuggets).
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Iguodala isn't far-and-away a better offensive player than Afflalo or even Harrington. But Iggy more than makes up for his above-average offense with elite defense. Iguodala was widely believed to be the difference maker on Team USA from a defensive standpoint and a guy the Olympic team couldn't do without. One could also make the case that Iggy is also the best perimeter defender in the NBA. And if you don't think he's the best perimeter defender, you must agree that he's a Top 5 defender in the league covering other guards and forwards.
While Iggy is very comparable to Afflalo offensively, Afflalo even better getting to the foul line and slighly more made three-pointers, he would be an upgrade defensively. Afflalo is a fine defender and a guy who gives a lot of effort on defense, but he's not an elite defender. Another defensive area where Iggy shines over Afflalo? Strength. Iggy is taller than Afflalo and doesn't get shoved off the ball (by the likes of Kobe Bryant) like Afflalo can. You have to look at that Lakers series and wonder had the Nuggets had Iggy would they have been able to take L.A. out? Kobe Bryant surely would have had a more difficult time averaging 29.1 points per game in the playoffs against Denver with the larger Iguodala defending him.
Afflalo is the younger guy, but the Nuggets might be thinking about his ceiling versus where Iggy is now. While Aaron might improve offensively and defensively over the next season or two, he can't do anything about his height and is likely who is he from a strength standpoint.
Harrington came back in a major way last season for Denver. He was the Nuggets' dependable outside gunner and scorer off the bench. Big Al also had some fine defensive performances and was relied upon to bang down low. Harrington also struggles defensively and often or perhaps always played out of position in the Western Conference and rebounded the ball at his career average pace of just 5.8 rebounds (6.1 in 2011-12).
It's unfortunate, but Harrington shouldn't be relied upon to duplicate his fine 2011-12 season. Coming off a broken nose, a torn meniscus, and staph infection, Harrington has said he isn't expecting to be back too much earlier than opening night. Missing training camp probably isn't a big deal for the veteran, and might actually be good for him, but the Nuggets might be able to sell high on a contract that might be attractable to other teams (that roughly $7.35M buyout after the season).
Harrington is a great locker room guy and I was told by Jordan Hamilton over the summer that Big Al and Andre Miller are the leaders on the team, but Iggy is a highly-respected guy and would be able to become the overnight leader of the Nuggets.
Iggy is also a very athletic guy and would be fantastic in Denver's fast-break style offense, with his defensively skills he would also be starting a few breaks of his own with his ability to steal the ball. Iggy also had the ball in his hands a lot of times and was a creator offensively for the Sixers - something the Nuggets value.
What if this deal doesn't go through? With names being made public, can the Nuggets put the fire out that they may find with AAA and Big Al? Afflalo has been traded before, but he found a home in Denver and it seemed like he would be the starting shooting guard here for years. He gained some job security when J.R. Smith wasn't brought back and his contract extension likely had him feeling confident in his status on this team. Harrington has been traded all over the place and is playing for his sixth franchise here in Denver.
Quickly after these trade rumors were made public, we started seeing reporters claiming that the players named might be much different than what was originally reported. Could this be damage control by the teams that didn't leak the rumors? Maybe.
Afflalo and Harrington are very professional and I wouldn't expect much backlash if the deal doesn't go through. But now that these names have leaked out there, it just adds more fuel to the fire that nobody on the Nuggets roster is safe from any deal that might improve the team.
I'm always on the fence. I can see this trade improving the Nuggets and also freeing up some minutes for other players. This deal would create more minutes for Wilson Chandler and might make more room for Jordan Hamilton in the rotation. And it certainly could open up minutes for Evan Fournier sooner rather than later. And if the deal went through with the Nuggets adding one guy for two, it also opens up an additional roster spot for Masai Ujiri and the Nuggets - perhaps a spot for Quincy Miller (who must be tendered a contract by Sept. 6th for the Nuggets to retain his rights). But what would Denver do about a backup power forward for Kenneth Faried?
Iggy isn't quite the superstar that some in Nuggets Nation have been clamoring over. With his addition and the subtraction of two main rotation guys, does the deal really make the Nuggets clearly a better team than the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, or Dallas Mavericks? Not so fast. Could the deal propel Denver above the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, or Los Angeles Lakers? I don't see it.
Worst case scenario, I see this deal keeping the Nuggets in the middle of the pack out West. At best, I could see this deal and the improvement of other players on the roster propelling Denver to either the second or third seed out West, if everything broke right.
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