How do we read the Nuggets trade of Kosta Koufos?

Kosta Koufos - USA TODAY Sports

As the Denver Nuggets said goodbye to their starting center from last season, they also welcomed someone new into the the cavernous expanses in Pepsi Center ... yours truly. What I couldn't help but wonder all night was, what does this trade of Koufos mean for the Nuggets.

As some of you are aware, Denver Stiffs has been getting access to the Nuggets and has been giving you the best all around coverage of your favorite basketball team through Nate Timmons. This has both served to show that we here at Stiffs are serious about covering the Nuggets as well as giving Nate the opportunity to expand his talents in connecting with players and giving fantastic insight into the goings on during practices.

Thursday night I went to Pepsi Center to cover the NBA draft. The PR with the Nuggets, led by Tim Gelt, was kind enough to extend me the invitation and I was more than happy to accept. This afforded me the opportunity to see what happens as various reporters prepared their stories and additionally found out what happens during press conferences. It was both more interesting and more mundane that you would expect.

To wit: How do we, as Nuggets fans, read the Kosta Koufos trade to Memphis for Darrell Arthur and the 55th pick in the draft? To my mind there are only two possible ways to read this, and both are equally plausible. In that vein, their could be an element of truth to both explanations.

Theory #1: Nuggets moved Kosta Koufos to give a "clear path" for JaVale McGee's starting center future

This is the most common assumption among most of the media and indeed most of the comments here on Denver Stiffs reflect that assumption. You'd be on solid footing if you thought that way. The Nuggets were long rumored to be frustrated with former coach George Karl's refusal to play JaVale McGee more than 20 minutes a game. The mantra within this feeling is "you've got to see what we have".

This was made easier by trading the center who started in front of JaVale last season. Koufos put up very solid numbers as a starter last season (5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 81 games started) and proved to be the reliable, steady middle-man that Karl was looking for. As his offense doesn't emphasize centers, it was more of a "stay out of the way and let others do the work" kind of thing. It worked and Kosta Koufos was the Nuggets version of Michael Cage.

The Nuggets executives invested heavily in JaVale McGee. 4 years 44 million dollars. There are three years left on that contract and quite frankly you can't blame them for wanting to see if McGee was worth that faith. Whatever Nuggets fans feel about "trust" in McGee, there is natural talent there and the Nuggets need to see if they have the transcendent center they think they paid for. It's up to new coach Brian Shaw to do what he did with Roy Hibbert in Indiana and turn an unfinished product into a masterpiece.

That's best case scenario, of course.

Theory #2: Bringing in Darrell Arthur says more about Kenneth Faried than JaVale McGee

As Nate and I sat at Pepsi Center, writing notes and chatting with other media members as the draft was ongoing, there came an interesting tweet from 104.3 The Fan's own Brandon Krisztal,

What followed was a hysterical series of "huh", "what", "geh" and "nah" from the assembled press contingent at Pepsi Center. Could that be true? We just didn't know. No one else had followed up Brandon's tweet and it was hard to confirm. Later, when news that Koufos had been moved for Arthur and the 55th pick in the draft ... things started to come in to focus. At least on the surface for yours truly.

George Karl was reluctant to play both McGee and Faried together. In fact the few times the two were on the floor together they often ran in to each other, and were chaotic. Karl reasoned that their various skill sets were too similar to leave out on the floor together, and because each player was offensively limited it didn't make too much sense to leave two positions on the court offensively deficient.

There's an argument to be made that there are certain players who shouldn't be used in concert with each other. Faried and McGee may very well fall into that category. For further example, check out what Tim Connelly said in reply to Les Shapiro's very good question about Faried and McGee playing in the same lineup together.

"That's up to coach Shaw. That concern [Faried and McGee together] has been echoed by a lot of guys on this staff. I'll leave that up to the coaching staff. I will say that I think Arthur bring a complimentary skill set to those guys that maybe we lacked in the past."

Quote taken from Nate Timmons' transcript of the press conference after the draft

I have pointed out many times on Stiffs and on twitter than Connelly looked very much relaxed and at ease with the media. His answer to Shapiro's question was done quite confidently and without much hesitation. That told me that maybe things weren't as cut and dry as we have thought. Maybe this trade had only somewhat to do with McGee. Maybe this trade had more to do with Faried than anything else?

I tend to believe that last night's trades and trade rumors had a little to do with both Faried and McGee. If there's question about starting McGee and Faried together, and you are definitely putting your eggs in McGee's basket, then you pretty much have to bring in a starting quality power forward. If Faried was rumored to be traded (which has not been confirmed, but if you read Nate's above transcript of Tim Connelly's presser, other trades were tried) then maybe Kenneth Faried is deemed "expendable" by this front office? Or at the very least McGee's value is determined to be greater than that of Faried.

It will be interesting to see as we enter into free agency what will happen to this team. Things are much more in-flux than we initially thought. Keep a close eye on Tim Connelly and Josh Kroenke though. Something tells me they aren't finished by a long shot.


Twitter: @jmorton78!/jmorton78

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