In order for Mark Warkentien (pictured with Ty Lawson and George Karl), Bret Bearup and Rex Chapman to uncover some of their sweeter deals lately, the Nuggets had to undergo some radical changes in their recent history.
Starting with the 1999-2000 campaign the Nuggets posted records over the next four seasons of 35-47, 40-42, 27-55 and finally in 2002-03 of 17-65. After the 2001-02 season no head coaching candidates wanted to touch the team. The Nuggets handed the job to guy respected within NBA circles with the hiring of Jeff Bzdelik, but his name left plenty of casual fans scratching their collective heads. Little did we realize that the organization was beginning to stabilize and good times were just around the corner and this is how we got there or here or wherever we are today ...
April 24, 2000: The Nuggets announced that E. Stanley Kroenke had agreed to purchase the Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and the Pepsi Center from Liberty Media.
Good: The word was that the Nuggets finally had an owner and that he cared a lot about basketball. We heard he was passionate about the game and was serious about building a winner.
Bad: Although things looked to be all gravy from an ownership perspective, I seem to recall some minor rumblings that the man from St. Louis might be looking to relocate the Nuggets back to his hometown. Luckily, Nuggets Nation did not have to go through the pain that Seattleites did and the team has firm roots now in Denver.
August 9, 2001: Denver named Kiki Vandeweghe General Manager.
December 26, 2002: Announced the resignation of President and Head Coach Dan Issel. Named Mike Evans interim head coach.
Good: With Kroenke taking over in the 2001-02 season the writing was on the wall for basically all the Nuggets executives, head coaches and eventually the players as well. Kroenke had a vision and a game plan for how he wanted things ran internally and it took him little time to start putting his brand on his new franchise.
2001-02: Denver acquired Scott Williams and a future first round pick (traded to Detroit then to Atlanta, Josh Smith) from Milwaukee in a three team deal. The Nuggets sent and Aleksandar Radojevic to Milwaukee.
2002-03: Acquired Rodney White from Detroit in exchange for Don Reid, Mengke Bateer and a conditional first round pick (Milwaukee's 2004, Josh Smith).
2004-05: Acquired Eduardo Najera, Luis Flores and a future first round pick from Golden State (traded, Petteri Koponen) in exchange for Rodney White and Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
Bad: The Nuggets gambled with White, a former No. 9 overall pick in 2001, and gave up the eventual 17th pick of the 2004 draft in order to do so. White was traded just a few seasons later and is now out of the NBA. White did help the Nuggets land Najera, who played a nice role in Denver, but Josh Smith sure would have been useful. Other players the Nuggets could have landed with that 17th pick include; J.R. Smith (18th), (24th), (26th) or (30th) ... they also could have selected Pavel Podkolzin (21st), Sergei Monia (22nd) or (27th) ... yuck. And if you remember the Nuggets did take with the 20th pick and traded his draft rights to Orlando.
2001-2002: Acquired Juwan Howard, Tim Hardaway, , Dallas' 2002 first round pick (Frank Williams) and cash in exchange for Nick Van Exel, , Avery Johnson and Tariq Abdul Wahad.
Good, great, grand, wonderful! Vandeweghe wasted little time making his impression felt in Denver. Andrew wrote about this very deal during the playoffs last season as it set the two franchises in motion. Basically the Nuggets somehow convinced Mark Cuban to take back just about every bad contract Dan Issel handed out. Vandeweghe wasn't afraid to pull the trigger and killed basketball in Denver for the short term in order to get a fresh start on his own long term plans. When you talk about the biggest trades in Nuggets history you have to mention this one because much like a videogame reset button, this deal allowed Denver to shed bad contracts and eventually start fresh after staring at salary cap hell. So, while many Stiffs do not like Mark Cuban, you have to thank him for making this trade and helping to usher in Denver's newfound success.
2002-03: Acquired, Mark Jackson and the draft rights to Nene in exchange for , the draft rights to Frank Williams and a second round pick in 2003 (Maciej Lampe).
2008-09: Denver trades Marcus Camby to the L.A.for the option to exchange second round picks with the Clippers in 2010.
Good: A very sneaky and under the radar move by the Nuggets. The deal was at first looked at as McDyess for Camby ... two injury plagued players and some spare parts. But Denver found a diamond in the rough with Nene. I recall during the draft the experts were praising Nene's athletic ability and saying that he more than held his own when Brazil battled Team USA at the World Championships. I was never big on foreign players and was actually very upset that Denver didn't get Caron Butler in the draft (passing him up twice for Skita and Nene). But Nene studied under Juwan Howard and was Denver's second best player as a rookie. I was afraid that Camby would probably never do much for the Nuggets and would probably demand a trade if he ever got healthy. Not only did Camby get healthy, but he had a very successful run with in Denver that culminated in a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2006-07 and he was great in the community.
Bizarre: The Nuggets were facing more salary cap hell before the 2008-09 season began and they decided to ship Camby out of town for nothing more than a salary dump. A lot of fans were perplexed and upset about the trade, but I wasn't one of them. I loved Camby's rebounding and appreciated his ability to block shots, but he often had to leave his man to try to block a shot and that left the weakside open for easy offensive rebounds. I also hated Camby's offensive game of standing at the top of the key and jacking up outside jumpers. I wanted Denver to have a traditional post game and to have their big bodies under the hoop for offensive rebounds and Camby didn't do that much. The trade freed up minutes for Nene and allowed him to flourish as an undersized, but quick center and the Nuggets are still enjoying the benefits of the deal, especially with Chris Andersen replacing much of what Camby did and at a fraction of the cost.
2004-05: Traded the draft rights to Jameer Nelson to Orlando in exchange for a future first round pick (Julius Hodge).
Bad: The Nuggets drafted Nelson for the Magic with the 20th pick of the 2004 NBA draft. Anyone else remember Dick Vitale nearly having a heart attack on the air as Nelson fell down the draft board? The Nuggets were set at point guard with Andre Miller and Earl Boykins so the idea of Nelson didn't add up. The Nuggets wound up with the 20th pick in the 2005 draft (from Orlando) and took the ACC Player of the Year in Hodge, but Hodge was an odd selection. The Nuggets needed a player who could stretch the floor with his shooting and Hodge struggled in college with his shot and was an attacking player. Denver passed up Louisville forward Francisco Garcia who was a premier college shooter and the choice has haunted the team to a certain degree ever since as Hodge is out of the NBA and Garcia has had some productive seasons with the Kings.
2004-05: Acquired Kenyon Martin from the New Jersey Nets in a sign-and-trade deal in exchange for three future first round picks (2005, Joey Graham; 2006, Renaldo Balkman and Marcus Williams).
Bad: Like I've mentioned, my friend Rory and I knew Martin would be a Nugget during the 2003-04 season and we prepared ourselves with lots of cheers and plenty of beers. What we didn't foresee was Martin being sidelined with multiple injuries and K-Mart becoming so disgruntled that it was feared Denver would trade him.
Good: As Martin got healthy his attitude healed as well. Sick of losing, Martin vowed to change his ways and become a leader before the 2008-09 season and his play on the floor last year and this season have finally shown why Denver tried to acquire him in the first place. Did going through injury hell help change Martin for the better? It would appear that Martin started to realize that the Nuggets had/have a special team and that he doesn't have a lot of time left to get a ring and that alone is possessing him to play some of the best basketball of his career. Whatever it was ... Denver fans are thankful that he's had such a nice turnaround.
Bizarre: I'm sure the Nets tried to sell to their fans the fact that they got decent value for Martin with three first-round picks, but none of those selections wound up being any sort of prize. And how weird is it that 2-3 picks are now playing for the Nuggets? And the other pick (Marcus Williams) was being courted by Denver this past offseason, before the Nuggets re-signed Anthony Carter.
2005-06: Acquired the draft rights to Linas Kleiza and the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for the draft rights to Jarrett Jack.
Bizarre: How often do you see rival teams making trades with one another? Both Kleiza and Jack had their moments with Denver and Portland, but both players have since moved on. Kleiza proved to be a decent scoring option off the bench for some Nuggets playoff teams, but he now seems like a distant memory as he plays in Greece.
But how badly did the Nuggets misfire in the 2005 draft ... especially in what could be one of the best second-rounds in NBA history. Denver wound up with the 20th, 27th, 35th (Ricky Sanchez) and 52nd () picks (none of which are now with the team) and missed out on the following players: (21st), Garcia (23rd), (24th), (26th), (30th) in the first round. And second round guys (33rd), (34th), (37th), (40th), (45th, 76ers), (49th), (50th) and (57th). Denver did acquire later though and he was the 25th pick of the 2005 draft.
A bunch of names change teams, no real impact:
2005-06: Acquired Ruben Patterson and Charles Smith from Portland and Reggie Evans from Seattle in a four-team trade. The Nuggets sent Earl Watson and Byron Russell and a future second-round pick to Seattle and Voshon Lenard to Portland. Sacramento received Vitaly Potapenko from Seattle and Sergei Monia from Portland. The Kings sent Brian Skinner to the Blazers.
Bad: This was one of those ... give me your scrubs and I'll send you my scrubs trades. Seriously, look at the above names. The biggest story to come out of this trade was Reggie Evans violating Chris Kaman in the playoffs, just check the Google results page. Maybe this trade was worth it after all.
2006-07: Acquired J.R. Smith from thein exchange for and two second-round picks ( , ).
Good: What were the Bulls thinking? Well, I'll tell you.and Swish didn't exactly hit it off in New Orleans. J.R. carried the nickname "Young Money" and wore out his welcome rather quickly for such a talented player. When the Bulls traded for Smith they were being coached by . To say that Smith isn't a Skiles guy is sort of like saying running across I-25 is a bad idea ... ya think?! The Bulls basically got Smith out of town as fast as they could and the Nuggets were not afraid to take on the young gunner because they probably felt George Karl could handle the challenge. Smith's time in Denver has been up-and-down, but there is no doubt the Nuggets got the best asset in the trade.
2006-07: Acquired Allen Iverson and Ivan McFarlin from the in exchange for Andre Miller, and two first round picks ( , Petteri Koponen).
2008-09: Acquired Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Allen Iverson.
Iverson Good: I was working as an intern at KDVR Fox-31 when the Iverson deal was completed and we'd been discussing for a week or two what A.I. in Denver would mean. I remember being at work when the deal finally went through and it led our broadcast. Denver's willingness to bring the high-paid star aboard showed they were bold enough to try just about anything. The how will Melo and A.I. coexist aspect was front and center with every sports debate and Denver now had one of the all-time NBA greats.
Iverson Bad: A.I. is known as an athletic freak and a legendary partier. That is a very unique mix that not many players can pull off. How does a young guy say no to a night out with The Answer? Iverson stories starting flying through Denver (I heard more than a few), but how many were just tall tales and how many were truth? Too hard to know. But for all of Iverson's scoring and toughness he wasn't the answer for the Nuggets and Denver quickly made a move to get rid of his high-priced salary to bring in a true point guard.
Billups Good: When the Billups trade was announced last season plenty of the talking heads in the national media declared Detroit the winners and the Nuggets the cost cutters. At Iverson's first press conference in Detroit he talked about the Pistons being his best chance at a ring. When it was all said and done last season, Iverson was left off the Pistons' playoff roster and Billups was leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. When the deal was first announced my friend Rich and I were elated! We felt Denver had finally had what they'd been looking for ... a complete point guard. Andre Miller couldn't hit the outside shot and Iverson was just a bit too much of a scorer. Billups came in and delivered just what this team needed with leadership, scoring, passing and a sense of calm when things got chaotic.
2006-07: Acquired Steve Blake from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Earl Boykins, Julius Hodge and cash considerations.
Good: The Nuggets seemed to make this move as Iverson, an undersized guard, needed a backcourt partner with a little size and a pass-first mentality. Blake's lone season with the Nuggets proved to be a good one as he was a fairly reliable three-point shooter and unselfish player. Some people were sad to see the fan favorite Earl Boykins go, but I wasn't among them. Denver didn't retain Blake's services in the offseason and elected to go with veteran Chucky Atkins ... not such a great decision.
2009-10: Acquired Arron Afflalo andfrom the Detroit Pistons in exchange for a future second-round draft pick.
Good: When Dahntay Jones left the Nuggets for a four-year deal with the Indiana Pacers on July 9th, 2009 the Nuggets wasted little time finding his replacement. The Nuggets completed a deal for Afflalo just four days later on July 13th and upgraded from a defensive specialist to a young defender with a sweet outside shot. Afflalo was the 27th pick in the 2007 draft and at just 24 years-old he still has his best days in front of him. We heard before the season started that the young shooting guard was a workout freak and his play on the floor this season has been a pleasant surprise and definite upgrade. Another steal for the Nuggets.
2009-10: Acquired the draft rights of Ty Lawson from thein exchange for a future first-round draft pick ( ' pick).
Good: When Denver acquired Billups last year the glaring thing the team needed was someone for him to tutor. I thought the Nuggets should have made a play for the Here is how I broke down Lawson falling to the Nuggets in the draft.' as he had the size and speed I thought the Nuggets could use. Denver was able to find the guy they had targeted the year before in Ty Lawson. When Lawson decided to return to North Carolina and pull out of the 2008 NBA draft, the Nuggets kept him on their radar. It just so happened that Lawson fell in the draft because of a loaded guard draft and Denver was able to offer up the right price to steal him at the 18th spot. And the price was the coveted Bobcat's draft pick that Denver had been holding onto. With Charlotte sitting in sixth place out East this season and looking like a sure playoff team, that highly sought after pick, that could have wound up being the top pick in the draft, will now more than likely turn out to be a mid to late first round selection. Kenny Rogers said it best, "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."
2009-10: Denver trades the draft rights to Sergio Llull (34th overall) to the in exchange for cash considerations ($2.25 million).
Bizarre: The Nuggets could have used the second-round pick to select big man Llull's nice play over in Europe this season and it'll remain a mystery how this trade plays out with how long Blair's knees hold up. (Yes, that's Sergio Llull guarding .)out of Pittsburgh (37th overall to the ), but decided to take the money instead. The Nuggets have been looking for a big man all season to add to their rotation, so the Blair misfire haunts them to a degree. Rocket fans are excited about
That's a wrap and as up-to-date as we can get on the Nuggets trade history. I didn't cover every trade, but the ones I covered helped to shape the team we are watching today. One wrong move here and a guy panning out there and this could be a very different team. We are now one week away from the NBA trade deadline and the Nuggets remain a hot topic. Will we see a new player in uniform in the next week? Time will tell and judging by history, the Nuggets like to shuffle the deck.
Sources: Denver Nuggets 2008-09 Media Guide, NBA.com and ESPN.com
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: David Zalubowski