The Denver Nuggets as presently constructed owes its roster mix mostly to that mega trade that took place on February 11th, 2011 that saw stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups (along with Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman) shipped to New York in trade for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos. In fact, seven current Nuggets ended up in Denver either directly or indirectly from that single trade.
With the Knicks currently lurking near the bottom of a pathetic Eastern Conference with a cruddy 7-16 record while Melo threatens to depart his home team again, by any objective measure the Nuggets were the big winners of that deal. (Making former Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri's post-trade line that "we got killed" even more salaciously funny today.) In other words, we don't need the benefit of hindsight to call that trade an emphatic success in Denver's favor.
But what about the other transactions that shaped Denver's roster? How do those look in hindsight, and what's the upside post-transaction?
Here's a rundown in order of longevity with the team ...
How Lawson became a Nugget: Selected 18th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timerwolves (on behalf of the Nuggets) and immediately traded to Denver on draft night.
In hindsight: Selected at 18, the near All-Star Lawson was an absolute steal (and again proved my theory that you can draft just as successfully at 20 as you can at 10) and credit is due to the Mark Warkentien, Bret Bearup and Rex Chapman management regime for pulling it off. We'd definitely do that one again.
Best case scenario from here: Lawson becomes an All-Star and leads the Nuggets to a first round upset against a mighty Western Conference opponent.
Worst case scenario from here: Given what a steal Lawson was, there's no downside at this point.
Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov
How Chandler, Gallinari and Mozgov became Nuggets: Via the Melo trade from 2011. The trade also included a 2012 second pick (that became Quincy Miller), a 2014 first round pick, and the right to swap 2016 first round picks.
In hindsight: Quite possibly the greatest superstar trade of all time in the history of the NBA. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James and Dwight Howard left the their respective franchises for greener pastures elsewhere, their former teams were ridden into ineptitude for years ... even decades in some cases. Not Denver. Not only have the Nuggets been as competitive post-Melo as they were with Melo, today they're substantively better than New York. Which brings us to ...
Best case scenario from here: ... not only did the Nuggets take back five quality players in the Melo trade, but they secured the Knicks' 2014 first round pick, too. Not talked about enough here at Denver Stiffs is that the Nuggets can choose between their own 2014 pick or the Knicks' selection and they can do the same thing in 2016 (only keeping one pick). And if the Knicks keep stinking it up as they have been lately, the Knicks can do the tanking for Denver into the 2014 NBA Draft that many Nuggets fans have been advocating for since the last off-season.
Worst case scenario from here: Despite winning less games than the Nuggets, the Knicks win just enough games to qualify for an Eastern Conference playoff spot while Denver misses the playoffs in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. In this scenario, Denver not only loses out on much needed playoff experience but their lottery pick likely wouldn't be high enough to draft one of the 2014 Draft's tantalizingly talented young players.
Andre Miller and Jordan Hamilton
How Miller and Hamilton became Nuggets: Another off-shoot of the Great Melo Trade of 2011. After a quarter-ish season with Felton didn't pan out in Denver, Ujiri traded Felton to Portland as part of a three-way trade that included the Dallas Mavericks first overall pick - Hamilton at 26 - coming to Denver.
In hindsight: A great trade. Felton was a bad fit in former head coach George Karl's "system" while Miller - who had played for Karl in Denver years earlier - was one of the legendary coach's favorite point guards of all time. And Hamilton is about as good as can be expected for a late first round pick.
Best case scenario from here: Squeezing another season out of the aging veteran Miller and the continued development of Hamilton, who under current head coach Brian Shaw is finally showing signs of the talent that made him a first round selection over two years ago.
Worst case scenario from here: The 37 year old Miller's gas tank finally empties and Hamilton's inconsistent play continues to the point that he cannot find a spot in the Nuggets regular rotation.
How Faried became a Nugget: Selected 22nd overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.
In hindsight: Along with Lawson, Faried is already proving to be one of the greatest draft steals in Denver franchise history.
Best case scenario from here: Could Faried be an All-Star someday? It's probably a stretch and The Manimal's production is down a bit under Shaw, but Faried continues to be one of the most energetic players in the NBA and were the Nuggets to propose trading him, 29 other teams would line up to acquire the young workhorse power forward.
Worst case scenario from here: Faried never develops a consistent mid-range jump shot nor improves his defensive skills, so when his athleticism diminishes so does Faried's production. Thankfully that's a long way off.
How McGee became a Nugget: On the cusp of the 2012 trade deadline, McGee became a Nugget as part of a three-team trade that involved Denver sending Nene Hilario to the Washington Wizards.
In hindsight: Am I still allowed to say the jury is out on this one? While Nene has been a major contributor in the Wizards' current fight for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, he remains oft-injured and his $39 million owed over the next three seasons could be onerous. McGee, meanwhile, has shown flashes of his giant upside (notably during his impressive 2011 playoff performance against the Los Angeles Lakers) but by any objective measure has been a huge disappointment. And McGee himself is due to be paid $34 million over the next three seasons.
Best case scenario from here: McGee develops into an All-Star center? I feel like we've been praying for this for some time now. And as time goes on, McGee becoming an All-Star is looking more and more like a prayer.
Worst case scenario from here: McGee proves to be a bust and trading Nene, despite his flaws, turns out to be a giant mistake.
Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller
How Fournier and Miller became Nuggets: Selected 20th and 38th overall, respectively, in the 2012 NBA Draft.
In hindsight: We could nitpick and argue that the Nuggets should have drafted Jared Sullinger, Miles Plumlee or Tony Wroten instead of Fournier, but it's too early to call Fournier's NBA career a success or failure. When given playing time, Fouriner appears to be productive ... but his production has slipped this season under Shaw to the point that Fournier appears to have been bounced out of the rotation altogether. Miller, meanwhile, is barely holding on to a roster spot but for a second round pick, he's been about as good as can be expected.
Best case scenario from here: Fournier becomes the Manu Ginobili 2.0 that many fans hope he can be. Miller somehow becomes an able small forward.
Worst case scenario from here: Both Fournier and Miller never "get it" and are bounced out of the NBA altogether when their rookie contracts are up. I don't see this happening for Fournier but am concerned for Miller's NBA future.
How Randolph became a Nugget: Signed as a free agent in the summer of 2012.
In hindsight: Costing less than $2 million per season, the 24 year old Randolph is a bargain by NBA standards and has been productive when given the opportunity to get on the floor by both Karl and Shaw.
Best case scenario from here: I'm over the "Randolph has huge upside" talk but see Randolph continuing to contribute for a long NBA career.
Worst case scenario from here: I don't see a lot of downside for Randolph. Sadly he'll probably be included in a future trade since his low salary could probably be plugged into a trade.
How Arthur became a Nugget: Part of a 2013 draft day trade that sent Koufos to Memphis and brought Arthur to Denver along with second round draftee Frenchman Joffrey Lauvergne.
In hindsight: Still not sure how I feel about this one. Arthur has been a solid contributor at power forward off the bench for the Nuggets while Koufos has been pulling his weight at the center position in Memphis. But with McGee out with a leg fracture and the Nuggets overloaded at the power forward position, one has to at least wonder if the Nuggets would be better served having Koufos around.
Best case scenario from here: I think we have a good sense of where Arthur's ceiling is as a player and he's not too far off it at present.
Worst case scenario from here: Like Randolph, I don't see a lot of downside for Arthur and he, too, will likely be included in a future trade as throw-in.
How Hickson became a Nugget: Hickson signed as a free agent last July for three years, $15 million.
In hindsight: It's hard not to like the Hickson signing. Just as he did in Portland, Hickson is filling in admirably at the center position during the absence of McGee and while he may not be the best defender in the world, he commands attention from opposing power forwards and centers. Moreover, he seems to be getting more and more comfortable playing alongside Faried despite them playing the exact same position.
Best case scenario from here: I think we're seeing it from Hickson with the caveat that he needs to improve his defense.
Worst case scenario from here: Hickson has bounced around a lot in his young career and I've never quite understood why. Is there something negative about Hickson that we just haven't uncovered yet?
How Foye became a Nugget: Foye was included in the July 2013 three-team trade that was the end result of Andre Iguodala abandoning ship from Denver to join the Golden State Warriors.
In hindsight: You can't talk about hindsight with Foye without mentioning Arron Afflalo. Afflalo - young, productive and under contract for years to go as a Nugget - was traded in the summer of 2012, along with a 2014 first round pick to Orlando, in a four-team traded that resulted in Iguodala becoming a Nugget and Dwight Howard becoming a Laker (at the time, the Nuggets were convinced they needed a ball stopper at the two-guard spot and Iguodala is considered one of the best defenders at his position). Despite knowing that Iguodala was an unrestricted-free-agent-to-be in 2013, Ujiri gambled on the rangy two-guard while giving up on the slightly younger Afflalo and parting with a future first round pick. So when Iguodala bolted for the Bay Area this past summer, current Nuggets GM Tim Connelly had to salvage the departure by acquiring Foye ... a player not half as good as Afflalo or Iguodala. In hindsight, trading Afflalo plus a 2014 first rounder for Iguodala was a mistake in the first place, as Afflalo is now playing at an All-Star caliber level in Orlando and one of the NBA's deepest drafts in recent memory looms in 2014.
Best case scenario: 30 years old and eight seasons in his NBA career, Foye is what he is - a serviceable starting two-guard who can give you 20 points occasionally but not regularly. By all accounts Foye is a great locker room presence, but the Nuggets sure could use Afflalo's 21.4 ppg right now.
Worst case scenario: Foye's downside is marginal, it's not like he's Ron Mercer, Yakhouba Diawara or other non-entities at the Nuggets' two-guard position that we've seen in the past.
How Robinson became a Nugget: Robinson was signed as a free agent in July for two years, $4.1 million.
In hindsight: It's no secret that I wasn't a big fan of the Robinson signing (despite the very reasonable price tag) and am not a big fan of his game. That said, Robinson has been inarguably solid and productive coming off the Nuggets bench and seems to be the engine behind one of the NBA's best benches right now.
Best case scenario: Like Foye, Robinson is what he is at this point in his career - a gunner off the bench who can single handedly save or kill your team, depending on the night. I just hope Robinson continues to play within himself and with his teammates and stays away from the "lone wolf" stuff that gets him in trouble on the court.
Worst case scenario: Robinson's "routine" wears everyone out in Denver - just as it did in New York, Boston, Oklahoma City and Chicago before - and the Nuggets look to move Robinson before finishing out his Denver contract.
SAVE THE DATE!!
Our next STIFFS NIGHT OUT will spread some holiday cheer on Saturday, December 28th as the Nuggets take on the Grizzlies at Memphis at 6pm Mountain Time. If you don't have family to spend time with or just want to get away from your family and join your fellow Stiffs, please join us at Jake's Food & Spirits for a 6pm tipoff. More details to come!