Happy Holidays to all our Stiffs readers! As we round the 2015 corner and head into 2016 the NBA basketball season and the NBA trade season really heats up. The trade deadline is a mere two months away (February 18th to be exact) and it is reasonable to surmise that the Denver Nuggets will be active in the trade market from now until then. Tim Connelly has shown he is willing to make a mid-season deal (he made four last year) and now in the final year of his contract Connelly has to feel some pressure to improve the roster if he wants to become the first GM to get a second contract in the Kroenke era. The Nuggets have the assets to make deals, but which are more valuable than others? In honor of the fallen editor of the now defunct Grantland, here are the Denver Nuggets trade value rankings. For the record, on the future draft picks I stuck with Denver's first round pick in 2016 and the first round picks they have acquired via trade as they don't own a second round pick until 2018 and projecting the value of first round picks that could be protected for the next five years would be an exercise in futility.
Group A: Wait...who?
24. Sani Becirovic
23. Xue Yuyang
22. Cenk Akyol
We start with the group of guys you've never heard of, yet for one reason or another Denver owns their rights and feasibly could toss them into a deal (Akyol in the Javale McGee trade a prime example). An interesting note on Yuyang, he was denied being allowed to come to the NBA by the Chinese Basketball Association in 2003 when he was drafted by Denver, making him the only Chinese player to be drafted and never make it to the NBA.
Group B: Ok, so is there more to this proposal or should I just hang up now?
21. Izzet Turkyilmaz
20. Kostas Papanikilaou
19. Nikola Radicevic
18. Portland Trail Blazers 2016 1st Round Pick
Turkyilmaz is close to being lumped into the "wait...who?" group but at 25 years old and 7'0" tall he still could feasibly wear an NBA uniform one day (summer league uniforms don't count). Radicevic is an intriguing prospect, one who the Nuggets certainly are high on as they brought him over for both a pre-draft workout and a little bit of summer league action and at 6'5" he has an asset you can't teach for a point guard: size. However, he's been dealing with a hip issue which could feasibly hinder his chances to come over to the NBA next season. At only 21 years old he still has value right now as a trade sweetener. Papanikilaou probably struggles to make a roster on about 27 other NBA teams so his value is extremely limited. The Portland pick is likely to convey as two second round picks, barring a playoff appearance this season or next from the Trailblazers.
Group C: I'm a playoff contender and I need a veteran role player to fill in a gap at the back end of my rotation
17. Mike Miller
16. J.J. Hickson
15. Randy Foye
14. Jameer Nelson
13. Darrell Arthur
It's somewhat a tale of opposites with Hickson/Foye versus Nelson/Miller/Arthur. Hickson and Foye are not all that valuable to the Denver Nuggets and with a fully healthy roster, neither would likely see a lot of playing time. They both have value in the right situation though. Foye presumably can be a shooter off the bench, even though he's been regressing in that role ever since he came to Denver. Still, he's been much better shooting in December and could continue that up to the deadline which gives him value. Hickson is the prototypical rebounding big who can be ideal for a team who needs that, and only that, at the end of their rotation. If you need a guy to play 15 minutes a game to spell your bigs while still being able to at least give you something on the court then Hickson has some value. Hickson and Foye also get some minimal value because they are on expiring contracts, though that is far less attractive in this exploding salary cap period.
Nelson, Miller and Arthur have far more value to the Nuggets than they would elsewhere. Denver relies on Nelson and Miller to be the veteran presence in the locker room, a need that is expounded by the culture they are trying to change and the fact that a 19 year old rookie is the face of the franchise. While this has tremendous value to the Nuggets, a playoff contender would presumably already have this type of leadership in place. Both have proven to still have something left in the tank (shocking to say that about Miller but he might run the offense better than anyone on the team) and if you're in need of a backup point guard or a 15 minute a game sharp shooter then Nelson and Miller have value. Arthur has been a nice surprise this season and is the only big on Denver's roster who has experience and the ability to provide at least a modicum of spacing. He's less valuable on a team with more solid role players, but by far he's the cream of the crop in this group as he can legitimately be the 7th guy in a rotation on a playoff team.
Group D: We're not making the playoffs and I'm interested in some decent long term assets of yours
12. Wilson Chandler
11. Houston Rockets 2016 1st round pick
10. Memphis Grizzlies 2016 1st round pick
9. Joffrey Lauvergne
It pains me that Wilson is in this group, but with his season ending hip surgery he has no value to anyone this season so his only value is to a team looking to the future. He is the highest risk and highest reward in the group and a team looking toward playoff contention next season (the New Orleans Pelicans is a team that sticks out here) could really benefit by being willing to wait for him to get healthy and gamble that he'll return to form, which is a mitigated gamble given his favorable contract. Prior to his injury Chandler was playing very well in the pre-season. Both the first round picks are likely to be late 1st rounders but the Houston pick has an outside chance of turning into a second rounder if they miss the playoffs this season whereas the Memphis pick has an outside chance of being a late lottery pick if Memphis regresses after this season, a more reasonable scenario than one might think. Lauvergne probably has the least amount of upside among Denver's first and second year players (still has a significant amount) which barely saddles him into this group. The French big man has shown he's capable of playing at this level right now and given his age he could be very attractive to a team building long term.
Group E: You've got some nice looking young talent here and I want it
8. Denver Nuggets 2016 1st round pick
7. Gary Harris
6. Will Barton
5. Nikola Jokic
Denver's 1st round pick in the next season projects to be a decent if not high lottery pick, which makes it almost as valuable as the three players in this group. Each one of these guys has shown they have several years ahead of them in the league and each one is showing this season that they are very capable of playing, perhaps even starring, in the Association. This makes them slightly more valuable than a lottery pick which carries a higher level of risk to it. Harris, despite being undersized for a two guard, is a tenacious and gifted defender and has very respectable shooting percentages, a big turn around from his rookie year. He bottoms out as a prototypical three and D guy but has upside of a stud two guard. He's not likely to put a team over the top this year but would be a major boost to any rebuilding effort. Barton on the other hand is a legitimate sixth man of the year candidate and can most definitely help a contending team out this year. A team such as the Oklahoma City Thunder could really use the added punch to their bench that Barton would provide, in a situation like theirs he truly could be the piece to put them over the top (unless your a Dion Waiters believer...I am not). Jokic, in my opinion, has the most upside of this group and has true superstar potential in him. I'm not a big fan of per 36 minute stats but it's worth noting that Jokic's averages extended over thirty six minutes a game would have him averaging a double double. Beyond what he brings in touch, shooting and footwork, his passing ability is without a doubt an elite skill, which is very rare in a big man and even more valuable in this growing age of point forwards and play making fours. Out of the entire group he's the least likely to help a team right away but with a ceiling as high as his he's definitely the most valuable and I wonder if he shouldn't be higher on the list.
Group F: I need a starter to put me over the top and I'm willing to pay the price to get him
4. Kenneth Faried
3. Jusuf Nurkic
2. Danilo Gallinari
Faried has been playing much more like the Faried everyone remembers and became enamored with during the FIBA World Cup. He's a rebound shy of averaging a double double which is still good for 14th in the league and 4th among power forwards (No Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins is not a power forward). He's putting up stats that are pretty consistent with what he's always done but doing it in the fewest minutes per game since his rookie season which makes his PER tops on the team. Because of his team USA fame Faried gives you brand recognition to go with with starter production and his contract, like all of the Nuggets, is quite reasonable making him a very valuable commodity. Nurkic might be a little too high here but only because of his injury. At the end of last season in terms of trade value he'd have been #1 on the entire roster. In fact, at last year's trade deadline he was deemed the one untouchable on the roster. With the injury, and the quicker than expected development of Jokic, it's reasonable to assume Nurkic is no longer untouchable, though it would still take a metaphorical king's ransom to get him. He can serve as the anchor for your defense and has shown he's not afraid to go toe to toe with some of the biggest and baddest players in the league. During rehab he's had a lot of time to work on his shooting touch and has shown flashes of a mid range game in the past. Mores so than probably any other player in the league Nurkic looks like a young Marc Gasol. Only 21 years of age and standing 7'0" 280lbs, Nurkic has tremendous upside and the ability to start right now on numerous playoff contenders.
Gallinari is a legitimate third option on a title contender, which can't be said about any other player on this Nuggets team. Gallo looks like he has fully recovered from his knee injury and has been the best player all around on Denver's squad this season. His recent ankle sprain does not appear to be serious but fairly or unfairly injury concerns do dampen his trade value slightly. Still, Gallo possesses a combination of height, athleticism, play making ability and shooting touch that is rare in the NBA. Though his defense has not been as strong this season, he has the ability to be a stalwart on that side of the ball, Kevin Durant even once called him (along with Tony Allen) the toughest defender in the NBA. A team like the Indiana Pacers could add Gallo to their roster as their starting power forward and suddenly be a nightmarish match up for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Group G: It's been a long day, I've been drinking and I figured "why not" so I'm calling about...
1. Emmanuel Mudiay
Mudiay is unquestionably untouchable unless a team is offering up another equally important franchise piece and with the way the Nuggets view Mudiay that would be a short list indeed. It would take a disgruntled superstar demanding a trade to pry Mudiay loose from Denver's clutches. It would take a Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins type of situation and with Denver not having the draw to keep a superstar when he hits free agency it would take a truly unique situation/offer for the Nuggets to entertain trading their young point guard. Shooting woes, rookie lumps and now ankle injuries aside, Mudiay isn't going anywhere. He still has shown on numerous occasions why prior to the 2014-2015 season he was projected by many to be the #1 pick in the draft and looks the most likely of anyone on the roster to develop into a true superstar. His court vision is elite and his biggest struggles are probably the most fixable type of struggles a player can have (ball security, shooting prowess, finishing at the rim). He's not getting any smaller and his intangibles are one of his biggest assets. To put it another way he has "it". Add in the fact that he is just a mere 19 years old and he easily is #1 on the Denver Nuggets trade value chart.