I've always loved scenario-based games, of the "what do you DO?!?!?" variety...
I believe I've admitted this before, but I used to be a huge Bill Simmons fan. I'm not saying he's bad now, but he was a better writer when writing was primarily what he did. Now he's gotten so caught up in the ESPN-making-money-machine, that he's multimedia personified. And who the hell could blame him? He has some amazing writers on Grantland, and the 30 for 30 stuff was stunning. Both ventures a wonderful reminder of why sports connects with us on a deeper level, and why sports, in its way, is the only true reality TV. That said, the Simmons who wrote more was a better writer. But...
Bill still wheels out his yearly big-ticket columns for things like the semi-recent N.B.A. trade value column (I kind of hate the new ESPN.com design, by the way. Maybe I should give it more than a day), where he has the cool and enviable task of rating the top "We won't even talk to you about this trade" guys in the league. He gives the top 60, and therefore you start the conversation levels at someone you'd value in a trade.
Two Denver Nuggets made his list this year. With Ty Lawson at 54th-best value in the league - in the group of "I'm Hanging Up and Calling You Back From a Pay Phone", and Jusuf Nurkic at 47th-best value in the league. Nurk's category was called, "I Know, I Know, We're Being Irrational."
Absent those two, that left me wondering what levels of trade value the rest of the Nuggets squad would have, and realized that if you're doing it based on your favorite team's roster as a whole, it makes a very different picture than the best 60 values in the league. I decided to try with this Denver squad, trying to take their current contracts into account as well... Suddenly I had my scenario-based "WHAT DO YOU DO?!?!?!"
I threw together a group for each of the current Nuggets squad to say where my perceived values would be when looking at what it would take to entertain a trade each of these guys. As always, you'd run your Nuggets differently than I would. From the bottom, all shorthand/rounding for salaries in millions:
Category J: "It's probably a ‘yes', would you like me to back the truck up and throw in some ginsu knives?"
Come on down, J.J. Hickson. While Hickson only hits the cap for 5.4 this year and 5.6 next, J.J.'s defense is deplorable, and his offense often comes at the expense of others.
Category I: "Let's do this thing and run before they figure out what happened."
Kenneth Faried's deal is beautiful this season at 2.2, and his production has certainly earned him a raise. But his strong Olympic performance against players he also typically bests in the NBA and fan-favorite status inflated his value to a sizeable increase starting next year. While nights like last night's double-double bright spot against the Jazz game was a fun reminder of how potent the Manimal can be, starting at 11.2 next year and climbing for a few more, the Manimal's deal will palatable to several teams whose caps will increase next year, and can afford to hide Faried's defensive liabilities.
Category H: "I Just... Don't... Know..."
Ian Clark, it's almost not fair you're on this list. Your zero points last night kept you at 112 for your career. Making the league minimum... Uh... I have no idea. I've not even heard of Belmont University, much to the dismay of Nashville residents. Welcome to the Nuggets, I guess I don't know if I'd trade you. So I don't know if I'd be heartbroken if we did. Ian Clark's mom hates me now.
Category G: "As long as the deal seems decent, let's talk"
Randy Foye should have been the Nuggets three-point single-season champ last year, narrowly missing Dale Ellis' mark, after all the class and comportment he showed last year. This season, he's been just as solid a presence off the floor, but not nearly the presence on it, with a career-low FG% and a dip from beyond the arc to 35%. At 3.1 this year, and 3.3 next, you could get this value in a lot of places.
Darrell Arthur has been a fierce defender at times for the Nuggets, but between a multitude of injuries and the undoing of his moneymaker shot (can we please kick whoever decided Darth needed to stretch his range to three? Now he's struggling from all over the floor.) Arthur's defense is still solid, and his contract is up at year's end, so a trade isn't really even in the cards, but... If we re-signed him, you'd want an attractive deal at this point. Darth counted 3.5 against the cap this last year.
Category F: "Well, you're not getting them for NOTHING..."
Erick Green is young and on a rookie deal. He's not shown a lot just yet, but has had flashes here and there, and is learning the system. Unless he's an add-in on a larger trade, you might as well hang onto him and evaluate your talent evaluators at the same time.
Gary Harris is young and on a rookie deal. He's not shown... uh... Yeah, just read the paragraph above.
Category E: "You show me yours, and I'll show you mine"
Joffrey Lauvergne has shown just enough smarts and fundamentals to garner some decent leeway on a rookie deal. The only way he falls into a trade is like the previous rookies, but I would try to dangle him last. Well, next to last, as we'll see soon.
Jameer Nelson is on a very budget-friendly 2.7 contract for this year and 2.9 for next and has proved a veteran voice and solid player for the Nuggets. Though he can be a part of a bigger deal, I hang onto the value I got here otherwise.
Category D: "You're not going to like what I'm asking for"
Will Barton eats up less than a mil a year on a deal that expires at year's end. In other words, lock him up for a sweet deal in the sub-to-mid-two range and be glad for what you snagged in the Arron Afflalo trade.
Speaking of Wills, Wilson Chandler is on the books for 6.8 this year and 7.2 next, and has been one of Denver's steadiest contributors through the season. While his mild mannered temperament gets made fun of, he's been the bedrock of this season's team in a tough year. Wilson's percentages are scarily on par with his career averages, and he'll likely crack 1,000 points this season for the third time in his career. (41 to go, better not have too many more contests like the Jazz game)
Category C: "Look, you need a guy, we need a guy..."
I spent most of the last several years convinced Ty Lawson could be one of the few Nugget-for-life guys out there. Unfortunately, with the glut of great point guard play available these days, having one of your best paid players be your third-or-fourth best players is on the edge of unmanageable, and Ty has shown that he's still a flash on the court, and still not a leader off it. He's a great third banana for a team with larger aspirations, and still has value while he has his speed. Check back in when that speed hits Andre Miller mph down the road, and watch the value between here and there plummet.
Category B: "It's probably a ‘no'. You'd better not be wasting my time here."
Jusuf Nurkic is on a rookie deal, and has shown flashes of some amazing abilities, both in learning and toughness. While he seems to have hit a bit of a barrier of late, a solid offseason and continued growth portend good things.
Category A: "You're going to want to surprise me with something big"
Danilo Gallinari is locked into a reasonable 10.9 this year and 11.6 the next, and showed flashes of the Gallo of old coming into the end of the season, including a 40 point game last month. If you were looking for a guy to build something around, you could do worse than a guy who is a defensive stud, and can score in a variety of ways on offense, including creating his own shot if needed. If Gallinari is your second banana, you're in good shape. So the only offers I'm listening to for Gallo are for first bananas.
That's my pecking order, Nuggets Nation. What's yours? Who's the easiest and hardest for you to trade amongst the team if they were your Nuggets?