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Denver Nuggets: The Ones That Got Away

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Over the years, some close-but-no-cigar moments and players have slipped through the collective grasp of the Nuggets faithful.

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She was a redhead. It was always going to be trouble from there. It was a couple of years of laughter and bordering-on-unbearable intensity before we both realized we were better off on separate paths. From the moment we split I knew I was better off. But it bugged me. Like awake at 4 a.m. bugged me. We were great. Great is a rare thing. It's easy to get over the ones that were never close in the first place. But the ones that were almost perfect? Those are the toughest ones to get over.

Exactly like this damned Ty Lawson breakup.

Don't get me wrong. In this metaphor, Emmanuel Mudiay is the hot chick who just moved in across the hall and smiles at you a lot. Things are NOT looking so bad. But there's still that nagging pain of this bad breakup with Ty that just kills you, and it finally came to me why I'd hated the Ty Lawson trade so much. It wasn't that we didn't get what value we could out of an abominable situation, it was what Ty had so recently represented to this franchise. It was just over 2,000 days ago that Ty Lawson threw this bit of nasty down on D.J. Mbenga...

...and yet here we are today.

It got me to thinking about the Denver Nuggets many trades over the years, of which RealGM enumerates nearly 300 individual player transactions that qualified as some form of trade during the Nuggets NBA tenure.

But what are the trades I was wanting to wrestle with? Not the best, (though there are great ones) and not the worst (there are far too many), but the trades that hurt me most deeply for what they represented to me as a Nuggets fan. I went back through those 288 transactions, just to see what the top five "SONUVA!" moments were. I have weird hobbies. Here's what hurt, headed to number one.

#5: Un-Ty-ed (July 20, 2015)

As detailed above, I get what happened and why, it's been well-covered locally and nationally. The most painful part of the Ty Lawson trade were the glimmers you saw often enough to make semi-cogent arguments about Ty's All-Star candidacy, and steadily improving numbers. At his best, Ty led a 57-win Nuggets team. All of this, in just 2,000 days. Poof.

#4: Re-rolling the Dice (June 26, 2002)

Sure, Denver netted Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson in the second dismissal of Antonio McDyess from the squad, but after the way the team had romanced Antonio back into the fold - breaking the hearts of Suns fans everywhere - McDyess deserved more loyalty and consideration from Denver on his second trip. All of the promise Dice showed over and between his Nuggets stints always seemed a bit tarnished by how Denver broke his heart twice. Twice-baked McDyess.

#3: Trimming the Fat (June 21, 1990)

Denver sent their finest point guard packing when Fat Lever was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 1990. Fat spent nearly two of the next four seasons in Dallas dealing with injuries before retirement, so one could argue the Nuggets shipped him off at the perfect moment. But few trades hurt worse than seeing a new and great brand of point guard play shuffled away. Just a season or two before, Fat had me thinking the Nuggets could go all the way with a couple of great additions.

#2: Setting Skywalker (June 16, 1982)

David Thompson had seen his finest years on a court by the time he was shipped to the Seattle Supersonics, and the Nuggets had a good idea of how severe his substance abuse issues were at that point in time. But as a teenage Nuggets fan, it felt like my team had shipped away THE player. The guy who had scored 73 in a game. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant have ever scored more. Thompson was MJ before Michael Jordan. The smoother version of Dr. J. The dominant player in every game he played, when at his peak. That guy, on MY team. His trade signaled the end of hopes that we could find some way to surround his transcendent talent with the pieces to win a ring.

#1: The drama was not mellow

The Nuggets were not fleeced in a single trade proposition listed on this page, and the multi-player Carmelo Anthony deal has been pointed to repeatedly by pundits around the league as an excellent example of a team (Denver) extracting value from a losing proposition. I love Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and what the value of Timofey Mozgov and Ray Felton could bring. I'm even happy Melo got to go home and play for his beloved Knicks. But...

The packaging of Denver's best example of a hometown hero in Chauncey Billups as a part of the Knicks trade is still the most painful change of direction the Denver Nuggets have taken for yours truly. To see our guy... Denver's guy, be the missing piece in a complex puzzle and the bearer of a two-wins-from-the-big-show Nuggets squad... it just goes to show how fragile a moment winning a ring can be. Thank goodness our hometown hero does have a ring and Finals MVP of his own to show for his talents.

Wow. Cathartic. As always, here are a couple of tangents to this list.

FAVORITE TRADE IN NUGGETS HISTORY:

Small potatoes to most, but in February of 2005 a four-player trade sent away Stiffs punching bag Nikoloz Tskitishvili for Eduardo Najera. Yeah, there were two other guys involved, but Eddie was one of my favorite Nuggets of all time. Traded for Skita. Winner winner.

SADDEST NON-TRADE LOSS OF A NUGGETS PLAYER:

A no-brainer, but letting Dikembe Mutumbo go for nothing was... possibly the greatest single player loss in Nuggets history. And according to an interview with the Denver Post, Deke apparently wanted to stay in Denver. I may actually chew through this pencil.

What about you, Nuggets Nation? Of every player shown the door in Nuggets history, who were the ones that got away? Which trades still hurt when you think of them today?