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Nate's Top 8 Denver Nuggets trades

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A look at one blogger's favorite trades during his lifetime following the Denver Nuggets.

Did anyone ever think Nick Van Exel would be a coach?
Did anyone ever think Nick Van Exel would be a coach?
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

My family moved to Parker, Colorado from Conifer in 1988; when I was just six years-old. I had no idea what moving meant, and was unsure why we had to pack up all our stuff. The biggest question I had at the time was: Who are we trading houses with? You see, I thought in order to move that you had to swap houses with people. I wondered what the family was like that was going to move from Parker to Conifer, so that we could have their Parker digs. I also wondered if we'd keep in touch with them ... you know, in case they had questions about the house or whatever.

After my folks explained how real estate worked, we were off to Parker, and our new five-acre lot. Now in Conifer we grew up on some land, and our "yard" backed up to a forest. It was easily one of the best places for a kid with an imagination to live. Parker was completely different. There weren't any trees, we were living on the plains, and I was a country bumpkin. We had an arena where my dad and his friends would team rope, a barn, and behind the barn on a hill was a big dog run. Next to the dog run there was a small pile of junk the previous owners failed to clean up. In that junk pile was a basketball rim attached to one of the most broken down backboards this kid had ever seen. I didn't care, I just wanted a hoop, my first real hoop.

After bugging my dad, he decided to help me get that hoop up, so I could begin my journey to the NBA. I don't know where we found the rusted out pole that we attached the backboard to, but we all could have used tetanus shots after handling that thing. We dug a hole, mixed and poured some concrete in there, set the pole in, measured where to place the rim, and boom - I was in business! I soon realized that I would need a net for the hoop, so I could tell if shots went in (and so I didn't have to chase the damn ball all over my dirt court, felt like Ricky Roe before Blue Chips).

I can't remember when, but my dad must have felt bad for me shooting on that old crummy hoop, and for a birthday or Christmas I got a brand spanking new backboard and rim. It was an epic day, and we took down the old crappy backboard, painted the rusty pole a nice light-gray, and I was stylin'! My two older sisters didn't have much interest in playing hoops, and I didn't mind. I spent hours upon hours shooting, and pretending I was a Denver Nugget playing alongside Dikembe Mutombo, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Robert Pack, and LaPhonso Ellis. That was the team I grew up with, those early 1990s Nuggets captured my fandom.

I still remember the Chris Jackson rookie card (NBA Hoops) I got and how excited I was to see him play. But nothing topped the day I picked up the Denver Post to see that the Nuggets had traded for Nick Van Exel, one of my all-time favorite college players out of Cincinnati. I couldn't believe Denver's luck, and I was blown away that Nick the Quick was going to be playing for the hometown team.

In that light, I'm going to go through my list of the Top 8 Nuggets trades that I loved at the time they happened. I wish I could list trades like the Chris Jackson (Rauf) draft pick deal, but I don't remember it. I wish I could list when the Nuggets wheeled-and-dealed for Alex English, but I wasn't alive in Feb. of 1980. So, please list your memorable Nuggets trades, even if one of them mirrors mine and tell us why you loved the deal!

Nate's Top 8 Memorable Nuggets Trades:

8.) June 26th, 2002: Nuggets acquire Marcus Camby, Nene Hilario, and Mark Jackson from the New York Knicks for Antonio McDyess, the draft rights to Frank Williams, and a 2003 second-round pick (Maciej Lampe).

Was I bothered by the fact that Camby was coming off a season in which he only appeared in 29 games for the Knicks? Not really. I still remembered the Camby that I watched dominate at the University of Massachusetts. Sure, I may have only seen him play one time at UMass, but that was enough. Right?!? The Cambyman also had NBA success with the Raptors and Knicks, and even played in the Finals in 1999.

I was never a Mark Jackson fan. He looked more like a YMCA player than an NBA player by the time I started paying attention. I didn't give his re-acquisition much thought, and neither did the Nuggets as they waived him about a month later on Sept. 27th.

Nene was an interesting piece. He was the 7th pick in the draft, so I remember thinking he must have sparked enough interest in scouts, but this was also a time when drafting foreign born unknown players was becoming popular; no matter if the guy was actually good. Remember, the Nuggets had JUST blown the 5th pick on Nikoloz Tskitishvili; when I was desperate for them to take Caron Butler. The highlights of Nene that were shown of him with the Brazilian National Team were good, he looked athletic and big, and they said he played well versus Team USA (always a bonus! ha). I had some hope for Nene, but I'm not sure how much.

7.) July 13th, 2009: Nuggets acquire Arron Afflalo, Walter Sharpe, and everybody's favorite player: Cash Considerations from the Detroit Pistons for a 2011 second-round pick (Vernon Macklin).

The next trade will also showcase the Nuggets getting a rising talent for basically nothing, and the Nuggets did that here with the Afflalo trade, too. This felt like another Mark Warkentien special, where Denver was picking up a 23 year-old guard who shot 40% from three-point land in 107 attempts in his sophomore season, but was virtually unknown. Always an eye for talent, Wark and Company struck gold here, and the promise of Afflalo came through.

This just felt like a good trade from the beginning, and Afflalo proved to be a mainstay that George Karl could rely on, and his teammates could find for open three, after open three.

6.) July 20th, 2006: Nuggets acquire J.R. Smith from the Chicago Bulls for Howard Eisley, a 2007 second-round pick (JamesOn Curry), and a 2007 second-round pick (Aaron Gray).

I was stocked for the Nuggets to acquire the 20 year-old former 18th overall pick of the 2004 draft by the New Orleans Hornets. There were rumors of the Nuggets interest in Smith throughout the season, and after the Hornets traded Smith to the Bulls (along with P.J. Brown for Tyson Chandler, yes TYSON FREAKING CHANDLER!), I thought Denver's hopes were dashed. But talent obsessed Mark Warkentien wasn't going to let his pursuit of Smith be a failed venture. Just six days after Smith was traded to the Bulls, Wark scooped him up in the above deal. From the Nuggets' article on the trade:

"J.R. is an athletic young talent who can really shoot the basketball," said Warkentien. "He still hasn't seen his 21st birthday and his potential excites us."

Man, I was pumped. After watching guys like: Greg Buckner, DerMarr Johnson, Voshon Lenard, Rodney White (reminded me of a bigger J.R.), Wesley Person (the shooting specialist!), Julius Hodge, and Ruben Patterson come and go, I was tantalized by the prospects of having a shooting guard that could play his next 10+ seasons next to Carmelo Anthony.

Smith obviously never lived up to his potential in Denver, but he was an exciting player and will forever be remembered by Nuggets fans for his exciting play (and some frustrations) in the Mile High City. I'll never forget this 360 alley-oop jam against the Timberwolves.

5.) Feb. 22nd, 2011: The Melo trade.

2/22/20111 Denver New York Minnesota
1.) Kosta Koufos Carmelo Anthony 2015 2nd (Richaun Holmes)
2.) Wilson Chandler Chauncey Billups Eddy Curry
3.) Danilo Gallinari Anthony Carter Anthony Randolph
4.) Ray Felton Shelden Williams
5.) Timofey Mozgov Corey Brewer
6.) Cash Considerations
7.) 2012 2nd (Quincy Miller)
8.) 2013 2nd (Romero Osby)*
9.) 2014 1st (Dario Saric)**
10.) 2016 1st Pick Swap

*Nuggets traded that 2013 2nd Round pick to Orlando in the Andre Iguodala trade. 
**Nuggets traded that 2014 1st Round pick to Orlando in the Andre Iguodala trade.

This certainly wasn't the most exciting trade, but the fact that Melo was leaving left the Nuggets with just a couple options. I was not a fan of the New Jersey Nets deals that was centered around Derrick Favors. Although, I think I may have written something about Favors comparing to Tim Duncan or something insane. While Favors has been doing well with the Utah Jazz, I was more in tune with what the Knicks could offer.

It seems like Jeff Morton and I had daily conversations about which Knicks we were hopeful that Masai Ujiri could pluck from New York. Morton was very high on Gallinari, I was pumped about Chandler's game. We were hopeful the team could get both guys, but we thought there was a chance that only one might be made available. It turned out that only Amar'e Stoudemire and Landry Fields would be the remaining starters left intact, and the Nuggets were able to get both Gallo and Chandler, making a couple local yokels very happy. At the time, I was hopefully that Mozgov could turn into a starter, but we didn't totally know what we had in him. It sucked losing Chauncey Billups, but at the time I was fine turning the team over to Ty Lawson, excited about it even. (In hindsight, I hated losing Billups in that trade.)

It was the deal that set the precedent for "superstar" trades, and one that is still serving the Nuggets well in 2015 and hopefully 2016 too (pick swap!!).

4.) June 28th, 1995: Nuggets acquire the draft rights to Antonio McDyess (2nd overall pick) and veteran Randy Woods from the Los Angeles Clippers for Rodney Rogers and the draft rights to Brent Barry (15th overall pick).

I had legitimately seen McDyess dominate a few games for the University of Alabama, so when the trade was announced, I freaked out. Never had the Nuggets had such a high draft pick, and this guy looked like a total stud. The only thing I knew about Brent Barry was that he was the son of NBA legend Rick Barry, and I couldn't care less that he was never a Nugget. Losing Rogers stunk, he was turning into a key player for the Nuggets, and one of my favorites. But I was happy the Nuggets were getting a prized player in 'Dyess.

3.) November 3, 2008: Nuggets acquire Chauncey Billups and Cheikh Samb from the Detroit Pistons for Allen Iverson.

I was pretty stoked when the Nuggets first traded for Iverson, but it sort of felt like Denver was getting a guy just past his prime. It was still an amazing deal, but I wasn't sure how AI and Melo would play together. I was interning at Fox 31 at the time, and we got a heads up on the trade a few minutes before it was announced - thanks to the reporting of Eric Goodman. So, I remember feeling a bit "in the know" at the time, and it was kind of cool; as I was a college kid just learning the ropes.

So, after the AI experiment stalled, and the Nuggets moved him for Billups, it was considered a big win for Detroit. I couldn't figure out why the national folks weren't seeing that the Nuggets were obtaining a true point guard and leader that could help take the team to a level they never got to with Iverson. My buddy Rich and I were beside ourselves with joy over the deal, and it proved to be an amazing trade as Billups helped lead Denver to the Western Conference Finals. I own two Nuggets jerseys, and Billups' #7 from that WCF run is one of them. Although it was store bought, I didn't steal if from Billups ... should have though.

Remember this Hornets playoff game where Billups hit 3,333 three-pointers!

2.) July 15th, 2004: Nuggets acquire Kenyon Martin in a sign-and-trade with the New Jersey Nets for three first round picks that became: 2005 was Joey Graham, 2006 picks were Renaldo Balkman and Marcus Williams.

Many people argue that Denver bid against themselves for K-Mart, but the blue light special was also on with the Atlanta Hawks. Those three first rounders didn't turn into squat, and Martin was a monster with the Nets. I still remember thinking that he was the third best power forward in the league at the time, right behind Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Denver now had a legitimate force on the inside to help Nene, Camby and Melo. It was going to be awesome.

That whole 2003-04 season, we knew that Martin was going to be a target for the Nuggets. My buddy Rory and I were dancing to the visions of Kenyon running through our minds. You just knew that the Nuggets were going to get him, and when they did, I thought it was one of the biggest "signings" in team history. Denver had talked a big time player into coming to this dusty old cow town (shout out to Jim Armstrong for that reference, Denver Post!).

Say what you will about the injuries, the playoff blowup between Martin and George Karl, but I loved Martin. I've heard stories of what it was like having him in the locker room, and he might have been a bit crazy or intimidating, but I loved it. He was the Nuggets' tough guy and defensive quarterback, who could wow with his athleticism. I'll never be mad at Martin for his body betraying him, and I loved watching him play for the Nuggets.

1.) June 24th, 1998: Nuggets acquire Nick Van Exel from the Los Angeles Lakers for Tony "El Busto" Battie and the draft rights to Tyronn Lue.

I tell this story all the time, but my mom's school had a draft pool for the NCAA Tournament and you got assigned a team and collected points based upon how far that team went. We got Cincinnati and Van Exel, the transfer from Trinity Valley Community College, led that team into the Final Four where they lost to the Fab Five of Michigan. The next season, he took the Bearcats to the Elite Eight. Crazy college career, but one that has linked my mom and me to Nick the Quick forever.

As I said above, when I got the paper that showed the trade, I was beside myself! I couldn't believe the Nuggets now had my favorite college player on the team, it was amazing.

At the first NBA Summer League I attended four years ago, I was talking to former Nuggets assistant Kim Hughes when Van Exel came over and said hello to Hughes (they were together in Denver). Hughes introduced me to Van Exel and all I could do was shake his hand and tried to blurt out that I loved watching him in Denver. It was a surreal moment.

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That's my list that I remember. What trades did you love at the time they happened?