Now that all players (well most all), regardless of whether they signed a new contract in the offseason or not, are available to be traded the NBA trade season is officially open. Tonight we got the first whispers of potential trade targets on the Denver Nuggets. According to Chris Haynes of ESPN, multiple teams, he specifically notes the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards, are gauging the availability of Will Barton.
Washington, New Orleans among teams reached out to Denver to gauge availability of Will Barton, league sources tell ESPN. Exploratory now.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) December 21, 2016
No word is given by Haynes as to whether or not the Nuggets would be interested in dealing Barton and he certainly makes it sound like this trade rumor is being generated by teams calling the Nuggets, not the other way around. It makes sense that other franchises would see what the availability of Barton is. Given the Nuggets drafted Jamal Murray seventh overall, and Gary Harris has returned from injury looking better than ever, Barton is somewhat of a surplus. However the Nuggets mainly are using him as the back up small forward so its not as if Barton is a non-contributor in the rotation. Denver could overcome this by sliding Wilson Chandler back into the reserve small forward role, return Kenneth Faried to the starting power forward role and then give the backup power forward role to Darrell Arthur. However, given the success of the newly formed starting lineup, and given everything coach Michael Malone has said about sticking with this group for now it would certainly be a shock to the system to start all that shuffling now. There are other options too such as giving Barton’s minutes to Juancho Hernangomez or Alonzo Gee or you know, whomever the Nuggets received in return for trading Barton.
That’s the million dollar question now isn’t it? Who would the Nuggets be able to get for Barton? He had a stellar year last season as Denver’s sixth man and has shown he has the ability to be a starter while Harris was out with a foot injury. That type of player should be able to generate at least a first round pick as compensation if the Nuggets went the compiling assets route, but that doesn’t seem to be the type of direction that is in line with where this team is at in it’s rebuilding process. Draft picks were things the Nuggets traded for two years ago, now those picks are promising young players and Denver needs to add talented veterans, perhaps star talent veterans, to take the next step and make the playoffs.
The two teams Haynes specifically mentioned, the Pelicans and Wizards, both have star players in John Wall and Anthony Davis respectively but Barton alone would land nowhere near that type of player and the availability of either of those stars is highly unlikely (in Davis’ case, never gonna happen). Outside of those two guys though there’s not much that could really be construed as a way to improve the Nuggets. The Pelicans are an especially difficult trade partner to find a deal that helps the Nuggets. A guy who might make some sense would be Solomon Hill. Denver would be swapping out Barton’s offense for a solid perimeter defender in Hill. However, they would also be taking the short end of the stick on the value end of things, at least in terms of production. Also, Barton has an extremely team friendly deal, Hill not so much.
The Wizards meanwhile do have an intriguing set of players. The first guy who comes to mind is Otto Porter Jr who is finally starting to look like the former lottery pick that he is, which of course begs the question why would Washington want to trade him? The answer is they probably don’t. It makes much more sense for the Wizards to be trying to add Barton as a way to supplement Porter and Bradley Beal off the bench. Kelly Oubre Jr is an intriguing player at just 21 years of age but it makes little sense for the Nuggets to trade Barton to get younger and further back on the development curve. What might make the most sense from Denver’s side is a deal for Markieff Morris which would keep much of the scoring punch that Barton provides but also allows Chandler to shift back to his natural position of small forward.
So there you have it, Markieff Morris or Solomon Hill, not exactly moving the needle. It’s important to note that Haynes states the talks are just exploratory at this point and that there were multiple teams who have inquired. Given the roster compositions of the Pelicans and Wizards a direct player for player swap seems unlikely. However there certainly is the possibility of a third team getting involved or a bigger trade package that involves Barton, or you know, nothing at all. Ah, trade season!