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Blackburn and Lewis: An end of year email conversation

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With 2016 coming to an end (thank God) it’s time to usher in the new year with some trade chatter.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Every once in a while, Ryan and Daniel will email each other about NBA topics, and then they decide that the emails should be published. This time Ryan and Daniel decided to banter around some NBA trade talk. Daniel sent the first email out a week ago.

DANIEL: Ryan, the Nuggets are on their third starting lineup "concept" with Nikola Jokic starting at center. With the team mostly healthy and with a rotation that looks like it might stick, let's talk about shaking things up with a trade.

Free agents that were signed during the offseason are eligible to be traded now, and there's about two months until the trade deadline (February 23). The Nuggets have a full 15-man roster, including Alonzo Gee on a non-guaranteed contract. They have two first round picks in the upcoming draft, their own and a protected pick from the Grizzlies.

The Nuggets are right in there for the eighth seed - what would be the first move you would try to make happen?

RYAN: After the most recent starting lineup change, this Denver Nuggets team is so much different than they were just two games ago. Because of that, their needs have changed drastically. From my perspective, the biggest needs for this team don’t come from the starting lineup. Mudiay, Harris, Gallinari, Chandler, and Jokic seem to be the starting lineup going forward, unless a star power forward emerges in my opinion.

Even then, the places where the Nuggets are most likely to find an upgrade are at backup point guard and a backup for Gallinari and Chandler. Right now, the Nuggets have some of the worst point guard options in basketball, and both Gallo and Chandler are being relied upon for heavy minutes.

Two options that stick out to be are Ricky Rubio and Jared Dudley. They are veteran players in bad situations where their respective teams should start playing the young players more. Since the Nuggets are under the salary cap as much as they are, they wouldn’t have to match salaries and would only have to move a small piece and a draft pick.

What about you, Daniel?

DANIEL: I agree with your opinion that the Nuggets starting lineup seems pretty well set. Since guys like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Paul Millsap, or Demarcus Cousins aren't exactly on the trade block, it's hard to figure out a marquee player the Nuggets could get that would improve that lineup.

I do think that the biggest area of need for the Nuggets is a backup forward. Barton can play some minutes at small forward, and Hernangomez can play some power forward, but it would be nice to have a younger, healthier option than just Darrell Arthur on the roster.

A player I've been interested in and think could be available is Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls. He's losing minutes to Doug McDermott, and has struggled to produce consistently under Coach Fred Hoiberg. He's having a bad season, but could potentially benefit from a change in scenery.

He'd be a more offensive option at backup power forward, while Arthur is a better defensive option. He's a player with a lot of talent, is young, and could be worth taking a gamble on. I'd rather the Nuggets trade for him than someone like Jared Dudley, who has really slowed down with age.

Plus, the Nuggets have had success with one Nikola - why not two?

I have a question for you that some Nuggets fans will probably get rankled over - should the Nuggets explore trading Jusuf Nurkic? His value isn't as high with him out of the rotation, perhaps there is a way for him to succeed elsewhere and bring back an asset that could help the Nuggets?

RYAN: The most important thing that the Nuggets should be exploring with a trade is production over potential. With the Nuggets this season, they have a player in Juancho Hernangomez who can step into the rotation in the future. Right now though, the next 50 games should be in mind for trade scenarios. Dudley looks slow, but he’s averaging 1.6 makes from beyond the three point line on 45% efficiency. Imagine having that production in the rotation to play with either Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, or Darrell Arthur next to him to take the pressure off defensively? That’s a scenario I enjoy more than the inconsistencies of Mirotic, who is just as likely to go for zero points as he is 20 points.

As for Jusuf Nurkic, I think trade possibilities exist for him. In any scenario, the Nuggets would need to bring back another center with size who could fill in spot minutes. Nurkic is still a key member of the team because of his size over Jokic and Faried, so it would take a lot for me to move him. A move centered around Jusuf Nurkic and Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics would be an interesting prospect. If the Celtics threw in Tyler Zeller as an emergency center, while the Nuggets threw in Jameer Nelson as a veteran point guard off the bench, both teams may benefit. There are very few scenarios where the Nuggets get back equal value for Nurkic. This might be one of them.

Are there any possible moves you see for Nurkic? Are there any scenarios where you would break up the current starting unit at this point?

DANIEL: Most of the scenarios I see where Nurkic is moved involve him being added to a trade package to move a bigger name on the team - someone like Faried or Gallinari.

If the Nuggets could trade for Kevin Durant or LeBron James, I'd be open to changing the starting unit. A more realistic scenario is that someone gets injured and the team has to make a change. Gallinari and Chandler haven't been healthy by any stretch during their careers, and Harris just returned from a right foot injury.

The Nuggets have won a few games in a row, but I haven't changed my opinion that if they're not a top 8 team by the All-Star break, they need to move Gallinari. I don't think he's going to be able to contribute at the level the organization has grown used to on his next contract, and it is time to move on once his contract expires.

Look at what happened to the Hawks with Al Horford - they didn't have any reason to expect him to leave, but they ended up watching him walk to Boston and they got nothing in return. The Nuggets may not expect Gallinari to leave, but they won't have any control over what he does in the offseason if he doesn't exercise his player option. They would have received better offers last year, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't abstain from making a move this year.

What are some teams you think would be interested in Gallinari? Remember, getting anything back is better than getting nothing at all.

RYAN: There are so many problems with trading Gallinari in combination with Nurkic at this point. If the Nuggets do that move though, they need to get back a starting caliber forward as well as big man insurance. The only scenario I can see that works there is a swap with Washington: Gallo and Nurkic for Otto Porter and Ian Mahimni. I’m not sure the Wizards would go for it, and I’m not sure the Nuggets should even do it, though I value Porter highly.

As for Gallo scenarios, they are entirely dependent on the return. He’s playing very well in the current lineup, and it would take solid value for the Nuggets to think about moving him. A top 10 draft pick might do it, as well as a solid forward prospect, but with the Nuggets trying to win right now, they aren’t going to get back a player that’s better for what the Nuggets need unless a star becomes available. If the Wizards said John Wall was available, or Paul George was being dangled by Indiana, then Gallo is obviously available. Because of how unlikely those deals are, I can’t see any Gallo trade happening, regardless of the threat of him leaving.

Is there any chance that the Nuggets become involved in rumors for a star like DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, or another player who’s unhappy in his current situation?

DANIEL: I'd love a Gallo-Nurkic for Gortat-Porter swap - don't see the Wizards moving a free agent they just signed this last summer. Porter has been great this year, and if they can't trade for him, I'd be excited if they offered him a contract in free agency. Gortat is above 30, but is still so skilled. He'd give the Nuggets a huge boost as a backup to Jokic.

I don't think the Nuggets are comfortable taking a chance on Cousins. He's an amazing talent, but there's been so much attention around him most of his career, I think the Nuggets would rather roll with the quieter Nikola Jokic at this point.

If the Wizards were open to moving John Wall, that's something the Nuggets should immediately take advantage of. He'd be an amazing transition threat for the Nuggets, would be able to operate the offense efficiently, and would be free from the disfunction in Washington D.C.

The Nuggets don't get Wall without giving up Nurkic, Gallo, Mudiay and a draft pick though. They'd probably have to find a third team to take Nurkic and send another wing to the Wizards too. Give me your best trade machine proposal for Wall.

RYAN: Well, moving John Wall means that the Wizards are rebuilding, so Mudiay is likely to be part of any package. I think the Wizards would ask for Murray, but getting Mudiay, Beasley, and Nurkic is a good package as well. The Nuggets would almost certainly need to throw in a competent veteran, plus a draft pick or two, and take back bad salary as well. Here’s my proposal:

Wizards receive: Chandler, Mudiay, Nurkic, Beasley, and a 2017 1st rounder via MEM

Nuggets receive: Wall, Gortat

PG: Wall, Nelson

SG: Harris, Murray

SF: Gallo, Barton

PF: Faried, Arthur

C: Jokic, Gortat

That’s a pretty sizable offer for Wall. It may take more, or the inclusion of Murray, but if Wall became available, the Nuggets should pay what it takes to get him.

How about you?

DANIEL: I have a similar trade package that I think could get it done:

Wizards receive: Danilo Gallinari, Emmanuel Mudiay, Shabazz Muhammed, 2017 first (DEN), 2019 first (DEN)

Timberwolves receive: Jusuf Nurkic

Nuggets receive: John Wall, Marcin Gortat

While this doesn't give the Wizards the same return as your proposal, it does get them just underneath the tax line for this season (they're $8,691,113 over, and this trade would lower their cap by $8.7 million). They'd get immediate lottery help with the Denver pick in 2017, and the Nuggets could slap a lottery protection on the 2019 pick.

I have Nurkic going to the Timberwolves because, in spite of their acquisition of Cole Aldrich in the summer, they are reportedly in the market for big men. Nurkic wants to start, and he wouldn't do that with Karl-Anthony Towns in the way, but that becomes Tom Thibodeau's problem. Perhaps he'd be able to unlock some of the defensive tools that Nurkic possesses. Muhammad seems destined to not sign with Minnesota after his contract expires - he'd at least be able to play some games in Washington so they can see what he could offer them in the future.

What do you say? Should we give Ernie Grunfeld a call and hammer out a deal?

RYAN: The Wizards certainly have disappointed me the most of any team this year, so helping them push the reset button makes the most sense. Let’s give Grunfeld a call! There are so many interesting pieces on the Washington Wizards and they could go many different directions. If the Nuggets want to go the opposite direction that the Wizards want to go (either up or down), they should explore Washington as a trading partner.