SB Nation conducted their annual NBA Network mock draft and this year yours truly got to be the lucky participant. Each SB Nation blog selected one representative to make the selections for their respective teams. The twist in this mock draft is trades are allowed which meant as acting Denver Nuggets GM, I had work to do. Standing pat at #7 was not a situation I wanted to entertain as there were far too many scenarios that left Denver on the outside looking in when it came to the top shooting prospects, an area that the Nuggets have a clear need. So I hopped on my metaphorical GM phone and got working.
The Boston Celtics and the #3 pick:
I started with the Celtics at #3 who had made it known they were interested in trading out of their spot. I liked the idea of having my choice of Jamal Murray or Buddy Hield but in reality I was happy to get either and because I was having simultaneous discussions with Phoenix about the #4 pick, I knew the Suns weren't taking either Hield or Murray making getting all the way up to #3 less of a priority. Given these fact I played some hard ball to start with and offered up Will Barton and Joffrey Lauvergne for the Celtics pick. Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog, who was representing Boston, laughed me off my metaphorical phone (not really, Jeff's a good dude).
He started with Jokic, which I quickly put the kibosh on. We ended up getting into the real meat of our trade talks when we started talking Gallo and #7 for #3. I was of the opinion that moving up 4 spots alone was not enough return for Gallo (keep in mind, I know Phoenix isn't taking my guy at 4 so I'm not all that motivated here) and asked for Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley (again, I was going to have to be blown away to make this move) to which Jeff smartly denied and countered with Terry Rozier or R.J. Hunter. I couldn't give up Gallo for four spots and a might make it prospect either so ultimately this deal fell through and my focus turned fully to Phoenix.
The Phoenix Suns, the #4 pick and the beginning of Rudy Gay to Denver discussions:
Stiffs readers, I have a confession to make. I agreed in principle to a trade that was going to send out Gallo and bring in Gay. We didn't start there though when Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun and myself got to talking trades. Once again I started low, offering #7, #19 and Joffrey Lauvergne for #4. Dave was less than enthused by that offer (he didn't even respond) so I came back again, this time with #7 and Kenneth Faried for #4. Whereas I had been extremely stingy with Gallo and the Celtics, I was more willing to part with Faried to the Suns. I wanted Jamal Murray and getting in the #4 spot was the only way I could ensure I was going to get him.
There was some slight interest there, but it quickly was made known that Gallo was the guy Phoenix was really after. Also, around this time Dave let me know Dragan Bender was his guy, so potentially if the Celtics took Murray at #3 then he was going to stay pat and pick up Bender at #4, leaving me royally hosed. The Suns were also talking to the Kings about a deal later in the lottery and thus the framework of our deal was built. I'm not sure exactly what the Kings were getting in return (this mock had ALL the trades, it was tough to keep up) but on the Nuggets end it was #7/Gallo for #4/Gay. I had a difficult choice to make here. Gay puts up similar production to Gallo, plays in 70+ games a season with far more regularity and is a couple million dollars cheaper. The value shook out just fine, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to be crucified by our readers, who I know despise Gay but perhaps they would be satiated with the acquisition of Murray.
After thinking on it for a while I bit the bullet and said I was on board. However, right around this time a trade was announced that the Utah Jazz had landed the Celtics #3 pick. Dave immediately shifted his focus to making sure the Jazz weren't going to take Bender and ultimately made a deal with them to move up one spot to ensure he got his guy. Moments later, the news came across the timeline (and by that I mean the SB Nation basketball manager sent us all an email) that the Jazz had selected Murray with the fourth pick. Crap! Dave offered his condolences and suggested maybe I could get something done with the Minnesota Timberwolves as he knew they were interested in trading as well.
The T-Wolves, the #5 pick and the deal that got done:
I somewhat apathetically reached out to Eric in Madison over at Canis Hoopus about the #5 pick. I didn't honestly think a division rival would be all that apt to help me but Hield was still available so I had to try. I opened with #7 and #19 for #5 and he countered #19 and Gallo for #5. Normally I would think very hard about that deal, but consolidation of picks was a goal and this deal didn't do that. Eric and I went back and forth a little bit about maybe adding more players to the deal (Shabazz Muhammad was thrown around) but ultimately I told him I felt better about just a 2 for 1 deal with picks. To make sure it happened I upped the offer to #7 and #15 to which he agreed and Hield was headed to mock Denver. In hindsight I panicked a bit here, I'm pretty sure if I had held firm at #7 and #19 for #5 it would have got done. C'est la vie but it was interesting to get a tidbit of how actual GMs must feel, I had this whole plan going into the mock draft and once Boston traded the #3 to Utah it all started going out the window.
The Orlando Magic, back on the horn with the Suns and Rudy Gay talks just won't die:
I was somewhat content to sit back and wait for #19 to come around but in the back of my head I thought we really needed to go out and get an athletic defender. I wanted to get to #11 where the Magic were sitting to try to lock up Deyonta Davis so I started discussion with Zach Oliver over at Orlando Pinstriped Post. Unfortunately, somehow (again lots of trades, hard to keep track) Gay was now in Orlando and the #11 had been traded but Zach had got wind I was close to trading for Gay earlier and wanted to unload him. I explained it was really more about getting Murray than it was about getting Gay so I wasn't all that interested. However, he wanted to get T.J. Warren from Phoenix and Phoenix wanted Gallo and I was still trying to get back into the lottery to go after Davis. We started framework around a deal that would facilitate this but Dave over at Bright Side didn't want to part with Warren.
It was a bummer because Orlando was offering up a future first rounder from the Lakers along with Gay and Phoenix was going to give up the #13. So it was a #19/Gallo for Gay/#13/future Lakers 1st deal. Once again for the small downgrade from Gallo to Gay I was getting a lot in return by moving up 6 spots and getting a first rounder. Once again I expected to be crucified by the Stiffs faithful for doing it, but I was on board. Without Phoenix wanting to play ball though it just wasn't able to happen.
Negotiating straight up with the Suns:
When Warren was a deal breaker I cut Orlando out of the talks. After all, I didn't really want Gay all that much and Warren wasn't who I was after. Dave made it known that he really wanted Gallo but at the same time didn't seem to want him ALL that much because the offers were never good enough to motivate me to do the deal. I knew the chances of Skal Labissiere (by this time Milwaukee had taken Davis at 10) being there at 19 were slim and I liked his fit as an athletic defender with big time upside who would have time to grow behind the Nuggets established bigs so I wanted to get a deal done, but wasn't going to sell the farm for it. The offers I was getting were 19 and Gallo for 13 and filler, or Gallo and a future first for 13 (to which I countered that I would have to be the guy getting the first, not giving one up in that scenario). We shifted gears and talked a deal centered around Barton but ultimately, I was content to just stand pat until Dave came at me with something out of left field.
I fully believed the deal was dead when I got an email proposing #19, Joffrey Lauvergne and the rights to Nikola Radicevic for #13 and I almost stopped to wonder if it was a serious offer. After playing hardball the whole way suddenly Phoenix was offering me a chance to move up 6 spots into the late lottery for what I really thought was a bag of beans. I'm not a huge Joffrey fan, decent back end of the bench guy, not likely to be much more than an average role player and Radicevic was coming off hip surgery (something I'm sure the guys over at Bright Side didn't know and something I didn't feel all that obliged to tell them) so after a little acting about how much I loved Radicevic I agreed to the deal and snagged Skal at #13.
All in all it was a great time doing the mock and for really the first time ever I got to talk to and get to know some of the other SB Nation bloggers, who were all very nice to work with on this. I have to thank Stiffs boss Adam Mares for the opportunity because it was great. I really do feel like I got a taste of what it's like to be a GM on draft night, I talked numerous other trade proposals that I didn't discuss here and like Tim Connelly has said, the names of virtually every player from superstar to role player got thrown around in one discussion or another and then the vast majority of them never happened. It was clear teams overvalued there guys (I'm sure I did too) but when it came down to the wire we generally found a way to get things done, so if you're reading Tim...get at me, clearly I now have the experience to be a major asset in the operations of the Nuggets front office.