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Stein: Nuggets “openly shopping” Jusuf Nurkic

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Is the Bosnian Beast on his way out of Denver?

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t taken long for the Denver Nuggets to get involved in trade talks at all this season. Earlier this week, the Nuggets expressed interest in trading for Atlanta Hawks’ All-Star forward Paul Millsap, who remains on the block following the report that Atlanta is willing to trade Millsap in fear of losing him in free agency this summer.

While the Nuggets are still linked to Millsap, they could be looking to make other moves as well. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, that includes moving center Jusuf Nurkic:

Denver engaged in serious talks to acquire Millsap last summer and is known to be interested again, alongside Toronto and Sacramento. (The Nuggets, for the record, are now openly shopping third-year big man Jusuf Nurkic in addition to the widely assumed availability of vets Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler).

If this is true, then it may not exactly come as a surprise given how Nurkic has been handled by the Nuggets this season. After an impressive summer in which he lost 35 lbs. and worked his way into the starting lineup, Nurkic was essentially cut out of the rotation for four games in December to make way for Nikola Jokic to start. Nurkic expressed his frustration in a report by BSN Denver’s Harrison Wind by saying “I’m not here to sit on the bench, I’m here to play basketball.”

Since then Nurkic has seen an increased role off the bench and most recently logged 21 minutes in the Nuggets loss to the San Antonio Spurs last Thursday, but on the season his strong play has been largely overshadowed by the emergence of Jokic.

Also of note from Stein’s report is the inclusion of veterans Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler in trade talks. However, there is nothing official stating that they are indeed being shopped, only that it is assumed.

Faried has been linked to trade rumors for a while now, and last season Gallo reportedly turned down a trade offer, but this is the first time Wilson Chandler’s name has been thrown out there. Chandler is having a career year and would be an enticing asset for many teams.

Stein’s report raises a lot of questions for the Nuggets. Has Denver given up on Nurkic, or are the Nuggets simply looking for a good return? Assuming those veterans are open for trade, is this an indication that the team is giving up on its playoff hopes? Are other veteran players on the block as well?

Clearly Nikola Jokic is the untouchable piece that Denver will look to build around now and in the future, but Jusuf Nurkic is still a really good player with a high ceiling. He would be great in a bench role as he has been the past few games, but it looks like that may not be the long-term case with the Nuggets.

And while many believe that targeting Millsap would gear the Nuggets up for a playoff run, if they are looking for trade partners for key veterans like Gallinari and Chandler, that plan gets put into question. With up and coming rookies like Jamal Murray and Juancho Hernangomez still on the roster, freeing up space would almost certainly give these guys more playing time to develop and focus on the future instead of the now.

The next few weeks will be very interesting for the future of the Denver Nuggets.