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Stiffs Round Table: Trade Talk, Nuggets jilted by Paul George and more

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The Stiffs react to the addition of Magic Johnson to the Lakers, the Nuggets getting jilted by Paul George, and other Trade Deadline news.

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Which trade was the best coming into the deadline this week? What does that trade mean for the future of the teams involved?

Ryan Blackburn (@RyanBlackburn9): It has to be the DeMarcus Cousins deal, right? Star power, unbalanced deal, fireworks during the All-Star game. I was really impressed with the way Dell Demps, GM of the New Orleans Pelicans, took advantage of a unique situation. Putting Boogie next to Anthony Davis, especially at that price, is a scary proposition.

Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): It’s Boogie. He’s the most talented center in the league and the combination of he and Davis is, at the very least, intriguing. Pelicans now have two frontcourt players that no one can match up against and will be a force if they can work it out. Who knows what this means for Sacramento? I guess we’ll see the Buddy Hield era begin tonight against the Nuggets.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): I don’t see how it can be anything but Boogie Cousins. Even if it doesn’t work for New Orleans, they didn’t give up anything that looks irreplaceable at this point. If it does work… look out, Western Conference. As for Sacramento’s future: well, they got that arena done, so at least the city will always have the Kings. No matter how terribly-run they may be.

Ashley Douglas (@AshleyNBAHoops): Looks like it’s unanimous. I will also say the Cousins deal was the best trade for the Pelicans. How they were able to capitalize on such a great player at such a low price is beyond me, but it’s impressive. It seems the Kings were ready to part with Boogie at nearly any cost, and they'll now be looking at rebuilding their team. The Pelicans, on the other hand, have some decisions to make. I don't think Cousins and Davis will make an ideal combo, and neither of them is someone you can consider a great leader. Having both players on the same roster comes at a very high price so I tend to think New Orleans may look to move Anthony Davis in the offseason.

Magic Johnson is now the President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers. What will Magic bring to LA, and what do you predict the Lakers’ record will be next season?

Blackburn: Magic Johnson will bring the star power back to LA that seemed a bit missing when Kobe Bryant left. I think he will be aggressive, but I’m not sure it helps. Rumor is that Paul George would go there in 2018. We will see if that happens, but I’m not sure whatever Magic does will translate to wins for the franchise, unless they come at the expense of long term stability.

Mares: Magic brings excitement and a big name to the front office. I am skeptical that he can be a good talent evaluator based on his being wrong so often on twitter, but he has said all of the right things so far. He plans on surrounding himself with smart people and using their expertise, rather than trying to do everything himself. I think the Lakers will take a long view and build slowly so next year I’m going to guess they’ll find 32 wins.

Gross: Magic’s job is to get players excited about the Lakers (which they have not been in years) and then to hand the phone over to his negotiator. I don’t like the young pieces that L.A. has as much as some people, though, so I don’t know how far above 30 wins they can sniff. I don’t see a star there. But as a supporting cast around Paul George in 2018, I guess they have potential.

Douglas: Magic Johnson is one of the top five NBA players of all time in my opinion. The Lakers have such a pliable young roster that Magic should easily be able to come in and teach them some old school toughness and grit. Given that Magic was also a very gifted passer I believe he will bring back a focus on ball movement to some of the guys who enjoy the spotlight a little too much (cough) Swaggy P (cough). I don't think the Lakers will have a winning season right out of the gate, but I'll be generous and give them 35-40 wins next year.

The Pacers turned down a “Monster” offer from the Nuggets for Paul George. What would George have brought to the Nuggets and what do you think Denver’s offer entailed?

Blackburn: It’s hard to imagine what Denver considers a “monster” deal that doesn’t include Nikola Jokic or Jamal Murray. Obviously Jokic is untouchable, but Murray would HAVE to be a piece, right? I would say the offer was something akin to: one of Gallo/Chandler/Barton, one of Faried/Arthur, Mudiay, Harris, and multiple picks for George and Monta Ellis. As for what George provides: he has length on the wing, a great outside shot, athleticism, defensive skills, and is a clutch shot maker. Basically, he’s everything Denver needs in a player.

Mares: My guess is the offer was something like Mudiay, Harris, Wilson, Barton, and two first round draft picks. Hey, they said it was a “monster!” It was probably too much to give up and would’ve really left Denver vulnerable if Paul George left after 2018 and therefore not worth the risk. But he’s a guy that would really look good next to Nikola Jokic and would’ve provided perimeter defense and late-game scoring, two things Denver desperately needs.

Gross: What Adam said. That’s about what I assumed it would take, and either Harris or Murray would have to be included to even get the Pacers to pick up the phone. George would have been the finisher Denver needs and in theory would have helped from a leadership angle as well as a defensive one. I haven’t really liked his defense this year though. It might be a product of his frustration in Indiana, but it hasn’t been the same. Regardless, Denver can always give his agent a call in 2018 free agency and ask whether he’d like to reconsider joining the Nuggets once Jokic is an All-Star and Murray’s star is on the rise.

Douglas: Denver likely offered the farm for Paul George. I would say probably Gallinari/Chandler (if not both), Mudiay, possibly Barton, picks and cash. Okay maybe not that much, but probably at least three players and a pick. Paul George would have brought an elevated level of competitiveness, specifically on D. The Nuggets are struggling on defense, particularly in their backcourt, and George’s support on the perimeter would have been a great opportunity for our young guards to learn a lot. However, he sort of dissed the Nuggets after the announcement was made suggesting they’re not really serious about being on the road to a championship. It’s his prerogative to think that, but I find it unbecoming to make a public dig like that.

What do you make of the Roy Hibbert deal?

Blackburn: It hurts to know that Denver was making offers for Paul George and instead wound up with Hibbert. Overall, he’s an upgrade over Johnny O’Bryant, and he costs money. Those two things probably made it okay to do the deal, as Denver slowly creeps closer to the salary floor.

Mares: It won’t cost Denver anything in the long run since the 2nd round pick that Denver gave up only conveys if Denver finishes in the bottom five. It’s not at all a sexy move and probably won’t affect the team in any way, whatsoever. It was just a salary dump by Milwaukee and an effort to get closer to the salary floor for Denver. I doubt Hibbert steps on the court for any meaningful minutes unless either Jokic or Plumlee get hurt.

Gross: It’s just the Kroenkes saving cash. It is highly unlikely to ever cost Denver that pick, since they’d basically have to make the finals, so it’s just a money move. If he helps take some minutes off of a tired Jokic down the stretch, fine. Mostly he’s just a highly priced Johnny O’Bryant.

Douglas: Denver settled for Hibbert which isn’t great, but I think he can offer some support to Jokic and Plumlee off the bench if the Nuggets want to use a big man lineup from time to time. Denver will use the cash to make a better move in the offseason. However, I always like to be optimistic and hope someone will come in and work hard to make a role for themselves so I’m excited to see Hibbert in action.

What grade do you give the Denver Nuggets for their moves (or lack thereof) at the trade deadline?

Blackburn: A for effort, D minus for execution. You wanna make a run at the playoffs? Go upgrade your defense. The Nuggets are 30th in the NBA defensively, and Hibbert isn’t going to help matters. The Nuggets need perimeter defenders in the worst way, and instead, they are going to struggle to play a bunch of sub-par ones. I would have liked to see Denver exploring deals for guys like Andre Roberson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, regardless of how available those guys were. The Nuggets will have a top flight offense as long as they have Jokic, so I’m not concerned with having a bunch of skilled offensive players on this team. I didn’t realize how much I want the Nuggets to claim the 8th seed, and now, I think they are slightly behind that race.

Mares: D. You can’t fault them for not making a deal for George or Jimmy Butler since both of those guys were long shots and would’ve cost the team an arm and a leg. However, the Nuggets didn’t fix one of their biggest problems: they have too many guys on the roster that need minutes. Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay will have to split about 20 total minutes at point guard behind Jameer Nelson and maybe 5 total minutes at shooting guard behind Gary Harris and Will Barton. Darrell Arthur probably won’t even be in the rotation since Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, and Mason Plumlee will all get minutes at power forward.

And then there’s Juancho Hernangomez who probably just saw his only hope of getting 5-10 minutes go up in flames. I thought they would find a trade for either Wilson, Gallo, Darrell, or Barton - all very good basketball players - just to cut down an already overcrowded roster. That didn’t happen and now I fear the “tinkering” Michael Malone will do as he tries to fit 11 guys into a rotation. And that’s not to mention that the team is now in danger of either overpaying Gallo or losing him for nothing.

Gross: For just today? D. If we’re including Mason Plumlee, that grade bumps up to a C+. But I still don’t like holding assets that can’t get playing time and so cannot improve their perceived value. Beasley can’t see the court. Juancho will struggle to get minutes with both Chandler and Gallo healthy. Coach Malone called Harris’s second year “like a rookie year” because he played so little in year one under Shaw, but Hernangomez is on pace for a similar number of (inadequate) minutes. Even Jamal Murray may struggle with time now that he and Emmanuel Mudiay are competing for the backup PG spot and he and Barton will wrestle for SG minutes.

Denver kept its powder dry for an offseason move, but the rotation is now crowded and isn’t getting better. Tim Connelly keeps saying he’s aggressive every trade deadline and offseason, but so far the FA market and the trade market are very deck-chair oriented where Denver is concerned. This team as currently constructed is not any kind of contender, so just holding assets won’t work long- or short-term.

Douglas: I’m going to give them a C-. I’m disappointed that they weren’t more aggressive in trying to move Mudiay and Chandler. Denver needs a serious reboot in the backcourt. While I like Jameer Nelson okay, I believe the Nuggets are settling by putting him at the starting point guard position. Hopefully they’ll get more serious in the offseason.