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3 trades the Denver Nuggets could execute to restore roster balance

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The offseason will begin to settle down, but that doesn’t mean the Nuggets front office should go on holiday just quite yet.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been four weeks since the NBA draft took place, a night that many Denver Nuggets fans (myself included) still seem to have not recovered from.

To recap - for those who need it - the Nuggets traded the No. 13 pick, which would become Donovan Mitchell, to the Utah Jazz for Trey Lyles and the No. 24 pick, which would become Tyler Lydon. Later in the draft, the Nuggets would select Vlatko Cancar and Monte Morris with their two picks in the second round.

Yesterday the Nuggets officially announced the signing of free agent power forward Paul Millsap. The former Montbello resident came back to Denver on a 3-year, $90 million contract, and instantly becomes one of the best players on the Nuggets current roster.

While Millsap’s addition to the roster adds more than just above average play on both ends of the court, basketball IQ, and leadership, it also adds another power forward to a roster that looks almost like this:

The Nuggets organization has expressed confidence in their ability to bring back Mason Plumlee, who will provide depth at the center position behind Jokic, and the team has since waived Mike Miller. Regardless, this is the roster that the Nuggets will most likely take into training camp.

There might be a player that impresses the front office during Summer League and earns a contract, like Jarnell Stokes did last season (Torrey Craig perhaps), and with a roster spot open, the team could sign a free agent out of the blue. But removing that option from consideration for the time being, the Nuggets front office has placed the franchise in a bit of a quandary in regards to the power forward position - they have lots.

Take a look:

  • The Nuggets are starting Paul Millsap at power forward next season. End of discussion.
  • The Nuggets won’t be starting Kenneth Faried at power forward for the first time in many seasons. Faried can still be a contributor in the league, although his inability to improve on defense over the past seasons raises the question if he will be able to earn a starting roster on any team in the future.
  • The Nuggets traded for Trey Lyles on draft night. The third-year power forward was coveted by the Nuggets when he was drafted a few years ago, and the front office likely would like to see him be a part of the rotation.
  • The Nuggets signed Darrell Arthur to a four-year contract during the 2016 offseason. This year, Arthur is undergoing another operation on his knee, and with my limited medical expertise, it sounds like he’s about to become a cyborg.
  • The Nuggets acquired Tyler Lydon in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. So far, he’s managed to be on the court for a couple Summer League games. He is unlikely to play at all for the Nuggets next season.
  • The Nuggets can play Wilson Chandler and Juancho Hernangomez at power forward in smaller lineups. These two players are also the starting and backup small forward.
  • The Nuggets acquired Mason Plumlee (and seem intent on signing him to a new contract) with the goal of playing him alongside Nikola Jokic for a few minutes each game. He absolutely cannot play small forward, and figures to get minutes at power forward in those lineups (or Jokic at power forward with Plumlee at center - you get the idea).
  • There are 48 minutes in a regular basketball game. If each of the eight players listed above equally shared minutes at power forward, that’s six minutes a game for each player. This is highly unlikely, while also producing a high likelihood of not being conducive to winning basketball games.

The Nuggets brass has talked about the need to “restore roster balance.” That can either be done through trades or by waiving players. Since waiving players seems unlikely (and expensive) here are a few FAKE TRADE proposals that could help solve the roster balance problem the Nuggets front office deliberately created for themselves.

Trade Kenneth Faried to Atlanta for Kent Bazemore

This is by far the most probable trade (in my opinion) that I’ll propose here today. Bazemore was given an above-market value contract last season when teams were spending with no regard for future years, and the Hawks are clearly in a rebuild mode. Bazemore isn’t a difference maker (and could actually hurt them by helping them win) and as such, is expendable.

For the Nuggets, they’re able to move a fan favorite that has seemingly been on the trade block since his first basket as a professional. The move clears up minutes for Trey Lyles and (GOD) Tyler Lydon, while also giving the Nuggets an asset that they’ll have control over for the next three seasons. They could explore trading Wilson Chandler, or just sit tight and let Hernangomez develop for one season more before giving him additional responsibilities. Bazemore is beloved by his teammates past and present, and we already know he can play next to Paul Millsap.

He’s an athletic wing, able to get out in transition and finish above the rim on cuts in the halfcourt. He’s a lefty, and has a smooth stroke that helped him shoot 35 percent on 3-point attempts in Atlanta. At 6-foot-5-inches, he’s not the ideal height to play small forward, but with his wingspan and frame he can play there for stretches.

Add him to the Nuggets roster, one thing is for certain - he isn’t going to Baze less.

Trade Darrell Arthur to New York for Lance Thomas

Anytime you can take a chance on a tweener that has shot 41 percent on 215 3-point attempts over the last three seasons (in limited minutes), you have to do that. It worked for Jae Crowder and the Boston Celtics, why couldn’t it work for the Denver Nuggets?

Thomas is a 6-foot-8-inch combo forward, and showed an ability to play alongside another combo forward in Carmelo Anthony. He’s a role player in the mold that he’s going to do the dirty work on defense - boxing out, getting mashed on screens, and occasionally getting lit up because his star teammate is a comedy on defense. That’s not to say he’s bad at defense, but you try looking good next to Anthony on that side of the court.

I don’t think this deal is very likely, but there is a way to make acquiring Thomas a bit easier - taking on Joakim Noah’s contract. That’s a steep price for the basketball version of Cosmo Kramer, and as such, isn’t as palatable for Denver.

If you think he’s too big to play small forward, have you watched Wilson Chandler at all?

Here’s my favorite thing about Thomas - he looks like Dave Chappelle. It’s uncanny.

Trade Will Barton for Wesley Johnson OR Sam Dekker

Ah, the magical “wait does this trade sell low on a Nuggets player and make the team worse” trade.

Ideally, the Nuggets would snag Sam Dekker from the Los Angeles Clippers for Barton. However, I think it’s more likely that the Nuggets wind up getting Johnson and a second-round pick from the Clippers for Will the Thrill. This is a way for Los Angeles to shed a contract, get a contributor, and for the Nuggets to have a body to play at small forward.

Johnson certainly hasn’t lived up to his draft selection, when he was the fourth overall pick by Minnesota in 2010. The former Syracuse forward can show Tyler Lydon what not to do in the NBA, while also being an emergency option in case Hernangomez or Chandler get injured. Johnson isn’t anything special, but if the Nuggets have aspirations for the playoffs, having a veteran to plug into the rotation helps them accomplish that goal.

Dekker is a stud, just waiting for an opportunity to present itself. At 6-foot-9-inches, he has great size for the position, and has the physical tools to compete as a starter. His 3-point shot is developing, and there are positive signs there. He also is the astute owner of a great Twitter account - an underrated part of any NBA prospect.

Again - the best deal with the Clippers is getting Sam Dekker. It’s just a matter of cost and probability. Dekker also cannot be traded with another player until August 27, and a player like DeAndre Liggins would have to be traded to Denver in addition to Dekker to make salaries match for Will Barton.

The Clippers could then throw out a Lou Williams-Austin Rivers-Will Barton-Danilo Gallinari-DeAndre Jordan lineup! Talk about fun!

As for the Nuggets, they could toss out a Murray-Harris-Dekker-Millsap-Jokic core that would make my heart sing.

Poll

Which player would you like to see Denver trade for?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Kent Bazemore
    (333 votes)
  • 6%
    Lance Thomas
    (56 votes)
  • 2%
    Wesley Johnson
    (25 votes)
  • 52%
    Sam Dekker
    (463 votes)
877 votes total Vote Now