It is that time of year again! Every year we rank the varying components the Denver Nuggets have available to trade in terms of which is the most valuable. Valuable is a subjective term but in this case it means which players and draft picks are likely to be the most coveted by other teams around the NBA. If you’d like to see where everyone stacked up last year click here. A couple of new wrinkles in this years rankings: first we delayed writing this because Mason Plumlee wasn’t available to trade until just over a week ago and second, we have the two-way contract wrinkled added in (yes, two way contracts can be traded) and finally, a head coach can be traded, so why not throw Michael Malone in the mix. A couple rules, we only consider draft picks for the next two offseasons (so 2018 and 2019 for you non-math majors) but outside of that qualification fun stuff, let’s break it down!
Group A: Seriously, you’re still counting these guys?
Ah yes, the group that has had their NBA dreams all but destroyed. Facts are facts, these guys are never going to play in the NBA. However, the Nuggets do technically own their rights and they do end up trading one on occasion. In fact, just last year the Nuggets traded a member of this group, Cenk Akyol, to the Atlanta Hawks. I still have no idea why teams hang onto these guys and even moreso why they include them in deals. Perhaps a favor to an agent or something. Regardless, Xue is 37 years old and last played in Lithuania. Becirovic has actually retired and is now an assistant coach with Panathinaikos in Athens, Greece. Turkyilmaz is the only player I can actually remember the Nuggets drafting in this list and it’s also his first year in the bottom group of trade assets. At 26 though, the NBA dream appears to be over. Turkyilmaz is currently playing for Selcuklu Belediyesi in the Turkish Basketball First League and hasn’t made an appearance on the Turkish national team in nearly seven years.
Group B: Sorry coach
A coach being traded in the NBA is rare, in fact it’s only ever happened three time. The most noteworthy time was Doc Rivers being traded from the Boston Celtics to the Los Angeles Clippers back in 2013 in exchange for a 1st round pick. The only other instances are a pseudo trade where Stan Van Gundy was allowed to leave the Miami Heat and go coach the Orlando Magic. If you remember, Pat Riley relieved Van Gundy of his duties as coach but kept him on in another role, meanwhile the Magic were all set to hire Billy Donovan and in fact did but Donovan backed out a couple days later. Since Van Gundy was technically still under contract with the Heat, the Magic had to pony up a second round pick as they acted quickly to get a coach in place. The New Jersey Nets also traded Jason Kidd to the Milwaukee Bucks for two second rounders after Kidd had an attempted take-over of the front office fail and left the Nets with no choice but to move him So really, the only actual trade of a coach in the NBA was Rivers. He of course has a championship ring on his coaching resume whereas coach Malone does not and therefore it’s incredibly unlikely that coach would garner much interest on the trade market, if any.
Group C: the long long shots
2019 Washington Wizards 2nd round pick
2018 Golden State Warriors 2nd round pick
2018 Portland Trail Blazers 2nd round pick
It would be an error to say these guys will never make the NBA. While Radicevic is probably all but done with his chances with the Nuggets after a sub-par showing in Summer League, he is still just 23 years old and has recently moved back to LIGA ACB with CB Gran Canaria after a disappointing start to the year in the Adriatic League. Hopefully the move will jumpstart his career but time is definitely running out for the 6’5” point guard. Cornelie meanwhile is on loan with Lavallois Metropolitans in the French league LNB Pro A, however he only has played three games due to being limited by otseoarthritis...so probably not looking good for him either. Finally, Vlatko Cancar has the most hope of making the NBA. He plays for Mega Leks (of Nikola Jokic fame) and has been averaging over 12 points and 5 rebounds a game, he also played and gave solid minutes off the bench to the Slovenian national team who won the silver at the Eurocup this past summer. Still a long ways to go, but Cancar is clearly the most tantalizing of the group.
Group D: The not as long shots
Morris and Lydon are definitely buy low and hope they work out type of guys. Morris is of course a two-way player and while he’s looked good in the G-League, its probably not too likely any team is rushing to call the Nuggets about trading for him. Same goes for Lydon, though Lydon does carry the stigma of a 1st round pick. On the other hand he also carries the guaranteed contract of first round pick as well and with his recent knee surgery its unlikely for him to be moved. Neither guy has been able to find any burn at the NBA level aside from a couple of minutes so both have to be viewed as projects. Best case scenario with these guys is they end up becoming players 2 to 3 years down the road which means they’re probably only ending up in a trade as a thrown in.
Group E: locker room guys
Arthur is fairly obviously heading towards the back end of his career and hoping to prove his worth in as many ways as possible, including off the court, in order to prolong his career. He’s a great locker room guy and coach Malone has consistently referred to him as one of the best leaders of the team. Still, he’s not going to give you much in the ways of on court production so adding him to a deal is going to be either to match salary or to dump his salary. Jefferson meanwhile is in a similar situation. Overall RJ’s talent level is higher than DA’s, even with Jefferson being much older, and he’s on a minimum contract. There’s probably little interest in either of these guys from either teams, though the Nuggets should be open to getting off of DA’s salary if possible.
Group F: we need a fresh start
Like Jefferson and Arthur, the market for Faried and Mudiay is likely to be very small. Mudiay will have more suitors because of his age, his upside and his rookie contract. However, Faried has shown to be the more effective player on the court and in the right situation can be a big benefit to a team. Mudiay can as well, but he’s still very much in the prove it stage. Faried is an NBA level player, there’s no doubt about that whereas Mudiay is still a risk to flame out and be considered a bust. Still, with both guys you get the feeling that in certain situations they could succeed which gives them value, albeit only a little bit and only with a very few number of teams.
Group G: the young guns
2019 Denver Nuggets 1st round pick
It took until group G, but we finally have arrived at players that other teams could potentially have real interest in (for the record I was back and forth about Mudiay being in this group or the one above). As we know, Juancho has struggled this season after becoming sick. He lost his spot in the rotation to a combination of guys, including Beasley and Craig, and has been inactive for several games in a row. Still, the talent is unquestionably there and a team could see right now as the opportunity to buy low on a prospect who could have a very bright future in the NBA. The same goes for Craig who is just bursting onto the scene at age 26. Though he’s on a two-way deal, Craig has been at the NBA level for over a month and has scene time in the rotation, including a couple starts. Finally, Beasley has played the most minutes of anyone in this group and has been right on the edge of being in the everyday rotation. He’s proven to be a solid defender and his athleticism and shooting stroke should make him into a solid offensive player as well if he continues to develop. At just 20 years of age, it’s easy to see there being some interest in him.
Group H: Good player, but the contract makes it tough
The Nuggets probably aren’t getting a ton of interest in these guys. Like previous tiers, it’s going to have to be the right situation and there’s probably not a ton of “right situations” out there. Plumlee is the least likely of the group to garner interest. He’d didn’t garner a ton in the free agent market this offseason and at over $14 million a season he’s overpaid for a backup center. Still, Plumlee has proven to be capable of being a starter which would put his deal right around market value. If a team has a need to get a starting caliber center to help them fight for the playoffs, Mase might interest them, the contract is still going to be a hurdle though. Millsap meanwhile likely interests a ton of teams in terms of his ability, but he’s also getting $30 million a season and hasn’t played since mid November while recovering from a torn ligament in his wrist. The high dollar figure and helath concern probably make him unlikely to garner much interest, not that the Nuggets entertain trading him anyways. At over $12 million per, Chandler’s right at market value for a player of his skill level and he has a player option for next season. It seems unlikely that Chandler, a player with a history of health issues, would opt in and delay the opportunity to secure one more long term deal that may not be worth as much per year, but is very likely to be worth more overall than the $12 million he’d be guaranteed by opting in. He fits the mold of a player who can help a playoff team or near playoff team in the final push of the season but other than that there’s probably not too much interest given he’s either going to be a rental, or at most a player who is at best a fair deal in terms of his contract.
Group I: Solid production on solid deals
2018 Denver Nuggets 1st round pick
Two guys that Tim Connelly has likely fielded some phone call on. Barton’s contract is a complete non-factor in terms of money at just over $3.5 million per but it is expiring and he’s going to be due a hefty raise. CBA rules limit the amount the Nuggets can offer Barton in an extension to about $10.5 million and those talks died out almost immediately earlier on in the season so suffice to say Barton expects to earn more than that on his next deal and that might scare some teams off. It certainly will limit what they would offer if nothing else. Finally, Lyles’ contract is a non-factor both in terms of money and length as he still has another year left on is rookie deal. The only question about Trey is whether or not his resurgence with the Nuggets is for real, but at such a young age and small salary figure, there will be plenty of teams willing to find out. Finally, while the Nuggets wil have a back end of the lottery pick at best, in a deep draft it’s a valuable asset and rookie contracts are the way good teams re-build franchises so there’s sure to be plenty of interest in that pick if the Nuggets are willing to deal it (they probably are not).
Group J: the untouchables
The Nuggets have proven time and again that they are not willing to deal these guys, or at the very least are going to require a very high caliber player in return. Harris is the only one to even have been rumored in deals but I’ve also been told by a source I trust very much that the leaked details about Harris being involved in a potential deal for Kevin Love on draft night are misleading and that the Nuggets were not willing to part with Harris in that deal, though the Indiana Pacers were likely was asking for him. We know the Nuggets were not willing to surrender Murray in any deal for Kyrie Irving as well. While there were other factors in those deals that made them not work, the Nuggets clearly value their young backcourt very highly and one has to imagine that neither is on the table at this point. Jokic of course is untouchable and has been untouchable for over a year. Indeed, the list of players that could get Denver to include any of these guys is likely only about five to seven players long. Still, their youth, upside and contract status make each of them the three most valuable trade assets the Nuggets have.