Welcome back ladies and gents to the 4th year of the annual Denver Nuggets NBA trade value rankings. You might be saying to yourself “this feels familiar” and you would be right. Every year I write this piece in homage to Bill Simmons of The Ringer and his trade rankings column for the entire NBA (even though he hates the Denver Nuggets). The idea is simple, we’re not ranking how good a player is, or how impactful he is for the Nuggets, we’re looking at how much value he could return in a trade. Now, there’s not really a system to this, its more of a feel thing but we use those basic guidelines.
Over the past four years there have certainly been some changes. When I first wrote this column the most valuable trade asset the Nuggets had was Emmanuel Mudiay. In fact, the top 4 players in that piece are no longer on the team. The following season it was Jamal Murray at the top spot and last season Nikola Jokic was the clear answer. For the first time in what seems like forever though, the Nuggets have a roster that is made up entirely out of valuable assets. Players with large contracts still have significant value in the right situations and players with any kind of roster building concerns are very affordable. This should make for one of the most interesting trade value rankings yet so let’s not waste anymore time.
Both of these guys are way on the wrong side of 30, while the Nuggets do technically still own the rights to both players, it’s going to be a tough sell to convince the league they are a reasonable NBA prospect. Becirovic isn’t even playing anymore, his professional career in Italy and Greece ended in 2015 and he’s been coaching ever since. Xue meanwhile last played in Lithuania in 2016. Bottom line, even being a toss in to a trade at this point is highly unlikely
Denver Nuggets 2022 2nd Round pick
Alright, now we’re into prospects who are in their 20s. Unfortunately for all of these guys, the writing has been on the wall for a bit. Cornelie was the only one to make the Summer League roster and he was fairly underwhelming. Radicevic is now playing in Italy after playing in Liga ACB for the past several years. His last appearance in a Nuggets uniform was in the 2017 summer league. Turkyilmaz is getting closer and closer to thirty (he’s now 28) and has been playing in Turkish professional leagues for the majority of his career. He appeared in a Nuggets uniform last in 2012 during summer league, which was also the only time he played for the organization’s SL team. Lastly, the Nuggets 2nd round pick cupboard is almost entirely bare given the salary dumps they made this offseason, it won’t be until 2022 before they have a selection again, making the value of the pick very marginal.
They’re Just Not Worth Anything Right Now
Goodwin isn’t likely to be on anyone’s radar. The Nuggets first acquired him via the injury exception and then later signed him to a two way after releasing him for a short period of time. Suffice to say no one is lighting up the phone lines for him. IT stands out here but I can’t see any possible reason a team would trade for him right now other than to simply complete some sort of weird salary transaction a la when the Nuggets traded Cenk Akyol a few years back to acquire and immediately waive Mo Williams. It’s not that IT isn’t a good player anymore, or that he won’t have a big role in the second half of the Nuggets season, but with the health questions from him being on the shelf for so long and having a one year vet minimum contract there’s just no reason to surrender any kind of asset to acquire him.
The Deep Prospects
Cancar is the latest prospect from Europe that has Nuggets hive buzzing and for good reason. He had a strong performance in Summer League and has been playing well in Liga ACB so far this season. Welsh, Vanderbilt and Lydon are pretty synonymous with Cancar. Welsh and Vanderbilt are second round picks developing (or will be developing once healthy) in another league and Lydon is another long term prospect who won’t be under any sort of contractual obligation after this season. They do have the benefit of getting time with the NBA squad though, so they’re a bit more seasoned which gives them the slight edge in trade value. It’s not very likely any of these guys get traded, but it could happen as a sweetener in a larger deal.
If you didn’t know, yes, NBA head coaches can be traded. Doc Rivers is a prime example. The Los Angeles Clippers sent a first round pick to the Boston Celtics for the rights to have Doc be their coach so suffice to say that coach Malone, with his lack of a championship ring, is not likely to return the same value. Still in some bizarro situation where the relationship crumbled between coach and the front office but the Nuggets continued the success they’ve had this season you could see a scenario where Denver might trade Malone for something like a second round pick. This of course wouldn’t happen until the offseason and has about a .001% chance of happening overall but it is technically possible and you have to believe coach could still bring in something in return, even if it’s not much.
The Solid Players With Baggage
All three guys both fill a role for the Nuggets and are regular rotation pieces. Their value to the team is definitely higher than it is on the trade market and that’s generally because of their contract situations. Craig is the one with really no contract issue. His value is simply limited by his play on the court and what he brings to the table, also he’s already 28. In Lyles’ case the issue comes with his slow start to what is the final season of his current contract. He had some great flashes last season and looked like a guy whose floor was solid stretch four off the bench but had the ceiling of a high quality starter. It hasn’t gone as well this season though and his 25% shooting from three has left his stretch four ability seriously in doubt. It’s hard to find a trade situation for Trey. He likely hasn’t played well enough for a team gunning for a playoff run and with so much in question about where he fits in the NBA a rebuilding team isn’t going to see much value in surrendering assets for him just to secure his restricted free agency rights. Plumlee on the other hand would provide value to a number of teams and you could see how a team looking to add a quality center before the playoffs would definitely be interested in his services. The problem of course is he is owed $14 million next season which means a team likely either would have to give up a quality player (or package of players) to match the salary or some sort of expiring contract or bad contract with draft compensation. Playoff teams are trying to hold onto their quality role players or trade them for stars, not swap them for other quality role players. Likewise, a team in the hunt like the Nuggets aren’t looking to trade away a solid piece of their rotation for cap space or bad contracts and draft compensation. It seems very unlikely the Nuggets and team X find a package that fits both of their needs in a playoff run when the swap is centered around Plumlee.
The Unproven Young Guns
Denver’s 2021 1st round pick.
Michael Porter Jr
Morris, Beasley and Hernangomez are starting to go from unproven to proven but at this point all they’ve shown is that they can be solid rotation players over a small sample size. It’s still really hard to get a firm grasp on where these guys’ ceilings are at. Are they bench players? Are they starters? Can they develop into stars? It’s tough to say but their time on a bargain contract is rapidly running out so its not quite as low risk as it may seem but all three of these guys should be able to return some value from a team who is intrigued by their talents. MPJ is of course a total different ball game but he probably would return similar value. Like the other guys in this group his ceiling is a pretty big unknown. His is the highest, but he’s also got the lowest floor of any of them as well. There’s plenty of examples of guys taking the first year of their NBA career off because of injury and becoming big time players (Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Blake Griffin) and there’s also examples of guys who didn’t have it pan out so well (Nerlens Noel). We do know that MPJ’s health caused him to fall farther in the draft than any of the aforementioned players, all of those guys got legitimate experience in college after all, but we also know his accomplishments in high school are on the level of guys with hall of fame careers. The unknown on him serves as both a reason for intrigue and for caution. On the draft pick side, Denver traded their 2019 pick to Brooklyn in the Kenneth Faried deal which means they cannot trade their 2020 first round pick due to the Stepien Rule. A 1st round pick that is three years out isn’t worth a whole bunch, especially from a team with as positive of a trajectory as Denver’s, but it’s still a 1st round pick.
Really Good Players On Big Contracts
This group is when you really start to get into the meat of the Nuggets power in the trade market. Every player prior to this group is a guy Denver could trade in certain situations but from this point on if one of the players were to be moved it would be a big trade. Millsap has the least value of the group driven by the size of his contract and his age. He does have the ability to become a huge expiring deal if a team was looking for that but the Nuggets don’t seem to be in that type of position. If Lyles was playing lights out or MPJ was healthy and doing well you could see maybe the Nuggets trying a swap for another similar type large veteran contract, something like a Millsap for Gordon Hayward kind of deal. Those things aren’t happening though which makes Denver value Millsap far more than the trade market will. Barton is a different story. His value on the trade market is fairly high but injuries have kept him sidelined almost the entire season and Beasley and Hernangomez have played well in his absence. Will is signed long term so while he is certainly a very good player, he also requires a large financial commitment which could push some teams away given the health struggles this season. The Nuggets aren’t likely to get good value at the deadline so this would be another one of those offseason moves. If Denver has a disappointing postseason run then maybe they feel like they need more size on the perimeter and Barton could be the guy who ends up on the outside looking in. The Nuggets would likely have plenty of suitors if they went that route.
The Young Studs
Harris and Murray stand out as the two young players who aren’t quite stars, but that ceiling doesn’t seem too far out of reach. Harris won’t have quite as much draw given his own struggles with injuries and the fact that his contract has already been negotiated, but he’s still going to bring huge value to the trade table as an elite role player if nothing else. The Nuggets could likely get a high 1st round pick for him, but again, something you’d be more likely to see on draft night than at the deadline. Murray is the player teams are going to ask for as the centerpiece of a deal if they are looking to trade their own star player. If there were a situation where a top 5 wing player became available on the trade market Denver likely would entertain a Murray deal. However, all indications in the past when guys like Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler became available were that the Nuggets aren’t willing to include Murray in any deal without a long term commitment from the player they are receiving in return, and even then it’s questionable.
The chances of Joker getting traded are none, but he also has more value than any player on the roster, by far. It’s no longer a question of if Jokic will be a star, only how big of one he will become and currently he’s a 23 year old MVP candidate leading one of the best teams in the NBA and putting up statistical production we haven’t seen since the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He would command a package of young players, picks, and/or expiring contracts on par with any of the biggest blockbuster trades we’ve seen. The Nuggets are all in on Joker though. He is clearly the face of the franchise for the forseeable future and they definitely will not be making any moves with their star player.