It’s been a few weeks since you’ve had a Nick’s Nuggets to argue over, loyal readers. But the column is back this week with a fairly spicy take. All of the discussion about trade season has me thinking about what the purpose of a trade would be for the Nuggets. Yes, we all want the roster to get better, even if just marginally, but to what end?
For me, it’s very simple: the Nuggets need to go all in for a championship this year. Here are five reasons why.
The West is wide open
The argument for not making a big trade goes something like this: the Nuggets are young, they’ve made a lot of progress as a group, and they just need to develop the talent they have. Jokic and Murray—The Core—aren’t even in their prime yet, and several young and talented players like MPJ, Beasley, and Juancho need another year or two to be ready to contribute to a championship run. STAY THE COURSE, I see some of you already tweeting frantically.
I sympathize with that take. I want nothing more than for the team as currently constructed to break through the NuggLife ceiling as a testament to the power of process and continuity. The trouble with patience is, though, what happens next year—or the year after—with the other contenders in the Western Conference?
The last place team right now is the Golden State Warriors—you remember them, don’t you? When Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and DeAngelo Russell all share the court next season, the competition level in the West will be ratcheted up significantly. The Warriors will likely be one of the favorites again, a zero-to-hero reversal the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan. How about another year for the Lakers to shift around some pieces, maybe bring in a third max player? The same goes for the Clippers. Imagine KAT demanding a trade and ending up with Kawhi and PG. Shudder.
But right now, in 2020, every team in the West is beatable. Every team has weaknesses. Every team is one injury away from sliding out of contention. The Nuggets are only four games back from the one seed despite an up and down first half. They have a real shot at being the top seed in the Western Conference, with home-court advantage at altitude, and more experience as a unit than any of the other contenders in the West.
This may be the easiest path they will get to a Finals in the next five years.
Millsap ain’t getting any younger
Certain segments of this fanbase do not seem to appreciate how important Millsap is to this team. Let me just set the record straight.
His ability to cover for Jokic on defense is almost uncanny, and it’s completely irreplaceable (as we’ve witnessed when Jerami Grant plays the four alongside the Joker). He’s also been their most reliable three-point shooter all season. And he provides a level-headed approach and feel for the ebbs of a game that some of the Nuggets better (and younger) players still lack.
What’s also true is that he’s 35 and on the last year of his deal. This could conceivably be the final opportunity the Nuggets have to win with Millsap, either because his body doesn’t hold up or he leaves in free agency. It’s hard to project what this team will look like and be able to accomplish two or three years from now, because that team will almost certainly not have Millsap. Instead of trying to play Nostradamous and imagine a Vando who can actually add something on offense, maybe the smarter play is to go for it all this year, while we do know what we have.
The Nuggets may never have this much depth again
This roster will likely look much different in 2020-21. In addition to Millsap’s uncertain future, Beasley, Juancho, Plumlee, and Grant could all be gone next year. That doesn’t completely gut the Nuggets’ depth, but it will sure leave a lot of holes to fill and questions to answer. The bench has had its struggles this year, as has been well documented. But they’ve seemed to have turned a corner with the improved play of Grant and Beasley, as well as the belated emergence of MPJ.
From top to bottom, this team is loaded with talent at every position. That talent could easily be consolidated to bring in a player who could put them over the top this year. Next year, that may not be the case. If Denver continues to be an overlooked free agency destination, the same core will be complemented by a thinner, less talented bench, and facing a more difficult road to the Finals.
Because I just can’t with these Lakers fans
See Lakers Twitter.
What’s the point of sport, anyway?
The last time I checked, you play to win the game. For too many years, the Nuggets did not play to win the game. They played to improve at the game. Each season was about coaching up lottery picks, then getting to the playoffs, then getting out of the first round, then figuring out how much a superstar in his prime can get via trade so the whole cycle could repeat.
It’s finally time to just win.
In one of my favorite movies, Gattaca, the main character, Vincent, has a swim-off with his genetically superior brother at the end of the film. Flailing and losing, his brother tells him they have to turn back, that they’re too far from shore. Vincent, a scrawny nerd who was supposed to die of heart failure at 30 but who has managed to become an astronaut, responds: “You want to know how I did all of this […] I never saved anything for the swim back.”
Maybe it’s time for the Nuggets to stop saving something for a future they can’t predict. Maybe they need to treat this season like their last, because that might just be mindset they need to actually win it all.
Should the Nuggets go all in this year?
This poll is closed
Yes, you sold me
Yes, but only if it doesn’t really mean going all in
No, but they should make a trade
No, and stop being such an impatient millenial