The holiday season has passed, December 15th is in our rear view mirror and now the NBA holiday season looms. February is for many the best month of the season. Teams are gearing up for the playoff push, the All Star Game and all of it’s festivities are held and most important of all, the NBA trade deadline arrives. As I do every year, I’ve created a handy guide for you of where the Denver Nuggets assets rank among each other in terms of value. This is NOT a list of who is the best player, only who would be the most valued on the trade market.
Wait, he’s still around?
Ah yes, the “other” Euro’s of Tim Connelly’s career (yes, I know it was Masai Ujiri who drafted Turkyilmaz). These guys for one reason or another did not work out in the NBA and now it’s unlikely they’ll ever don a Nuggets uniform. However, Denver technically still owns their rights. Why? Well, this was a more popular move in the trying to get to the salary floor days but the NBA won’t allow a team to trade something for nothing. Sometimes when a deal is a clear 100% salary dump the team taking on a contract isn’t exactly willing to give up an asset so in that scenario they would send one of these guys. While the chances of them ever playing in the NBA are relatively slim, there still is a feasible chance, and that’s important. The Nuggets also still hold the rights of Xue YuYang and Sani Becirovic but they are 37 and 38 years old respectively. Any trade involving those two will in all likelihood be rejected by the league office because both players have since retired from professional basketball and aren’t considered players who could legitimately play in the NBA.
The semi sweeteners
2023 2nd Round pick
Did you know the Nuggets don’t have a second round pick until 2023? Thanks to the Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and Bol Bol trades that is the case. Normally the picks are at the tops of their groupings because it gives teams more flexibility but in this case because the pick is so far out, I think it is one of the least valuable trade chips the Nuggets have. Dozier, Cancar and Vandy all have some appeal to them in that their are young and they are cheap. I’m guessing no one is calling Tim Connelly specifically about any of these guys but they are definitely the type of young player who can be added to a large deal either to help make salaries match or because its that little bit extra that gets the deal done.
The Bol Bol category
Generally, Bol would file in the category above but because of his notoriety and incredibly high ceiling he doesn’t really fit as just a sweetener, he’s more of the ultimate sweetener. He’s also on that two-way contract which makes him extremely low risk. No doubt if a team is looking for a little something extra in a deal they are going to ask for Bol before they ask for guys like Vanderbilt of Cancar.
The unproven on an expiring deal
Now we’re getting into the category of guys who teams are actually going to be interested in. None of these guys have been able to crack coach Michael Malone’s rotation on a regular basis and they are due for a new contract at the end of the season which makes them higher risk plays. For Beasley and Hernangomez that’s not such a big deal, they are still relatively young and a lot of teams can sell themselves on the idea that those guys just need to right opportunity to flourish, and thats not a bad line of thought. Craig is a bit different. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent so teams won’t gain the right to match any contract in the offseason like they would with Beasley or Juancho. He’s also 29 years old. Beasley and Juancho are guys who could fit on contending teams with a hole as well as young teams looking to rebuild. Craig only fits in right situations before he becomes simply a throw in to a deal.
The Monte Morris Category
Like Bol, Monte doesn’t really fit in one of the other categories. There’s an argument to be made that a guy like Beasley or Juancho has a higher ceiling and perhaps is more valued but Monte is a regular rotation player for one of the best teams in the league. He has a skills highly valued for a point guard (ball security and playmaking for others) and still has another year on his contract. Monte hasn’t been as strong this year as he was last but he’s still a relatively young quality player on a cheeeeeeeeeap contract.
The proven expiring contracts
Now we’re really into the meat of the trade game. For the Nuggets to unload any of the three players in this category you have to figure a significant deal is in place. If the Nuggets weren’t right in the middle of the playoff hunt then perhaps they deal these guys as one offs to teams either looking to add a veteran piece for the playoffs or teams looking to add expiring contracts. The Nuggets need all these guys in their rotation though so giving one up means they are likely getting something in return to replace them. Where each of these guys rank in terms of one another varies from team to team based on their needs but all three command a higher price than anyone mentioned previously.
High quality starters
1st round pick 2022
Because Denver dealt their 2020 draft pick to acquire Jerami Grant the Stepien rule eliminates their 2021 1st round pick from being traded this deadline (Denver cannot trade the pick until the new league year which starts July 1st). The reason the pick ranks at the bottom of the category is because Barton and Harris are proven commodities. Each has shown over a large sample size that he is capable of playing regular starting minutes and being a big contributor on a playoff team. Both of them are also under team control for at least two more seasons.
The MPJ Category
Michael Porter Jr
Funny story, I first put this list together right around December 15th but haven’t been able to get to writing the full article until now because of the holidays. Porter Jr. leapfrogged the previous category in that time. While for some the idea that MPJ is more valuable on the trade market than a player like Harris or Barton may be tough to believe but not for me. After his 19 point and 25 point outings last week it’s clear that he is healthy and incredibly dangerous. He’s got two more years on his rookie contract after this one and that contract is an absolute bargain because he slid to 14th in the draft. Again, depending on team need he may slide up or down the list a touch (a contending team like the Milwaukee Bucks is likely to be more interested in Harris or Barton) but all 29 teams would take him on their roster and you can’t say that about anyone we’ve already talked about on this list.
Jokic tops out as the most valuable trade asset for the Nuggets for the third year running and it comes as no surprise. He’s clearly a superstar player at this point and even on a max deal he’d be one of, if not, the most coveted players on the market if he was available. Murray’s not quite as cut and dry. While he certainly is the second best piece the Nuggets have at this moment, his high dollar contract without the requisite top tier performance over a couple seasons makes him a riskier play than Nikola. Still, teams saw what he is capable of at the highest level in the playoffs last season and at age 22 that makes him extremely valuable in the NBA.