With the terms of the trade finally complete, and Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jarred Vanderbilt on the way to Minnesota, what were your first thoughts when you saw the trade go through?
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Basically, “what the **** is going on?” Player names flying left and right. The Nuggets were initially not involved, then they got involved, then the news broke. I was in the locker room when things dropped, and it was a somber place to be.
Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash); This is nuts! One player after another, trying to keep track of it all, what a wild way to ruin my bedtime. My instant thoughts when it was first reported was it wasn’t a ton in return for Malik and Juancho but it seemed pretty obvious that they weren’t going to be back in Denver next year so at least the Nuggets got something.
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): First thoughts were: oh my goodness I feel like I’m also being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Seriously, it seemed like a new player was being traded every five minutes and most of them just so happened to be Nuggets players.
My initial reaction was that Denver is not done yet. It just feels like there is another move to be had here. Whether that is for Jrue Holiday or a player we have not even mentioned remains to be seen, but I doubt the Nuggets are done dealing.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Which version of the trade? More players got added with every Twitter refresh, and the threat of more Woj bombs hovers over us still. My first thought was that this is not the end of it. It feels like the first act in a roster makeover. Denver’s front office has been accumulating pieces for years, and has loved all the young talent it’s acquired, but depth in the playoffs matters less than the height of the talent pyramid, and it looks like this is Denver’s first salvo in getting more height added to that pyramid before the deadline. This move alone doesn’t move the needle much - that is pending a second deal, even with Diop and the first round pick.
The Nuggets will receive Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, and Keita Bates-Diop, as well as Houston’s 2020 first rounder. Grade the trade as it stands right now:
Blackburn: Let’s go with a B-. Keita Bates-Diop is theoretically a piece Denver can use in the future. Noah Vonleh provides better insurance at the big man positions than Vlatko Cancar or Bol Bol. Shabazz Napier is competent, though doesn’t necessarily fill a need right now with Monte Morris and P.J. Dozier on the roster. The first round pick is nice, but it doesn’t move the needle for Denver as a playoff contender this year unless they use it in another trade.
Mikash: I think it’s a solid B. As it stands right now the Nuggets basically just moved on from guys who weren’t likely to be on the roster next year with the exception of Vanderbilt, but they sort of swapped him with Bates-Diop. It’s a bit tricky in the short term because the Nuggets are fighting so many injuries, but long term they added a first rounder and didn’t take back any salary.
Ewing: As it stands right now, I would probably give the move a C. The best part about the move is all the assets they added to potentially use in another deal. Houston’s first-round pick was a really nice get for the Nuggets and is something they can throw onto a possible package for Holiday.
The only concern I have with the deal is if another trade does not materialize. Malik Beasley is still better than any player the Nuggets got back and could have been a valuable asset moving forward. If the Nuggets find a way to use this trade to make a bigger one, then I will give it an A+++. Fingers crossed it is for Holiday.
Gross: B-. Diop has an extra year on his deal, whereas Juancho and Malik were both restricted free agents after this season. Denver traded a first round pick for Jerami Grant and likely got a slightly better one back in this trade. But Denver also messed up its chemistry by getting in a lot of players who don’t know how to play with Jokic or the rest of this squad. Nobody gets a lot of practice with a point center, even guys coming from a team with a talented big man passer like Karl-Anthony Towns. It will take an adjustment period, and that may cost Denver games - a big deal considering none of the added players should be expected to get real minutes in the playoffs. Potentially hurting yourself in the regular season for some middling future assets is a choice - but one that only really shines if there’s a second trade to pay off these moves.
If this is a precursor to another deal, should the Nuggets go all-in to win an NBA title this season?
Blackburn: I think the Nuggets are trying to walk the line between competing for a championship this year and maintaining as much flexibility as possible for future seasons. If you keep every asset and don’t make a deal, there are still holes on the roster. I think Denver needs another guy they can count on with the ball in their hands beyond Jamal Murray and Will Barton. This is why Jrue Holiday is so appealing because he’s also one of the best defenders in the NBA.
If the Nuggets do go all in and can put together a roster that features Murray, Holiday, Barton, Millsap, Jokic, Craig, Porter, and Grant, that team can win a title over the next two years.
Mikash: I don’t think you can go all-in in a sense that you would compromise your future, but we know the Nuggets aren’t doing that. Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton and Nikola Jokic all appear to be very safe so you’re talking about Gary Harris and Monte Morris (Mason Plumlee as well if you’re looking at a Jrue Holiday deal) along with picks as a trade package. None of that is compromising the team’s future so if that package can bring you back a difference maker then go for it.
Ewing: I think we will have a really good idea in the next 48 hours or so whether or not the Nuggets are going for a championship this year. If the team stands pat, then championship is probably not in the cards this year. If they can make another splash move, then I absolutely think this team can compete for a championship.
It is time to go all in.
Gross: All-in would be doing something stupid like trading Michael Porter Jr. That’s not in Denver’s plan no matter how many trades are made. But another trade would signal that Denver is moving on from its plan for ridiculous depth - even as that depth has helped keep them afloat during their injury-riddled January - and focusing on getting the right 8 or 9 players to maximize their shot at a title in this year and for years to come. There’s nothing to be unhappy about in that thought.