Let’s start off the roundtable with the biggest question on Nuggets’ fans minds — will Aaron Gordon be a Denver Nugget after the trade deadline?
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): No. The reported asking price is too high, and he’s not worth the cost. This is a guy who is like a facsimile of what the Nuggets need. He’s good from far, but far from good. I would be sad to know that the Nuggets paid a king’s ransom for a piece that might not be a good fit.
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): I’m going to say no, but it won’t be for a lack of effort. We have seen in the past that opposing teams will ask for a price the Nuggets simply aren’t willing to pay. Before the trade deadline last year, the New Orleans Pelicans were asking for Jamal Murray AND Michael Porter Jr. in a Jrue Holiday deal. The Nuggets weren’t going to give up either, and they obviously weren’t going to part with both. This past offseason, the Milwaukee Bucks offered three first round picks and multiple pick swaps for Jrue, and the Nuggets were blown away by that asking price. This year, some team, whether it be the rumored Boston Celtics, the Portland Trail Blazers, or someone else, will grow more desperate than the Nuggets and chuck the kitchen sink at the Magic in a Gordon trade. Tim Connelly and Co. simply aren’t willing to give up everything for Gordon, which means they will probably be outbid.
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): Simply put, no. Denver is going to explore the move, but they’re not going to want to pay the price that Orlando is asking for right now. Additionally, a team like Denver doesn’t have the same salary matching skills that others rumored to be in the market do. The Boston Celtics have a huge trade exception that they could use to absorb all of Gordon’s contract. Denver has never been the team to pay a premium strictly because they want a player. At the price Orlando has been asking for in return, he’ll be somewhere other than Denver after the deadline has passed.
What is going to happen with Lonzo Ball?
Lewis: I think he’ll get moved. He’s become his own man, and I don’t think teams are worried about his dad anymore. The Pelicans drafted Kira Lewis to be their point guard of the future, and they also have Eric Bledsoe on the team. They need to get a future asset for a player that doesn’t have a future in New Orleans.
Blackburn: I think Lonzo stays in New Orleans, rightly or wrongly. Teams want Lonzo, and the Pelicans are going to try and extract as many players and picks out of teams as they can possibly can. New York and both Los Angeles teams will make some calls, but it’s unlikely that teams meet the asking price for Lonzo that prompts New Orleans to actually part with him.
Bridgford: I think Lonzo stays there. The two main teams rumored to be in the market for Lonzo are the two Los Angeles teams, but neither of those teams has the pieces to make a move happen. Lonzo isn’t quite good enough yet to be the type of player that contenders would see as a player to put them over the top, and it makes no sense for the Pelicans to move on from him unless someone pays him a high ransom for him.
Will any of the other Western Conference contenders make a move? Who will they try to add?
Lewis: I would be stunned if the Lakers don’t make a trade. They have to be worried about their depth with Anthony Davis and LeBron James out. All it takes is one more injury to a key rotation piece and it could be very difficult for them to repeat as champions.
Blackburn: I don’t think there will be a significant move by any of the West contenders outside of possibly Portland (if you call them a contender at all). The Lakers, Clippers, and Jazz have all sent out all of their draft capital, and the Suns don’t really have anything significant to trade either. The Nuggets are the team that can make the most significant deal in that contention pool. The only team I’m worried about is the Lakers cobbling together enough pieces to trade for Norman Powell.
Bridgford: The LA Clippers seem like the type of team that’s desperate for a move. They've stumbled with their consistency as of late, and Kawhi Leonard could easily opt-out and leave at the end of this season. They can’t afford to let the end of this season go to waste by sitting on their hands at the deadline. Their rumors have had them in the market for another point guard such as George Hill or Ricky Rubio, and Hill seems like the perfect type of player for them to go after.
Are there any buyout candidates you think could both a) help Denver and b) have an interest in coming to Denver?
Lewis: That’s a tricky question, because I think most buyout guys will want to go to Los Angeles or the Acela corridor. I would like to see George Hill wind up in a Nuggets uniform, or Otto Porter Jr., because I think the team could use their veteran experience and defensive potential. Both those guys have been in the playoffs before and know what it takes to win at that level.
Blackburn: I don’t see a lot of great options on the buyout market. Obviously, Otto Porter Jr. would be the best candidate. The Nuggets just saw him and the Bulls; Porter looked good on the offensive end of the floor and would add a different dimension to Denver’s team. That being said, I’d be shocked if Denver explored the buyout market unless they had already made a trade first. Denver has 15 guaranteed contracts on their roster and would need to move or cut someone first.
Bridgford: One potential buyout candidate that could help Denver is Otto Porter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls. Porter has dealt with injuries throughout the year, but he’s healthy and could provide solid minutes off the bench in a role Denver needs. Throw in the fact that he knocks down over 40 percent of his 3-point attempts, and he’d make great sense in Denver. There aren’t a lot of players that play a position of need for Denver that might get bought out. Most of the centers available aren’t the defensive type that they need, and shooting wings aren’t always available.
What is a trade you’d most like to see happen that doesn’t involve the Nuggets?
Lewis: Kyle Lowry to Philadelphia. I’ve always really like Lowry, and seeing him get a chance to win a championship would be nice. Philadelphia acts like a tough team, and adding Lowry would actually give them someone that isn’t fake tough.
Blackburn: John Collins to the Charlotte Hornets. It’s too bad that LaMelo Ball has been sidelined for the rest of the season with a wrist injury, but what he showed during the 2020-21 season was incredible. He was efficient, effective, flashy, and showed some star potential as a lead playmaker. He could use a pick and roll partner though, and Collins would be a great fit as a roll man who could also pop for three-pointers and keep teams guessing. If the Atlanta Hawks decide to move Collins, that’s what I’m hoping for. The Hornets would become must-watch in the 2021-22 season.
Bridgford: The Lakers trade away more of their depth for another win-now move. If LeBron James and Anthony Davis are injured when the playoffs come around, they’re going to need those key bench pieces, but LeBron teams of the last few years are always mortgaging depth for another potential star. Occasionally it works, but, with Davis’ injury nagging at him, it seems like the prime situation for them to go too far in a hole they can’t get out of.
What is your dream outcome for the Nuggets at the trade deadline?
Lewis: Trading Gary Harris and a heavily-protected first for Victor Oladipo. I know the front office values Harris, and how good of a soldier he has been over his career in Denver. He’s the longest tenured Nugget, and it would be nice to see them continue to win with him on the roster. But he’s not healthy, and a return to health seems highly unlikely. He’s never going to be the same player again, and the Nuggets would benefit from getting off his salary. Getting Oladipo for the remainder of the season gives them a healthy shooting guard to put into their rotation. He would be another scoring threat off the bench, and would help lower the burden that Jamal Murray has assumed with that unit due to injuries. I don’t think he’d re-sign in Denver, but he would give them a ton of help for this season.
Blackburn: I hope Denver full sends it at this trade deadline. The Nuggets know they have three pieces on their roster that are going to be around for a long time in Jokić, Murray, and Porter. There are players on the trade market in Lonzo Ball and Aaron Gordon would fit around Denver’s current three like a glove. If there was an opportunity to acquire both players and put together a rotation that features those five playing together, the Nuggets might become favorites in the West. Denver’s vision last offseason was to put together a similar five-man starting unit that featured Jrue Holiday and Jerami Grant. Lonzo and Gordon have very similar traits to Holiday and Grant, and some believe they could become better players. The Nuggets owe it to Jokić and Murray to try to be the best they can be, and this would help.
Bridgford: They stand completely pat unless they’re able to find a move that gets Gary Harris a fresh start. Harris still plays a valuable role to this team, but it seems like he needs a change of scenery. Denver isn’t quite ready to compete for a title this year, so moving young prospects or picks for expiring deals or high-priced veterans doesn’t fit the team’s current setup.