Per Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Denver Nuggets have emerged as the leaders in the clubhouse to acquire forward Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic, who submitted a formal trade request to the team in February. The Boston Celtics are rumored to be the second contender with an initial of guard Marcus Smart and a first-round pick, along with their hefty trade exception valued at $28.5 million. Denver’s primary offer has been Gary Harris, a first-round pick and one of R.J. Hampton, Zeke Nnaji or Bol Bol.
The Nuggets have the far more attractive young options with the play that Hampton and Nnaji have shown to this point along with the ceiling that Bol offers if he’s able to even scratch his potential ceiling. As far as Harris goes, he’s the longest-tenured player on the roster by a few hours over MVP-candidate center Nikola Jokic, and he’s been with his team longer than all but 12 other players in the NBA. Moving on from him would be difficult, but it’s looking like a change of scenery might be needed for the seventh-year shooting guard.
Harris averaged 17.5 points per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from 3-point range. Throw in his talents on the defensive end, and he was looking like one of the brightest young 3-and-D stars in the NBA. In the three seasons since, he hasn’t sniffed those marks with his points and 3-point percentage marks all dropping each year with marks of just 9.7 points and 32 percent from 3-point range. Still just 26, he could revive his career in a situation like Orlando.
For Gordon, who was once viewed as a budding NBA star, his career has somewhat stagnated with the Magic, and he’s likely looking to revive that with a change of scenery of his own. He’s averaging fewer than 30 minutes per game this season for the first time since the 2016-17 season, and he’s shooting just 43.7 percent from the field, which is tied for the second-worst mark of his career. With just one year left on his deal, he’s likely looking to prove he still has that star potential in him with the chance to hit the open market next summer.
Orlando’s price tag on Gordon has likely come down with the deadline approaching as they’re 15-29 and six games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Teams are also much more likely to acquire Gordon than the high asking price for center Nikola Vucevic. Orlando would be wise to move Gordon for what they can get out of him now rather than waiting until next season or the offseason to move him when the value will only go down.
With Jokic playing at an MVP level, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly could have more urgency than a traditional deadline to add talent around the young center. Gordon would give the team a boost in the forward rotation with the size and speed to hang with bigger wings such as LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard that the team doesn’t have right now. Gordon would also still bring some of the slashing ability you lose with Harris being shipped to Orlando. Denver isn’t always the most aggressive team at the deadline, but they are making a push to change that narrative with this type of move.