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2021-22 NBA Trade Deadline primer

Will the Denver Nuggets make a trade ahead of today’s deadline at 1:00 pm MT?

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Washington Wizards v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Today is finally the day that rumors can become reality.

The Denver Nuggets enter trade deadline day with a record of 30-24 and in sixth place of the Western Conference. Jamal Murray has yet to suit up, and Michael Porter Jr. was apparently dealing with injury already throughout his limited number of games to begin the season. For all intents and purposes, the Nuggets have done well to reach this point, led by Nikola Jokić and his MVP-caliber performances.

But with the trade deadline rapidly approaching just six hours from now at 1:00pm MT, it’s time for the Nuggets to commit to a direction on the season. They can realistically do three things:

  1. Do nothing and stand pat, hoping the potential returns of Jamal Murray (likely) and Michael Porter Jr. (iffy) push Denver toward contention status.
  2. Trade away veterans for draft picks and future prospects to take advantage of a cleaner championship window next season.
  3. Consolidate players and draft picks into rotation upgrades to better facilitate playoff success when/if Murray and Porter return to the lineup.

All three directions have merit, but it appears the Nuggets have shown some interest in staying aggressive. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Nuggets have made Facundo Campazzo and JaMychal Green available in trades. According to Matt Moore of The Action Network, the Nuggets have shown interest in upgrading the backup center spot. According to Mike Singer of the Denver Post, the Nuggets have shown aggressive interest toward upgrading on the defensive wing front.

The Nuggets don’t have a lot of players and draft assets available to trade. With first round picks in 2023 and 2025 already out the door in previous trades, the next available first round pick the Nuggets could offer in a deal is their 2027 first rounder. Given the recent performances of rookie guard Bones Hyland and second year forward Zeke Nnaji, it’s difficult to foresee those two players being traded if the Nuggets could simply trade a future first round pick instead. Denver also has second round picks out the door, as well as a limited amount of matching salary. The Nuggets cannot trade Michael Porter Jr. or Aaron Gordon today, and they certainly won’t be trading Nikola Jokić or Jamal Murray, leaving very little financial flexibility for the deals they can make.

Whatever the Nuggets decide to do, it appears that President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and the rest of the Nuggets front office have been busy and will continue to work through the deadline to best suit Denver’s interests. The Nuggets already acquired Bryn Forbes last month, helping solidify the direction the Nuggets bench has gone in recent games. Now, it’s up to Connelly to see whether the Nuggets are ready and able to push toward contention this season. If they are, expect the team to be active in trade talks throughout the day.

UPDATE at 7:45am MT: Nuggets looking to upgrade on the margins today

According to Matt Moore of The Action Network, the Nuggets, along with the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks, are pursuing upgrades to their current rosters today.

Says Moore in a quick note:

The Nuggets continue to posture to other teams that they have limited resources to work with and aren’t looking to shake things up but are trying for margin moves.

Perhaps this pushes back on yesterday’s report from Mike Singer that the Nuggets are looking to be more aggressive by attaching a 2027 first round pick to trades; however, there are very few opportunities for the Nuggets to upgrade their roster by simply swapping salary. The Nuggets will likely have to choose between offering their 2027 first rounder and offering young players like Bones Hyland or Zeke Nnaji. There are seemingly few alternate directions the Nuggets can go that would involve a legitimate upgrade rather than just shuffling pieces.

In addition, saying that the Nuggets “aren’t willing to shake things up” would suggest trading bigger salaries like Will Barton and Monte Morris is likely off the table. Those two have started every single game they’ve played and are mainstays in Denver’s rotation and locker room, and it would come as a shock to many to see Denver pivot away from Morris and/or Barton before Denver’s entire rotation has the chance to get healthy.