As of late, the Denver Nuggets have been rolling. They’re winners of 13 of their last 16 games, have won 11 straight home games, and are playing the best basketball that they have all season. There are a lot of reasons to feel great about where the Nuggets are at as a franchise, but the front office might find a trade that’s favorable to them. Calvin Booth and the rest of the Nuggets’ front office have shown that they aren’t complacent and will make moves if they think it would improve the team.
The 2023 trade deadline is creeping up rather quickly, as it’s just under a month away on February 9th. With trade season upon the league, some fans may wonder what the Nuggets have in their chest and what assets could be on the move.
What draft picks are available for the Nuggets to trade?
Currently, the Nuggets do not have many draft picks that they could trade. Due to the Stepien Rule, teams in the NBA cannot trade first round picks in consecutive seasons. Because of that, the Nuggets only have their 2029 first round pick available to trade. They have traded their 2023, 2025, and 2027 first round picks at different points so their 2024, 2026, and 2028 first round draft picks are locked behind the Stepien Rule.
As far as second round picks go, they have their own seconds from 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2029. They do not own any second round draft picks in 2027 or 2028, but do own a 2023 second round pick that could come from the most favorable of the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, or Washington Wizards. So they have six total second round picks available to be dealt.
The two least likely players to be traded for the Denver Nuggets are Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. The two of them are the core of the Denver Nuggets and have been for years. There’s no world in which either of them would be dealt at the trade deadline. Nikola Jokic is in the running for his third consecutive MVP and Jamal Murray has put together a good season returning from a torn ACL.
I would also consider Aaron Gordon as untouchable, as he is currently having the best season of his career and opens up a lot of offensive options for the Nuggets with his vertical spacing and improved jump shot this season. He’s making a bid for an All-Star appearance and it doesn’t make sense for Denver to move him with how good he has been.
The Big Deal Only Assets
The Nuggets don’t have the draft capital to make a big move if they wanted to, so if they were to try and acquire a valuable role player or starter one of Michael Porter Jr. or Bones Hyland would likely have to be involved. Both players are having great offensive seasons, and are seen as valuable by the front office. However, they are the most appealing assets that the Nuggets have and to get something of value, you must give up something of value in return.
Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby is one such player that one of the two would have to be involved to get. With more and more picks being involved in seemingly every big trade, the Nuggets would have to deal valuable players in order to get big impact players.
A few other players are likely to only be involved with bigger trades like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown, and Christian Braun. All 3 of those wings were acquired this offseason and have filled the roles they’ve been asked to very well. One of them being traded would come as a surprise as they are either important for the team now, long term, or both.
Possible, But Unlikely
This tier is reserved for good players that can be seen as valuable by someone, but might be needed for salary to work in a trade or as a sweetener for a package. Jeff Green and Ish Smith are both veterans beloved in the locker room, and respected around the league. However, the Nuggets don’t have many mid-tier salaries and the two of them are the only players that find themselves in that salary range that haven’t been rotation fixtures this season.
With Jeff Green, that’s mostly due to him dealing with a hand injury or resting, but with Vlatko Cancar and Zeke Nnaji playing well as of late it’s possible that he makes the most sense for someone making around 5 to 7 million dollars a year. He’s still good enough to warrant some interest from teams, but is loved in Denver and it’s doubtful that he would be moved. Much of the same could be said of Ish Smith.
Vlatko Cancar and Peyton Watson are two other players that find themselves here — Vlatko has impressed many with his play as of late and has been the most productive big off the Nuggets’ bench this season. Peyton Watson is someone that the front office is excited for because of his potential to be a two-way forward in a couple of seasons, and it’s unlikely that other teams would give up something that the Nuggets would deem equal value.
The Most Realistic Trade Options
Zeke Nnaji has been showcasing his skill set in what has been his first extended run of the season lately, and he’s largely impressed. His rebound has improved, and he gets more comfortable with physicality every time he touches the floor. However, he’s an attractive young asset and is someone that has struggled to find consistent playing time for Denver. He deserves to play regularly, and if a team besides the Nuggets wanted to get an intriguing young big, Zeke Nnaji makes a lot of sense if the Nuggets were getting a good player in return.
Davon Reed has fallen out of the rotation, and could be a salary matching piece for another player on a minimum contract. He still has flashes of good play, but it doesn’t seem like he would be a mainstay in a playoff rotation right now. If the Nuggets could get an upgrade, Davon Reed would make sense as a piece they could move.
All in all, the Nuggets don’t have too many assets that they can trade, but smaller moves can form without too much if both teams are addressing needs. The Nuggets may want to sure up the defense more than they have, or get stronger depth pieces. They also have a 9.1 million dollar trade exception that they could use to get someone within that salary range without having to give up a player.