It’s been rumored for awhile, and Denver Stiffs writers have speculated as such, but today, an interesting Denver Nuggets tidbit came from the most plugged in NBA Insider.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nuggets have been pursuing a Kenneth Faried trade for over a year.

During ESPN’s mock draft special, Woj paired with former Draft Express writer and current ESPN draft guru Mike Schmitz to conduct the proceedings and provide some insider analysis.

When the Nuggets’ 14th pick came up, Woj speculated that Denver might not keep this pick, instead using it to shed salary. Faried was the primary name listed, as Woj elaborated, saying the Nuggets have been trying to move Faried for a length of time somewhere between a year and 18 months.

Ultimately, Schmitz and Woj selected Kevin Knox out of Kentucky for Denver’s 14th pick, but it stands to reason that Denver may not be picking at 14 this year. On top of the obvious salary crunch, with Faried, Wilson Chandler, and Darrell Arthur combining for nearly $34 million if the latter two exercise their player options, this draft is likely to have hidden gems throughout the first and into the early second round. If Denver could shed some salary and get under the luxury tax while picking up a lower pick, it might make sense to do so.

An example of this would be to trade the 14th pick, Faried, and Malik Beasley to the Atlanta Hawks for the 19th pick, who might be interested in moving up for a second lottery selection after picking at third overall. Then again, Atlanta might also believe that the cost of taking on an extra $13.8 million in salary for next season isn’t worth moving up five spots and picking up a nice shooting guard prospect in the process. It’s impossible to know what a team like Atlanta values without talking to them, but these are surely the types of discussions Nuggets management is having right now.

Denver is in a tough position financially, especially if ownership decides it doesn’t want to pay any luxury tax this year. With Nikola Jokic’s impending max contract, an important contract negotiation with Will Barton, and a bunch of money they’d like to move, don’t be surprised if the Nuggets do what Woj speculates and sheds salary come draft night.

They’re also in a tough position talent wise. With clear needs at the big wing position, backup point guard, and more defense in general, Denver can’t afford to utilize the 14th pick as a simple trade chip. They need to add talent if the goal is to solidify a playoff spot next year. That may mean paying the luxury tax this year, especially because next season, the salary comes off the books, and Denver would be able to generate max contract space.

Time will tell whether the Nuggets decide to go through with a salary dump, but it may be a necessary evil in order to give Jokic the max and retain Barton at a reasonable price. Nuggets fans will surely be unhappy about giving up a draft asset to do so, but if keeping Barton is an important part of Denver’s plan, then it may be the right call.

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