The NBA Draft is nine days away, and it’s time to start getting really excited about its possibilities. The Denver Nuggets own the 14th, 43rd, and 58th picks in this year’s draft, and given a variety of factors, it’s unlikely they keep all of those picks.

At this current moment, 13 Nuggets are under contract for next year:

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On one hand, Denver has some holes in the backcourt and on the wing. Behind Jamal Murray at point guard, there’s uncertainty. Behind Gary Harris, Malik Beasley is still under contract, but Will Barton was integral for Denver and would be a major loss at shooting guard and small forward. Wilson Chandler has a player option, Torrey Craig is a restricted free agent, Juancho Hernangomez barely played last year and may be more of a power forward anyway, and Richard Jefferson was never brought in to play extensive minutes.

At all three positions, especially small forward, Denver could use some help in the draft. There are some quality big wing prospects in this draft, but it’s unlikely that any of them fall to Denver at 14 overall, meaning they’d have to trade up. There’s also the school of thought that they could draft a power forward if that player projects to be a quality starter and can help Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets play better defensively, but that’s a tertiary need if there ever was one.

And yet, Denver also has salary issues. Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur combined to play just 622 minutes this past season, and together, they will make over $21 million next season if Arthur picks up his player option (99% chance he will). That’s a poor distribution of cap space, and there aren’t many ways for Denver to get out of that hole. One of the options is to use the 14th pick this year as bait to shed salary, which has been mentioned relentlessly since Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news on May 29th.

So, because many of the players Denver needs immediately may be gone by 14, and because Denver could stand to cut some costs, it seems unlikely that Denver stays at 14 this year. In my opinion (shared by many of course) it’s far more likely that Denver will trade this draft pick rather than keep it. Whether they trade up, trade down, or trade out of the first round altogether is the question.

With that in mind, here are five teams that would be excellent trade partners for Denver this season:

(All Salary Cap numbers are used from Spotrac)

Dallas Mavericks

Team Phase: Talent Acquisition

Draft picks: 5, 33, 54

2018-19 Salary Cap Space: $31,806,734

The Mavericks are a fit with the Nuggets on multiple fronts. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Mavs (and the Sacramento Kings) are considering trading down in the draft. While it’s unlikely the Nuggets give up the requisite assets to move all the way up to 5th overall, it is possible if the right player falls in the draft (Luka Doncic).

The more important piece of this is Dallas’ salary cap space. With $31.8 million projected space for the 2018-19 season, as well as $13.9 million in space remaining in 2017-18, the Mavericks are one of the only teams with room to fit Kenneth Faried’s cap number onto their roster immediately. The Mavericks also have the 33rd pick in the draft, an asset the Nuggets would likely be interested in acquiring, as there will be a number of quality players taken from the 20th to the 40th pick this year.

Hypothetical Trade 1:

Mavericks receive: PF Kenneth Faried, 14th overall

Nuggets receive: 33rd overall, 2019 second round pick via Dallas (56-60 protected)

Chicago Bulls

Team Phase: Talent Acquisition

Draft picks: 7, 22

2018-19 Salary Cap Space: $41,520,513

Like the Mavericks, the Bulls are still in a building mode. Both franchise would love to add top talent in the draft, but if the right player doesn’t fall, both teams might consider moving down. In addition, the Bulls have the cap space to take on Faried, at least for a partial move up in the draft from their other first rounder at 22.

Denver has options with the Bulls. Either they can send some of their young assets to Chicago to try and move up for a wing that may start immediately (Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges, or Miles Bridges) or they move down to 22 and take on some salary in the process. Shooting guard Justin Holiday makes the most sense in this, as his deal helps the Bulls stay just under the cap and still saves the Nuggets around $9 million next season.

Hypothetical Trade 2:

Bulls receive: PF Trey Lyles, SG Malik Beasley, 14th overall

Nuggets receive: 7th overall

Hypothetical Trade 3:

Bulls receive: PF Kenneth Faried, 14th overall

Nuggets receive: SG Justin Holiday, 22nd overall

Atlanta Hawks

Team Phase: Talent Acquisition

Draft picks: 3, 19, 30, 34

2018-19 Salary Cap Space: $41,520,513

The Hawks are in the hole even more than the Bulls or the Mavericks. While each of those teams drafted foundational pieces (or what they believe to be foundational) last offseason, the Hawks took John Collins at 19th overall, a player who projects to be good, not great, for most of his career. This is the first year they truly get to swing at a lottery talent (Taurean Prince notwithstanding) and what’s better than one crack at the lottery? Two cracks at the lottery!

Atlanta would also be an excellent place for Kenneth Faried, someone Collins can learn from on the fly. A salary dump of Faried wouldn’t be consummated until the new fiscal year (July 1st) but the Hawks have a bunch of cap space they likely won’t use. If the league were to allow Denver to move the 14th pick and Faried, Denver acquiring the 19th pick in some fashion would be excellent for the future.

While Atlanta may not be interested in moving down from third overall in this draft for most players, they might do so for Jamal Murray. If Denver were to go all in on a player in the top of this draft (most likely Doncic or Jaren Jackson Jr.) then Atlanta may be the team to bite, as they get a young, blue-chip prospect back in return.

Hypothetical Trade 4:

Hawks receive: PF Kenneth Faried, SG Malik Beasley, 14th overall

Nuggets receive: 19th overall, 2020 second round pick via Portland (protected 31-55)

Hypothetical Trade 5:

Hawks receive: PG Jamal Murray, PF Juancho Hernangomez, 14th overall

Nuggets receive: 3rd overall, 30th overall

Brooklyn Nets

Team Phase: Talent Acquisition

Draft picks: 29, 40, 45

2018-19 Salary Cap Space: $16,680,449

You’re probably noticing a developing theme right about now. The teams that fit best with Denver’s trade needs in the draft are the ones with a low end first round pick and the cap space to take on Faried’s contract. Brooklyn also fits the bill. They still don’t have their own draft pick yet, but they do have the 29th pick after taking on DeMarre Carroll’s salary from the Toronto Raptors. Sound familiar?

The Nets don’t have a ton of cap space going into the next fiscal year, but they have enough to absorb Faried’s salary in order to move up 15 places in this year’s draft. This would be a tough pill to swallow for Nuggets fans, but if Denver were able to trade up again using the 29th pick and their own 43rd pick, they may be able to select a player that fits their needs in the early twenties. Chicago and the 22nd pick come to mind.

Hypothetical Trade 6:

Nets receive: PF Kenneth Faried, 14th overall

Bulls receive: 29th overall, 43rd overall

Nuggets receive: 22nd overall

(This may have to be consummated during the new fiscal year)

Phoenix Suns

Team Phase: Talent Acquisition

Draft picks: 1, 16, 31, 59

2018-19 Salary Cap Space: $21,200,441

Another rebuilding franchise, likely to draft DeAndre Ayton. Regardless of how one feels about that decision, Ayton will need guidance from veterans on and off the floor. Tyson Chandler is on his last legs, but Kenneth Faried is not. He would be a nice pairing with Ayton, someone who can help the big man learn to play fast, work hard, and create easy shots for himself.

Once again, Denver would have to give up the 14th pick in this case, but they have a couple of options on what to get back. T.J. Warren is a small forward who likely doesn’t fit in with the future of the Suns, as they are likely to build around Ayton, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, and whoever they can sign in free agency in 2019. Getting Warren off the books might not be a bad idea. This wouldn’t save money for Denver, but it would give them a player in Warren at 6’8 that can soak up minutes at small forward and be a nice fourth option offensively.

The other idea for the Suns is to just absorb Faried’s deal and keep Warren as well. The Suns would need to give back a draft pick though, most likely the 31st pick, a valuable selection as the guaranteed money is far less than a first rounder.

Hypothetical Trade 7:

Suns receive: PF Kenneth Faried, 14th overall

Nuggets receive: T.J. Warren, Troy Daniels

Hypothetical Trade 8:

Suns receive: PF Kenneth Faried, 14th overall

Nuggets receive: 31st overall

There are other good trade partners for Denver, but the prototypical trade partner in this draft is a team that isn’t as worried about winning as it is adding young talent. Denver can definitely offer that, as long as the trade partner is willing to take on salary. The team cannot move Wilson Chandler or Darrell Arthur until they exercise their player options, and those are the next options for shedding salary in my eyes.

Other options still exist of course. They could trade up, as outlined in some hypotheticals above. They could use the pick to acquire starting caliber talent, as outlined in the T.J. Warren hypothetical trade. Either way, I doubt the Nuggets select at 14th overall on draft night. They very well might, and they’ve brought in talented players that could be options at 14th overall, but most of the players brought in are pegged in the 20th and below range, which reinforces the notion that they may move down.

Either way, which trade was your favorite? Comment down below with your favorite trade proposal or another one that wasn’t mentioned.

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