Throughout last year’s run into the second-round of the NBA Playoffs, the Denver Nuggets appeared to be a team that was destined to underwhelm in the NBA’s second season. It’s a common narrative. Even going back as recently as a decade, we’ve had countless examples of squads being deep enough to thrive during the regular season grind, but lacking the star power to rise to the top when rotations shrink in May and June. That’s why it seemed so likely that Denver would take a stab at Bradley Beal this past summer. They had the trade assets, they had the cap room, they had everything you could possibly need. Alas, Beal inked an extension with Washington and that dream fell through the cracks.
However, it’s obviously not all doom and gloom in Colorado. The Nuggets are 28-12 and Nikola Jokic has slowly - I stress slowly - played his way back into game shape as the season’s rolled along. Still, could Denver be active at the deadline? Could they try and push the chips all-in?
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Report: Michael Porter Jr. not going anywhere
Update, Feb. 4: The Denver Post is reporting that the Nuggets have no plans of trading Michael Porter Jr. before Thursday’s Trade Deadline. Denver is also seeking a first-round pick for G Malik Beasley in any trade talks.
How can the Nuggets replace Mason Plumlee?
So Plumlee isn’t out for the season, but he’s expected to be sidelined through the Trade Deadline on Feb. 6 potentially. With Paul Millsap also injured, the Nuggets have been using Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr. at SF and PF next to Nikola Jokic. This hasn’t been an issue — both Grant and Porter have played very well. But let’s say Plumlee and Millsap stay out or don’t get healthy, what are Denver’s options?
This would be pretty drastic, but is adding Kevin Love in play? The Nuggets would have to give up picks and dump Millsap’s salary, but this is the type of move that could push the Nuggets over the top and able to compete with the Clippers and Lakers. Robert Covington also fits the mold of a versatile swingman who can guard multiple positions.
Jrue to the Rescue?
This is setting up to be a bit of an odd trade deadline. With the eight-seeds in each conference being so wide open nearly half-way into the campaign, it’s sort of a mystery as to which teams might position themselves as sellers. Take, for instance, the Pelicans. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported back in late December that New Orleans and Denver might be looking to come together on a deal centered around point guard Jrue Holiday; however, the Pelicans are now 7-3 in their past 10 contests with the league’s seventh-best offensive rating (114.3). Also, they’re expected to welcome back first-overall pick Zion Williamson from injury on Jan. 22. I’m not 100% sure that sounds like a profile of a squad looking to sell-off parts. Still, it wouldn’t be insane for David Griffin to consider getting some assets for Holiday, especially with how well Lonzo Ball has looked in recent weeks. Plus, Holiday would give the Nuggets some much needed secondary play-making to assist the heavily burdened Jokic. Additionally, his presence would slide Jamal Murray over to the two, where his skill-set makes a little more sense.
The Untouchable Michael Porter Jr.
It’s unclear if Denver would have to include Michael Porter Jr. in a possible deal for Holiday, but, if the rumblings are to be believed, that might be a deal-breaker. The Nuggets feel strongly about the upside of their former lottery pick from 2018, enough where they’ve almost made the 21-year-old untouchable in trade negotiations. Now, two months ago, that inclination seemed a little crazy, yet Porter’s potential has become obvious with his role increasing so far in January. The Missouri product has averaged 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds with a .715 true shooting percentage in just over 17 minutes per game. The question now isn’t necessarily if Denver would be willing to part ways with Porter, but rather what kind of player it would take to get them to consider it.