The Denver Nuggets’ plan heading into 2017-2018 is clear: build a winner around Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets spent 2017 identifying what pieces on their roster fit with Jokic, and constructed their offense around his various skills. At the trade deadline, they made a win now move to deal a first rounder and Jusuf Nurkic, who did not fit with Jokic, for Mason Plumlee. The move signaled a win now approach for Denver this year, and a “look to next year” approach in Portland. A weird twist of fate, however, saw Jusuf Nurkic outperform either team’s expectations and help the Blazers into the playoffs.
The Nuggets enter the summer with eleven players under contract, and substantial flexibility to improve. The twin goals of finding Jokic picks and capitalizing on flexibility could lead to multiple defections from this year’s roster.
So which Denver Nuggets (clearly not Jokic) can the Nets poach? Think draft picks, and young players
Jamal Murray is a non starter, as areGary Harris and Will Barton. Murray flashed huge potential as a rookie, Barton’s contract is too good to be true, and the Nuggets love Harris, with good reason. Only Lopez creates a market in the abstract for any of the three but Brook would not fit next to Jokic.
Kenneth Faried is an intriguing name, but a deal for him is unlikely. He fit extremely well next to Jokic after the Nurkic deal as a cutter and finisher. However, it should be noted that the Nuggets may not want to pay Jokic, Faried, AND Plumlee. Plumlee is more likely to stay put than Faried — the Nuggets did not deal a first rounder and Nurkic for him to not pay up in July. That means there is a chance with Faried. Still, even if Faried is on the block, the Nets lack the assets to get him. A Lin for Faried like swap works, but the Nuggets have developing guards that they may not want to supplant, and replacing Lin with a lesser pricey piece seems nonsensical. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is likely not enough to get a deal done; Caris LeVert is but the Nets would not go there (nor should they).
Danilo Gallinari is a free agent and perhaps the Nets may look his way. However, Gallinari has been extremely injury prone, playing over 63 games in a season just twice. That makes him an old 28. The Nets would be looking at a 4 year $80 million commitment to a player whose best years likely passed; they would be sure to regret the deal on the back end, and the deal will limit the flexibility to add the stars and developmental pieces they DO need.
If the Nuggets do not resign Gallinari, then they will likely keep Wilson Chandler. If they do, however, they may decide that they do not want to commit $20 million per season to two non star forwards. That could result in Chandler being available this summer. Like Gallinari, however, he may not be worth it for the Nets: the Nets would have to PAY him in 2018 (to the tune of 4 years $80 million) or see him walk despite dealing assets to bring him in.
Beyond the splashier names, however, there are real options here for the Nets. Darrell Arthur is an underrated two way player who defends and shoots competently. He is under contract for 2017-18, with a 2018-19 player option. However, the Nuggets may seek to move him in a roster reshuffle; they have a glut of forwards. Arthur would be an upgrade over RHJ or Trevor Booker. If RHJ is not in the long range plan, a deal centered around him and Arthur would be something to consider. Denver could see RHJ as a cheaper way to add a forward if they let a forward like Gallinari leave. I would prefer dealing RHJ for a first rounder to have a longer period of cost control and a piece to develop. But this could be an option. RHJ could grow as a forward next to Juancho Hernangomez, another piece likely staying put in Denver.
A much better piece to look at, with regard to an RHJ trade? Malik Beasley. With the Nuggets committed to Murray and Harris, and Mudiay in the fold, minutes were very hard to come by for Beasley this season. The Nuggets may look to move him in shaping the roster around Jokic. Beasley was an elite scorer as a college freshman in 2015-2016, and he was a 37% three point shooter in the D league in 2016-2017, after being selected at 19 in the draft. Beasley is a scorer and solid shooter who has potential to develop into a competent shooting guard — one of the Nets weaker positions.
Given the way Beasley could fit on the Nets, and the fact that he may be permanently buried in Denver behind Murray and Harris, the Nets should take an aggressive look at Beasley as a piece to grow at shooting guard. If RHJ gets it done, the Nets should take a close look at that. The Nuggets have 2 second rounders this year in the 40’s and perhaps one sweetens the pot.
Thinking bigger, maybe the Nuggets think Beasley would be worth dealing for an immediate term roster upgrade. Along those lines, perhaps Jeremy Lin becomes the focal point of a Malik Beasley deal. If he does the Nets would certainly need more than that in return. If the Nuggets offered a swap of their lottery pick (near 13) for the Nets 22 pick, and the Nets were able to get Beasley in the package (or add RHJ for Beasley), the Nets would HAVE to consider that, to grow their base of youth.
With further regard to draft picks, the Nuggets will have two second rounders in the mid 40’s. The Nets should see if the Nuggets, flush with young talent and of the belief lower end picks will no longer help them (that was a rationale in the Plumlee trade), would be willing to essentially give those picks away, or deal them at low cost. The Nets can sure use them.
Looking at the roster further, the Nets should look at similar deals for Emmanuel Mudiay that they would for Beasley. Mudiay has struggled to live up to his billing but if the Nuggets want to move on, it is worth exploring and using Lin, who is 12 months from becoming very expensive, as the bait. Maybe Lin for Mudiay and a 2019 first rounder would get the job done.
Beyond that the pickings are slim. Mike Miller could be a free agent and the Nets may see him as a veteran mentor, if Miller would like that role. Roy Hibbert and Jameer Nelson would not be fits in Brooklyn.