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The Denver Nuggets finalize a 4 team, 12 player trade

The week of the trade deadline in the NBA is always an interesting time of year for franchises and fans alike. At times it is difficult to remember that the players being discussed in various trade rumors are people, not pieces on a chessboard. That being said, professional basketball is a business, and team executives operate under that premise even if it means trading away fan favorites.

The general manager of the Denver Nuggets, Artūras Karnišovas, did just that last night as he chose to deal Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Nuggets center Jarred Vanderbilt will also be heading to Minnesota. 

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In return, the Nuggets received Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop and Noah Vonleh from Minnesota, as well as Gerald Green and a first-round draft pick from Houston. Most analysts around the league find the incoming combination of assets to be a net positive in comparison to what the team lost, but Nuggets fans will be hurting as they say goodbye to familiar faces.

An important development to note regarding the Nuggets’ participation in this trade is that Beasley was widely expected to walk away from the Nuggets at the end of the season. The two parties were never able to agree upon a mutually advantageous extension.

Hernangomez and Vanderbilt, on the other hand, were viewed as disposable due to the lack of meaningful court time each player had seen so far this season. 

With the aforementioned assets now in hand, Denver faces a new crossroads and must decide whether or not to move forward with their new additions to their bench, or they could choose to continue to shake up the roster before Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline. Talks around the league indicate that the Nuggets’ primary, if not only, remaining target is the New Orleans Pelicans’ shooting guard Jrue Holiday.

Holiday is a savvy veteran and one of the league’s premier two-way players. Over his past three seasons in New Orleans, Holiday has averaged at least 19 points, six assists and 1.5 steals per game. Production of that nature is understandably desired around the league, but it comes at an equally understandable premium.

A package with the young two-way guard Gary Harris and backup center Mason Plumlee paired with an initial draft asset would likely be enough to lure Holiday away from the Pelicans.  

However, before Nuggets fans erupt with cries, urging the front office to keep the current young core intact, let me remind you that even after a Harris exit, the Nuggets would still boast a backcourt of Jamal Murray (22 years old), Monté Morris (24 years old) and Napier (28 years old), not to mention the addition of Holiday (29 years old).

Plumlee’s exit would also leave the Nuggets without any gaping holes since the team would still have a formidable frontcourt in the form of Nikola Jokić (24 years old), Paul Millsap (34 years old), Jerami Grant (25 years old), Michael Porter Jr. (21 years old) and newly-added Vonleh (24 years old).  

Regardless of what Denver chooses to do in the time before tomorrow’s trade deadline, the team will undoubtedly be poised to compete for the top of the Western Conference for years to come. However, amid a wide open title race, a daring move could be more valuable than ever.

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Last season, the Toronto Raptors took a leap of faith and abandoned loyalty in pursuit of a championship, and it paid off in an unforgettable fashion. The Nuggets could employ a similar strategy in hopes that winning will mend any fracture that may arise from additional trades. 

My prediction is that the Nuggets will make a run at Holiday but will be unable to close out a deal with New Orleans, resulting in an eventual second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Ethan Lee can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @EthanLee_99. 

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