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Nuggets offseason moves part 2: Trades

Last week we looked at the Nuggets’ internal free agents and who may be back as the Nuggets look to improve into a championship team.

Internal growth is expected and those players will be key to improving as a team, yet the Nuggets lost in the Western Conference Finals and the Lakers aren’t going anywhere.

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With the Warriors expected to be back to their previous level of play with the return of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry and the expected improvement from the Mavericks, the Nuggets may have to look to improve by making trades.

Last offseason saw the Nuggets acquire Jerami Grant through trade and, he ended up being a key contributor. The Nuggets may go there to find another role-player again, or perhaps even to make a big splash and trade for a superstar, something the Nuggets front office has considered in the past but hasn’t pulled the trigger on. 

Here are three trades the Nuggets can make to become championship contenders. 

Bucks-Nuggets

Nuggets receive: Giannis Antetokounmpo

“Antetokounmpo has a case for the best player in the league and is one of the few superstars who perfectly fit the timeline in Denver because of his youth.”

Bucks receive: Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Bol Bol, 2020 first-round pick (via Houston), 2022 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick.

This trade would only happen under one condition and that is back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo requesting a trade out of Milwaukee. The Bucks have had postseason struggles, and Antetokounmpo has had some issues with his squad. After having meetings with the front office about his future and after unfollowing his teammates on social media, it is unlikely but still possible that Antetokounmpo might be traded shortly. 

For the Nuggets, this is an easy decision. Antetokounmpo has a case for the best player in the league and is one of the few superstars who perfectly fit the timeline in Denver because of his youth.

Many of Denver’s biggest weaknesses are things that Antetokounmpo thrives at. He would rim protect and mask Nikola Jokić’s defensive weakness. Antetokounmpo would also be the Nuggets’ only lob threat, and that was an area that was devastating against the Lakers in the conference finals. Jokić backdoor passes to Antetokounmpo would be must-see TV.

The trade package would be massive for the 25-year-old, but the Nuggets would have to jump all over it. Losing Porter would hurt, as the rookie has superstar potential and proved in the bubble that he is already one of the best three-point shooters in the league.

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Also, the Nuggets were better defensively when Harris returned from injury, but he would have to be included in the trade to match salaries. Bol and three first-round picks in addition to Harris and Porter would be just about the best package the Bucks could be offered from any team in the league, so if the Bucks were forced into a trade, the Nuggets would be a likely option.

Pelicans-Nuggets

Nuggets receive: Jrue Holiday

Pelicans receive: Gary Harris, Bol Bol, 2020 first-round pick (via Houston), 2022 first-round pick.

The Nuggets explored a trade for Jrue Holiday at the NBA trade deadline, but talks fell through. Now rumors are once again swirling that Holiday is on the trade block, and the Nuggets are interested. 

The Pelicans aren’t ready to win quite yet, so they don’t have much use for a 30-year-old guard. Acquiring assets for the future makes more sense, and they do just that here. Harris would provide similar things as Holiday for the Pelicans at a lower level of production but at a younger age. The Pelicans also get two more first-rounders. 

The Nuggets don’t have much use for draft picks because of how deep they are. Holiday will be a better version of Harris for the Nuggets.

Holiday would come in and be the team’s best defender while increasing the offensive production that was so streaky with Harris. Holiday can guard three positions and would fit the Nuggets’ system nicely. The age is concerning, and Holiday is a free agent after next season, so he could be a one-year rental, but he would improve the team while not demanding all of the Nuggets’ future assets in a trade.

Kings-Nuggets

Nuggets receive: Buddy Hield

Kings receive: Gary Harris, P.J. Dozier Jr., 2024 first-round pick (lottery protected) 

The Nuggets struggled to shoot the three-ball in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, especially on open attempts. That’s where Buddy Hield thrives. Hield is one of the best catch-and-shoot specialists in the league and would be a great fit next to Jamal Murray in the backcourt. 

It is well known that Hield and his current team are having problems. The Kings are trying to clear cap space to extend his replacement, fellow shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanović, and Hield was even benched for the end of the season. Hield is under contract for four more seasons after his extension kicks in, and he just finished getting an average of 19.2 points per game, which is surprisingly higher than Murray’s regular-season average.

Hield would drastically help the Nuggets’ offense. Murray, Jokić, Will Barton, Grant and Porter are always threats to score, but far too often we saw defenses dare guards like Harris and Torrey Craig to make open threes, and when they didn’t, the Nuggets’ offense suffered. 

Stay tuned next week to see what external free agents and draft picks can come in and contribute immediately for Denver. 

Bailey Bassett can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_.

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