It has been a rough year in Denver.
The Nuggets have badly underachieved with a record of 20-33 at the All-Star break, and their play has been so embarrassing that head coach Brian Shaw has thrown out the possibility that his players have been trying to lose games and admitted to reading books about millennials in order to better connect with his players.
It’s almost a miracle Shaw has made it this far, but Nuggets management seems to want to give the second-year coach a chance after his first year was marred by injuries. So instead of canning Shaw and getting a new coach in to try and win with this group, the next option is to shake up the roster and rebuild.
Denver has already made several trades this season, dealing center Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers for two first-round draft picks and trading Nate Robinson to the Boston Celtics for Jameer Nelson. But the Nuggets likely aren’t done, and many of their players have come up in trade rumors. Grantland’s Zach Lowe led his trade deadline column with Denver’s predicament, and it seems likely at least one or more veterans will be moved. Lowe says the only player who is truly untouchable is Jusuf Nurkic, the promising rookie center who made Mozgov expendable.
So who could and should be moved on this Nuggets roster? Let’s take a look.
Ty Lawson: There are teams interested in Lawson, which makes perfect sense because he’s a talented 27-year-old point guard on a rather affordable contract. Even in this mess of a season, Lawson is averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 assists, putting him neck-and-neck with John Wall at the top of the league in assists per game. But while Lawson may not be completely untouchable, the Nuggets aren’t shopping him and have rebuffed the interested teams, according to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post. It would take a whale of an offer for Denver to even consider moving the point guard, and rightfully so. Lawson is the best player on the team, and there’s no reason to get completely crazy at this deadline unless there’s an offer that can’t be refused.
Kenneth Faried: Faried isn’t being shopped either, but I’d be much more willing to listen to Faried offers than Lawson offers. After a big summer with Team USA, the Nuggets rewarded Faried with a four-year, $50 million extension. Denver’s reward? A mediocre season from Faried in which he has shown little improvement. In fact, his offense has regressed and his defense remains not all that impactful. There are some complications with his salary because he’s still on his rookie deal and his extension doesn’t kick in until next year, but that can be worked around. I wouldn’t expect the power forward to be traded, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Arron Afflalo: The Nuggets brought back Afflalo in the offseason, trading youngster Evan Fournier and the draft rights to 56th pick Devyn Marble in order to acquire him. Afflalo had a career year with the Orlando Magic last season, but he has been dreadful this year. Afflalo is shooting just 33.7 percent from three and has been poor on the defensive end. But despite these struggles, the shooting guard could help contender in need of some scoring punch if he regains his form from last year.
The Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers have had their eye on him, and Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops says the Oklahoma City Thunder have “strong interest.” Lowe has Denver looking for multiple first-rounders in an Afflalo trade, similar to the return of the Mozgov trade. That’s far-fetched given what the Nuggets gave up to get Afflalo, and especially more so considering the shooting guard can decline his $7.5 million option next year and go elsewhere. However, if Denver lowers the asking price, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a deal get done. And frankly, it should get done.
Wilson Chandler: Like Afflalo, the Nuggets are looking for multiple first-rounders in a Chandler trade. Also like Afflalo, it’s unlikely that happens. Chandler is a nice player, but he has a long injury history, is an average three-point shooter and is nothing special on the defensive end. Still, the small forward could help in a more limited role, and the Blazers have interest. In fact, Portland is more interested in Chandler than in Afflalo, according to Jabari Young of CSN Northwest. The Blazers reportedly would be fine giving up Thomas Robinson (expiring contract), another player to help match salary and a first-rounder for Chandler, which is a pretty fair offer if you ask me. If the small forward can even fetch one first-rounder, Denver should jump at it. The same can be said for Afflalo, and the Clippers are trying to trade Jamal Crawford for a first-rounder to send to the Nuggets for one of their available wings, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. So keep an eye on Afflalo and Chandler.
JaVale McGee: McGee is in the third year of a four-year, $44 million contract, a deal that has been an unmitigated disaster for Denver. McGee has either been hurt or bad, and the Nuggets would surely be willing to give him away for peanuts. Of course, any team willing to take on that contract would want some draft considerations attached to the deal to make it worth it. That makes this a tricky situation for Denver.
The verdict: In addition to these players listed, the Nuggets could certainly do some other minor tinkering as well. I don’t think Denver will go full-blown fire sale, but if there’s a chance to stockpile some assets, general manager Tim Connelly should pull the trigger on some of these veteran deals.