This one just doesn’t sit quite right for me. I think the Denver Nuggets did a fine job adding veteran point guard Devin Harris from the Dallas Mavericks—they needed someone to run the second unit. However, everything else around the trade deadline worries me—the bigger issues surrounding the Nuggets still exist.
The Nuggets have an established young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. Fans hope that this team can evolve into an NBA title contender. Do the other personnel decisions around the deadline make sense for the Nuggets current trajectory?
I’m not sure—this deadline still holds the look of a franchise torn in too many directions with several possible paths forward. We’ve been saying that for the past two years. The questions become more complicated if you consider this the opening of the Nuggets playoff window for the foreseeable future. Here are some thoughts on those moves:
This is the kind of veteran point guard that the Nuggets needed. The second unit has struggled all year. Emmanuel Mudiay was ineffective, which is why he was traded. Having Barton run the second unit hurt their offensive scheme because he’s not a great passer. This was a hole that had to be filled.
You could also see Devin Harris playing with Murray sometimes. Murray is not a great facilitator and his assist numbers are often underwhelming. This is the kind of mentorship Murray needs on and off the court.
I really like Dallas Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle, and inserting someone from his team into a leadership role is a huge plus. Of course, the Nuggets had a similar player on their roster to start the season. Jameer Nelson is only a year older than Harris and was free. The Nuggets let him go. Given a choice, I do think Harris is better, but it cost them a player they drafted 7th and a draft pick.
A side note: I’m not looking forward to having to distinguish Gary Harris from Devin Harris all of the time. Two Harris’s on the floor at the same time will mean a lot of vocal acrobatics for radio guy Jason Kosmicki.
I’d highly recommend T.J. McBride’s piece breaking down Emmanuel Mudiay for Devin Harris.
Finally trading Emmanuel Mudiay was an end the Nuggets tried to avoid for the last two years. Everyone saw the talent that Mudiay possessed early on. His rookie year featured several moments where he looked like the next star in Denver. However, he never evolved past that talent.
Mile High Sports colleague Jeff Morton, would tell you. “Mudiay was my guy. I saw all of that potential, but it did not develop fast enough in Denver.”
There are several reasons that could factor into this. He never played in the NCAA and had trouble adapting to the NBA game.
Also, he’s really young. He turns 22 in a month.
Additionally, in the eyes of the coaching staff, he had maturity issues that kept him out for periods last season.
There’s also a troubling theory that the Nuggets’ current coaching staff has trouble developing talent. This judgment will play out over the rest of Mudiay’s career. It’s something Nuggets fans have worried about seeing Jusuf Nurkic rise (and waver) with the Portland Trailblazers. With a young core still developing, let’s hope it’s not coaching that’s holding back the players.
Faried and Chandler
The Nuggets did not trade Kenneth Faried or Wilson Chandler in another deadline. Both players have fallen out of favor at times this season with Michael Malone. Faried is hardly playing at all and Chandler is not a starting option and could fall behind a lot of players in the rotation when Paul Millsap returns.
It feels like the Nuggets are holding on to the forgettable post-Melo/pre-Jokic era in a way they don’t need to anymore. Both players could have previously been traded, but the Nuggets stood firm and they’re stuck with them. Not only is it costing them money, but also a roster spot for Torrey Craig.
Torrey Craig came up from the D-League (I mean… G-League, sponsored by Gatorade) on November 28th. He’s the closest thing they have to a shutdown defender, which seems like a key role if the Nuggets find themselves in important games down the stretch or in a playoff series.
However, the Nuggets’ roster is full. That did not change that with the trade deadline. There’s a rule about a G-League player only being able to remain on an NBA roster for around 45 days without a full contract. This was a big failing of deadline day to fail to add Craig to the roster.
They have a lot of pieces sitting out of the rotation right now. Malik Beasley, Richard Jefferson, Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur, Chandler and Faried—but with the deadline past, things get complicated. Far too complicated for me.
The Nuggets’ issues continue to be a lot of questions that are still unanswered. If it all works out, who cares? If they don’t, these questions will gain traction and make some noise.