Why the Nuggets traded JaMychal Green for another first round pick

Mar 4, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets forward JaMychal Green (0) finishes a basket off in the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Denver Nuggets are making a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Nuggets get: 30th pick in 2022 NBA Draft, two future second round picks

The Thunder get: JaMychal Green, 2027 first round pick

During the 2021-22 season for the Nuggets, JaMychal Green averaged 16.2 minutes, 6.4 points, and 4.2 rebounds per game. Green shot 48.6% from the field and 26.6% from three-point range, a down shooting season for the eight-year veteran. Green is set to turn 32 on June 21st and is in the last year of a two-year contract.

On the surface, this appears to be a strong deal for the Nuggets and what they need right now: flexibility. With Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. all on max contracts (or the equivalent) for the next several years, the Nuggets have to find relatively cheap options to balance out the rest of the roster.

One of those options, Zeke Nnaji, is already on the roster and plays the same position as JaMychal Green. Nnaji makes $2.6 million in 2022-23 and is set to make $4.3 million in 2023-24. While some may prefer Green’s rugged rebounding and physicality, Nnaji is a first round pick the Nuggets invested in, and at just 21 years old and shooting 43.9% from three-point range for his career, the Nuggets want to see him develop into an expanded role.

In addition, Green’s $8.2 million player option for the upcoming season was a big tipping point for Denver financially. As previously discussed, Green’s $8.2 million represented a potential $31 million in actual cost between salary and luxury tax. Moving Green without taking back any contracts does give Denver an $8.2 million trade exception though, meaning the Nuggets can acquire players in other deals without sending out any salary themselves. Perhaps the Nuggets use that exception to help solidify their perimeter defense.

As for the rest of the trade, the Nuggets are sending out a 2027 first round pick selection and are getting back the 30th pick in the draft this year. There are a number of intriguing prospects in the 25 to 40 range that have a chance to help the Nuggets sooner rather than later. The Nuggets are operating as if their window of contention is over the next three seasons, and a draft pick in 2027 isn’t the most important aspect of their championship run in the years 2023, 2024, and 2025.

Now, the Nuggets better get the next part of their plan right. The Nuggets are running out of draft capital. Whether they select a prospect 30th overall, combine the 21st and 30th picks to move up in the draft, or trade one of the picks to acquire a veteran contributor, these picks have to mean something for Denver’s next steps of contention. Drafting defensive minded wings would certainly go a long way.

Maybe the added salary flexibility helps the Nuggets to re-sign wings Austin Rivers and Davon Reed to new contracts. Maybe the Nuggets can go out and get a new contributor or two without feeling extensive luxury tax pain.

Whatever the case, the first transaction made by general manager Calvin Booth feels like a stepping stone to another big move or two. By itself, this trade is probably a wash for both teams.

If the Nuggets can find the right prospects and contributors with the added flexibility? It’s a strong first impression from Booth.

SHARE