Love the One(s) You’re With: Nuggets flop at trade deadline (again)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15), right celebrates with guard Gary Harris (14) after their win against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Deep in the bowels of Pepsi Center, the sounds of Crosby, Stills and Nash ring and echo, echo and ring. It’s familiar. Too familiar. It sounds like …

…like February in Denver.

Concentration slip away
Cause your baby is so far away.

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone. And while the Nuggets made their way into the headlines (sort of), the story that followed left a lot to be desired. The click-bait said, “NUGGETS MAKE TRADE!” The click-through said, “So what.”

Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with

Those doggone Nuggets, they sure love them some Nuggets. Don’t they?

You want to trade with Denver? Fine. Take a look at the scrap heap over there. Take whatever you’d like. But we’ve got everything we need, right here, 1-8(ish), under contract – those guys are off limits. Can’t have ‘em. We need ‘em. We love ‘em. We’re good here in Denver. See you in the Western Conference Finals.

The Nuggets have everything they need. They just need time. Health. They certainly don’t need the likes of Malik Beasley or Juancho Hernangomez. They don’t need another piece. Not Jrue Holiday. Not Chris Paul. Not Kevin Love. Not Kelly Oubre. Not J.J. Redick. Not Bogdan Bogdanovic. Not Jae Crowder.

Nope. Don’t need ‘em.

You buyin’ what the Nuggets are sellin’?

When the dust settled on Thursday afternoon, here’s what traffic control at DIA was dealing with…

Outgoing: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt.

Incoming: Keita Bates-Diop, Noah Vonleh, Gerald Green, Jordan McRae and a 2020 first round pick from the Houston Rockets. Or, as Cliff Claven once accurately said on Jeopardy, four “people who have never been in my kitchen.”

The Nuggets might have been involved in the largest, by volume anyway, NBA trade since 2000, but in no way, shape or form could either of their two transactions be considered “blockbuster.” It’s true that none of the players involved – coming or going – even factor in when it comes to a starting five, but if anything, the Nuggets’ loss of Malik Beasley makes them worse, not better – at least in the short term. Sure, Beasley was likely gone after the season; the Nuggets weren’t going to pay him big money, especially if the immovable Gary Harris was in the way. But Beasley was capable of contributing – that was proven. Many would argue that Beasley possesses more upside than Harris, and that the Nuggets kept the wrong guy, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Bottom line: The Nuggets didn’t get better at the deadline. They stood pat.

And that can only mean a few things.

First, the Nuggets believe they already have what it takes to advance further than they did last postseason. (Again, are you buyin’ what the Nuggets are sellin’?).

Second, the Nuggets tried desperately to make a trade, but nobody around the NBA was buyin’ what they were sellin’.

Third, the Nuggets were willing to make a trade, but valued their own assets just a bit higher than anyone willing to trade with them; thus, nothing happened.

Any or all of those scenarios are possible, but again, the bottom line is that the Nuggets will enter the 2020 postseason “as is.” The truth is, they couldn’t – or didn’t – make a move because the Nuggets believe in the Nuggets more than anyone else does. That’s not a bad thing – if you don’t believe in you, who else will? – but it’s the truth.

The Nuggets are good. Really good, in fact. But they’re not “championship good” – that’s a fact.

If Denver is to become a title contender, there are only two players who will be responsible: Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. Those two are the stars. Jokic is one already. Porter Jr. has the best chance of any Nugget to become one. Beyond that, it’s question marks at best.

Yes. Nobody has forgotten Jamal Murray. He’s good, too. Really good. But is he that good? Can he be Robin to Jokic’s Batman? He’s certainly had his moments, including last season in the playoffs – at times. But he’s also most noted for his inconsistency. He’s been incredibly inconsistent this season, despite being paid like a superstar. He might also be a better shooting guard than he is a point guard.

Come April, wouldn’t Murray have looked nice alongside Jrue Holiday, a true point guard who can score, pass and defend at an elite level?

Surely, the Nuggets could have upgraded – or should have tried to upgrade – from the aforementioned Gary Harris. The Nuggets have paid him handsomely, but he can’t shoot and he can’t stay healthy (not this season). The Nuggets believe he’s an elite defender, but nobody else really does; Harris didn’t receive a single vote for the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2018-19 or 2017-18.

Harris is a good player. A decent player. A player that contributes to any team.

He’s also an overvalued player, at least in Denver.

Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with

If recent history is any kind of indicator, the Nuggets will be in love with their own until the end of time. Until Nikola Jokic is either angry or old. Until the window for a title – which is actually open, by the way – has long since shut.

Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
Don’t sit cryin’ over good things you’ve had.

Gosh, those doggone Nuggets! They’re good. Really good. But they’re not that good. Not good enough to stand pat on trade day and hope it’s good enough.

They sure could have used that one more piece that might have made the difference. Instead of assessing their darn-good hand and pushing all of their chips in, they piddled around and discarded a pair of 7s for some 8s and 9s. They traded depth for depth; whether it’s better or worse is barely worth debating.

Yawn.

Set your snooze button for the Western Conference Finals, when somebody other than the Nuggets will be facing Lakers.

Until then, love the ones you’re with.

SHARE