The Denver Nuggets have gotten their trade season started early.
After the botched attempt at trading Bol Bol to the Detroit Pistons for Rodney McGruder and a second-round pick back on Jan. 13, Denver found a new avenue to finding Bol a new home. Late Tuesday night, sources confirmed that the Nuggets agreed to a three-team deal with the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs which was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
In the deal, the Nuggets lost Bol, P.J. Dozier, and a second round pick, but received Bryn Forbes.
The Spurs sent Forbes to the Nuggets and are receiving Juancho Hernangomez from the Celtics and a Denver Nuggets 2028 second-round pick.
Boston is adding Bol and Dozier from the Nuggets from while losing Hernangomez to the Spurs.
For the Spurs, they are getting a future second-round pick that is unlikely to pay dividends down the road, but it is an extra asset nonetheless. For them, it seems the real prize was Hernangomez, who plays a style that should be conducive to Spurs basketball.
The Celtics save money moving on from Hernangomez, take a flier on Bol and potentially receive a hyper-versatile perimeter player in Dozier, who is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, but could be a helpful player for Boston when healthy.
But the real winners of this three-team trade are the Nuggets. They moved on from Bol – who was essentially a wasted roster spot even prior to his decision to have foot surgery – and Dozier who will be out for the rest of the year after tearing his ACL. Yes, they sent a future second-round pick as well in the deal and it hurts to lose a player who fit as well as Dozier, but if that is the price to pay to turn two players who will not impact winning this season into a helpful veteran sharpshooter, then so be it. Nikola Jokic is in his prime and wasting such a dominant season from the reigning MVP is blasphemous. Forbes is exactly the type of player the Nuggets needed to bolster their bench unit so identifying that fit and doing what it takes to acquire him is objectively the right decision.
Let’s start with what makes Forbes an enticing fit with the Nuggets bench unit. Everything begins with his ability to hit shots from 3-point range. He can hit triples going left or right, off the catch or off the dribble, using a screen or in isolation, and any other manner of jump shot from beyond the arc. He is shooting 41.7% from 3-point range this season while taking nearly four per game despite only logging 16.9 minutes per contest.
While it is within his ability to create his own shot if needed, Forbes is much more lethal coming off screens and catching passes on the move before rising up and drilling 3-pointers. So far, 93.7% of his made 3-pointers this season have been assisted and that should only continue with the Nuggets. Because of his off-ball shooting aptitude, opposing defenses will not be able to sag so far into the paint against the Nuggets reserve unit. Forbes simply being on the court will open up pick and roll actions for Bones Hyland and Zeke Nnaji or Jeff Green because if Forbes’ defender leaves him even a sliver of space, Forbes will begin relocating and making himself available for an open 3-pointer. That simple truth will hold defenders in a way Campazzo and Rivers cannot.
There are very few, if any, shooters of Forbes’ caliber on the trade market currently, let alone for such a low cost and when considering the Nuggets issues making open 3-pointers. It is easy to see why the Nuggets would be motivated to make the deal.
Still, Forbes is no perfect player and there are very clear reasons that he was able to be acquired essentially for a future second-round pick. He has only attempted 40 shots around the rim this year and has actually converted just 19 of those shots which is good for 47.5% shooting in the restricted circle. That inability to score around the rim has been problematic for a multitude of the Nuggets current guards and Forbes will not be able to rectify that issue. Additionally, his defense is nowhere near stout. He has trouble staying in front of opposing guards, gets put into actions by the opposition to get him switched onto bigs and wings who can exploit him, and he is not the ideal weak side defender either.
But turning two unplayable players into a sharpshooter of Forbes’ ilk is a deal that should be agreed to every time. Denver now has a true shooter on the roster which is a skill they have severely lacked. They also created an open roster spot to utilize leading up to the trade deadline, in the buyout market or to convert one of their own two-way contract or 10-day deal players to a full NBA contract making them eligible for the postseason. The ideal example of that last option would be Denver using their newly created roster spot to convert Davon Reed’s contract to a full NBA deal. That would allow the Nuggets to play Reed in the playoffs providing them with another wing defender who can do a bit of everything on the offensive end of the floor. The Nuggets are currently +1300 to win the Western Conference with the odds coming curtesy of FanDual Sportsbook.
If the Nuggets converted Reed’s contract as outlined above, they would remain under the luxury tax despite adding Reed’s contract to the books. That is important because the Nuggets roster is getting incredibly expensive and if they want to keep contending, a large luxury tax bill looms large for multiple seasons which would then invoke the repeater tax. Converting Reed’s two-way contract allows the Nuggets to bolster their playoff rotation without breaking the bank.
This deal also signals a lack of trust in Campazzo and Rivers, both of whom have struggled mightily this season. Neither are shooting well from anywhere on the floor this season which has completely immobilized the offense when they are in there. Even if they manage to break down a defense, no team feels threatened enough by Rivers or Campazzo getting to the rim to send an additional help defender. If either catch the ball open from 3-point range, teams will live with them taking those shots so long as they can continue to clog up the paint to limit easier looks at the rim from more threatening players. Neither Campazzo or Rivers possess the ability to warp opposing defenses or punish the opponent for leaving them open beyond the arc.
Michael Malone does seem to trust Campazzo more than Rivers which likely means Rivers will lose out on more minutes, but Forbes should take the bulk of both their minutes if we are being honest. Neither has proven they are worthy of more playing time and the Nuggets now have a true veteran sharpshooter ready to fill in.