With the Denver Nuggets adding point guard depth by signing Isaiah Thomas, the next order of business was clearing salary off of their books — most notably one, or both, of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur.

The Nuggets managed to kill two birds with one stone by finding a trade partner in the Brooklyn Nets who absorbed both Faried and Arthur into their cap space while also receiving a protected first-round pick and a future second-round pick for their troubles.

Denver did take take back Isaiah Whitehead, but proceeded to waive him after completing the trade which created an open roster spot for Denver as well.

Nuggets send Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, first-round pick protected 1-12, and a future second-round pick to the Nets for Isaiah Whitehead, who Denver waived after the trade

Grade: B-

Denver being able to move both Faried and Arthur while only giving up a protected first-round pick and a future second-round pick has to be viewed as a win. The entire league knew that Denver was looking to move off of Faried and Arthur’s salaries. They had no leverage, yet they found a way to clear both contracts without giving up any of their young players or an unprotected first-round pick, hence the grade of a ‘B-‘. The only issue is the timing of the deal.

If Denver had signed Torrey Craig and Jarred Vanderbilt after making this trade they would have given themselves even more options to work with — which we will get into later — but Denver mis-managing the timing on their moves does result is a lowering of the grade of the trade.

Sure, the argument can be made that Denver had to part with future assets just to clear salary from their roster, but Denver accomplished what they needed to do and now they can move on to the next era of Denver Nuggets basketball.

Denver did not give up an unprotected first-round pick or any young players to clear salary

The entire league knew that the Nuggets were looking to clear dead money off of their books. That meant that the Nuggets had very little to no leverage in trade discussions; yet, somehow Tim Connelly and his staff managed to clear all three expiring contracts without sending an unprotected first-round pick, taking back any salary, or having to trade any of their young players.

If you asked anyone around the league if Denver would be able to pull off such great salary dumps just a week ago, you may have been laughed at, but Connelly and his staff accomplished what many felt was nearly impossible.

To trade off all three of Wilson Chandler, Faried, and Arthur, Denver only had to give up two second-round picks and a 2019 first-round pick that is protected 1-12. The potential for these salary dump deals to come back to bite the Nuggets is considerably lower than originally expected, and Denver was able to keep all of their young players — most notably Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Monte Morris, Tyler Lydon, or Trey Lyles.

Nuggets clear dead money off of their roster

Denver clearing both Arthur and Faried saved the Kroenke family money while also giving the Nuggets front office a few more avenues to improve the roster. Denver opened up some financial flexibility by creating three separate trade exceptions worth a total of $34 million and have opened up an additional roster spot.

For Denver to take advantage of their traded player exceptions, they would have to trade for a player that is already signed or workout a sign-and-trade scenario to be able to fit said player into one of the three traded-player exceptions.

Before Denver traded Faried and Arthur to the Nets, they were $9.3 million into the luxury tax and out of roster spots. Being that far into the tax meant that Denver had to forfeit their bi-annuel exception entirely. With Arthur and Chandler both on their way to Brooklyn, Denver is now $8.6 million under the luxury tax, but they do not get to reclaim their bi-annuel exception, worth just under $3.4 million, because they already signed Torrey Craig and Jarred Vanderbilt by using the taxpayer mid-level exception. Denver also does not get to use their full mid-level exception, worth up to $8.6 million.

If Denver had waited to sign both Craig and Vanderbilt until after they cleared the salaries of Arthur and Faried, they would have been able to access the full mid-level exception which would have given them an extra $3.3 million to work with as well as the full bi-annual exception, worth $3.4 million. Because of the bad timing, Denver loses out on that extra flexibility.

That leaves Denver with $2.5 million of their taxpayer mid-level exception and $34 million in traded player exceptions to work with for the rest of the NBA offseason. They could use their traded player exceptions to trade for another player if they were so inclined being that they have an additional roster spot still vacated.

Denver now has options to fill in the rest of the roster

Tim Connelly now has the ability to use the remaining $2.5 million of the mid-level exception or the $34 million in traded player exceptions to continue to add to the roster, and there are some interesting options still available.

The first option is to promote from within by converting point guard Monte Morris to a NBA contract. He has performed well in summer league averaging 17.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists against just 1.3 turnovers per game. Morris also tore through the G-Leage last year by averaging 18 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.7 assists against 1.9 turnovers per game. His consistency is his calling card and he has shown that he can produce among NBA competition.

In addition to his strong play, he also fits a role that the Nuggets may need. Even though the Nuggets are very excited about the signing of Isaiah Thomas, there is a world in which he gets re-injured and the Nuggets are without a backup point guard. Having Monte Morris as a insurance policy is a very comforting feeling for Denver.

Outside of the Nuggets, there are some interesting options.

  • Rodney Hood is a restricted free agent who saw his value collapse after being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Utah Jazz. He is still a long wing who can stretch the floor and could be an interesting option to throw a one-year deal at with the $2.5 million remaining of the Nuggets’ taxpayer mid-level exception. Denver could also use one of their three traded player exceptions if they found a way to create a sign-and-trade deal to acquire Hood.
  • Marcus Smart is a name that many people have brought up. Smart is a restricted free agent and the Boston Celtics do seem to want him back, but the big question is at what price? While $2.5 million is not enough of an annual salary to dissuade Boston from matching the offer, Denver could look into a sign-and-trade deal to bring Smart to Denver using one of their three traded player exceptions.
  • David Nwaba is another interesting option. He just had his qualifying offer rescinded by the the Chicago Bulls making him an unrestricted free agent. While he has very little to his offensive game, he works incredibly hard and would bring some versatility on defense that the Nuggets could really use. He may be able to be had for the remainder of the mini mid-level exception worth $2.5 million.

There is still talent out on the free agent market; talent that could help Denver quite a bit this year. While filling the last roster spot seems inevitable, Denver could also keep the spot vacant to be able to sign a veteran that gets boughten out prior to the playoffs.

Regardless, the Nuggets being able to move off of Arthur and Faried has opened up more possibilities than they previously thought they would have.