As the Denver Nuggets finalize preparations for the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday, it becomes increasingly clear just how important Thursday will be. With two first-round picks and defensive issues to address, the Nuggets should be active in trade talks. There have already been rumors of Denver’s interest in trading in the draft, as well as rumors that Monte Morris and Will Barton are available on the trade market.
The Nuggets are clearly busy and understand the seriousness of the situation. They survey the league and identify potential options. In those conversations, it’s clear that opposing teams may or may not be willing to deal with Denver, and that willingness may come down to the extent to which the Nuggets plan to sweeten the pot. As discussed on Sunday, the Nuggets will have the 21st and 30th picks available to them in trade talks. They also have Bones Hyland and Zeke Nnaji as young prospects as well as veterans Will Barton, Monte Morris and Jeff Green. Denver will most likely offer a combination of these players and picks in order to facilitate a trade.
So the biggest questions remain: Which players will the Nuggets target in trades? How much will they offer to find the best possible fit? Are these respective teams really interested in such a decision?
Let’s cast a wide net and discuss who the Nuggets could target in trades this week:
Level 1 – Not an upgrade, but a better fit
De’Anthony Melton – Guard, Memphis Grizzlies
Trade: Melton in Denver, Monte Morris in Memphis | OR | Melton to Denver, 21st pick, $8.2 million player exception traded to Memphis
Melton is one of the best defensive guards in the entire NBA. His 3.0% steal rate in the first four seasons of his career puts him in rare company. The only other players this century to match that steal rate are Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Manu Ginobili, Speedy Claxton, Kris Dunn, Kawhi Leonard and Jamaal Tinsley.
The Nuggets need defensive playmakers, and Melton represents elite form in Denver’s backcourt next to Jamal Murray. With the Grizzlies potentially losing Tyus Jones in free agency, Monte Morris would replace a desperately needed playmaker behind explosive but injury-prone Ja Morant.
Dillon Brooks – Winger, Memphis Grizzlies
The trade: Brooks to Denver, Will Barton and the 2024 second-round pick via OKC to Memphis
Also in the Grizzlies’ backcourt is Dillon Brooks, a 6’7″ wing defenseman with little awareness for shot selection. The Nuggets don’t need another volume shooter, especially if Brooks is shooting 30.9% from three points again. They could definitely use Brooks’ physical perimeter defense. The Grizzlies may not need Barton back specifically (and it might as well be Morris here), but Barton went to the University of Memphis and could enjoy a return to his varsity grounds. .
Josh Richardson – Winger, San Antonio Spurs
Trade: Richardson in Denver, Barton in San Antonio
Richardson was traded at Spurs’ last trade deadline for Derrick White, and he spent the rest of the season mostly coming off the bench. Richardson has played pretty well, shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range on the year after a few lackluster shooting seasons. His main calling card is defense, but as a versatile perimeter defender with long arms. He would definitely help Denver’s perimeter defense. Barton might be better suited to San Antonio as a bench scorer behind Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson (or be returned at the trade deadline to a contender).
Matisse Thybulle – Winger, Philadelphia 76ers
The trade: Thybulle, Danny Green and 23rd pick to Denver, Barton to Philadelphia
This trade was actually offered by NBC Sports Philadelphia in a recent simulation project, and it makes sense for both parties. The Sixers add a more consistent shooter and point guard next to James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, and the Nuggets add Thybulle and the 23rd pick. Thybulle isn’t the best fit in Denver due to a lack of offensive talent, but there’s no doubting his defensive impact. The Nuggets have to take risks, and adding a two-time All-Defensive guard who has only played three seasons in the NBA seems like a decent bet. Denver also gets another first-rounder and Green, who is rehabilitating a torn ACL and will likely be out all year.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Wing, Washington Wizards
The trade: Caldwell-Pope and a protected 2025 first-round pick in Denver, Barton and 21st pick in Washington
One of the easiest adjustments between player and team is Caldwell-Pope and the Nuggets. In his final five seasons with the Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers, KCP averaged 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 28.4 minutes per game while shooting 38% at from three points. His ground spacing and defense pair well with what the contenders need, and the Nuggets fit the bill. It’s easy to see KCP slipping into the starting position of shooting guard, defending the ball handlers while spacing the floor for Murray and Jokić.
For the Wizards, Barton is a more powerful scorer and playmaker for others than KCP. The Wizards ranked 21st in offensive rating last year and could use other playmakers around Bradley Beal.
Terance Mann – Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
The trade: Mann to Denver, Morris to Los Angeles
The Clippers have just about everything they need for a competitive playoff run. The only real question mark (beyond health) is point guard play. Reggie Jackson was fine as a starter last year but not great, and the Clippers opted to move committee point guard behind him. Perhaps Morris is suitable as another stabilizer on what is quite a volatile roster. The Nuggets get Mann back, who is a physical combo guard with strong defensive skills. He would fit perfectly alongside Murray and Jokić.
Level 2 – A Moderate Upgrade
Josh Hart – Winger, Portland Trail Blazers
The trade: Hart to Denver, Barton, 21st pick and 2024 second-round pick via OKC to Portland
Josh Hart was traded to Portland as part of the CJ McCollum deal ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. He’s had some success with the Blazers, but there are questions over Portland’s vision and direction that they ultimately want to take around Damian Lillard with capable veterans. Hart would be incredibly useful to Denver as a connector in the starting lineup. Maybe Lillard would be interested in reuniting with a former teammate in Barton, and the Blazers could add the extra draft picks to the offers that improve the rest of the roster.
I also thought about a three-way trade that would send Hart to Denver, Jerami Grant to Portland and players/picks to Detroit.
Derrick White – Guard, Boston Celtics
The Trade: White and Daniel Theis to Denver, Morris and Barton to Boston
The Celtics acquired White from Spurs, and he helped them reach their first NBA Finals since 2010. Unfortunately, White’s offensive weaknesses stood out against the Warriors, and it’s possible the Celtics have buyer’s remorse. .
If so, the Nuggets should get involved. White is a great theoretical fit next to Murray and Porter in the starting lineup. He’s a smart, high-IQ defender with off-the-dribble skills. The Nuggets could use that, and the Celtics could use the backcourt stability that Morris and Barton would each provide.
Bogdan Bogdanovic – Winger, Atlanta Hawks
The Trade: Bogdanovic in Denver, Barton, Jeff Green and 30th pick in Atlanta
The Hawks are expected to make waves this offseason with their personnel moves, and one player potentially caught in the crossfire is Bogdanovic, with the Serbian wing shooting 38.4 percent from three points for his career. Bogdanovic isn’t the best defender out there, but he’s capable, and his attacking versatility (and connection with Jokić) could be the difference.
Whether the Hawks are actually interested in the trade package offered above remains to be seen. Perhaps the other changes to their roster could make the Hawks more interested in a package that includes Barton, Green and a first-round pick.
Luguentz Dort – Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Trade: Dort, 34th pick at Denver, Zeke Nnaji, 21st pick and protected 2029 first-round pick at Oklahoma City
One of the (potentially) best perimeter defenders available, Lu Dort would be a great fit for the Nuggets as a fifth starter. The Nuggets have already traded with the Thunder, and given that Sam Presti already controls Denver’s 2023 first-round pick AND 2027 first-round pick, the Nuggets sending another future first-rounder to the same team might not. not be attractive.
Still, if the Nuggets are serious about competition, there are few more capable perimeter defenders than Dort. He’s physical, athletic and relentless, all traits that Michael Malone would definitely like to add to the mix.
Level 3 – A big swing
Malcolm Brogdon – Guard, Indiana Pacers
The Trade: Brogdon and 2023 2nd-round pick via MIA/HOU/DAL at Denver, Barton, Green, Bones Hyland and 21st pick at Indiana
If the Nuggets are trying to acquire the best player they can without breaking their core group, Malcolm Brogdon is as good as it gets. The 29-year-old guard averaged 18.9 points, 6.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game at Indiana while shooting 44.7% from the field and 35.2% from three-pointers . He is capable of increasing offense and reducing, as he proved in three seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks before signing with the Pacers.
The Pacers are in the midst of a rebuild, and Brogdon won’t align with the timeline of Tyrese Haliburton and whoever the Pacers pick sixth overall in the draft. The Nuggets could give them another building block in Bones Hyland, as well as the 21st pick. In return, the Nuggets are asking Brogdon to add to a guard rotation that includes Murray and Morris, an elite trio of backcourt decision-makers.
OG Anunoby – Forward, Toronto Raptors
The Trade: Anunoby to Denver, Barton, Nnaji, 21st pick and 2029 first-round pick to Toronto
The idea of acquiring OG Anunoby is a bit off the beaten track. The Nuggets have always been interested in Anunoby since draft night in 2017. They never got him then, and since then the Nuggets have added Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Zeke Nnaji to the mix. , a 6’8″ to 6’10″ forward group with versatility.
Still, Anunoby would be an intriguing addition to Denver’s starting lineup. He and Gordon would defend the two best perimeter defenders, and the Nuggets would be able to piece together many formations with positional versatility. For Toronto, they acquire Barton as a strong offensive option in their rotation, Nnaji as a long-term replacement for Anunoby and several first-round picks. It’s a major blow, but if Anunoby is the best defender out there, he might be worth the risk.