With less than 24 hours to go before the NBA trade deadline, the clock is ticking for the Denver Nuggets to make a season swap.
The Nuggets are 26-18 and in fifth place in the Western Conference. That said, they could use some reinforcement to get out of their way.
After reaching the 2020 West Finals, the Nuggets entered the season with title aspirations. However, their formation is not a champion formation in its current form. Even with superstar center Nikola Jokic emerging as an MVP candidate, Denver will have to retrain at the deadline to make another playoff run.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Nuggets’ biggest needs through 2021, when the NBA trade deadline approaches.
Significant demand Inrush protection gain
While the Nuggets would be wise to strengthen their frontcourt, the biggest need is at the shooting guard position. Gary Harris, often injured and once considered a cornerstone of the franchise, has struggled in the 2020-21 season. His play has deteriorated in recent seasons, despite his three-dimensional reputation.
The 2014 first-round pick is averaging 9.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 19 games, his worst numbers since his debut campaign. Harris has already missed 24 games this season due to various issues, including a right hip injury, a hamstring strain and a right adductor strain. Nuggets would be open to trade for a 26-year-old girl:
Gary Harris is reportedly on the transfer market pic.twitter.com/ISRaUGm3b9
– Nuggets Nation (@NuggetsNationCP) March 23, 2021
Harris signed with the Nuggets in 2018 for $84 million, in the 2021-22 season, the final year of a four-year contract. His high salary can be used in an exchange to make a transaction financially possible.
Solution: Playing for Victor Oladipo
The Nuggets, who want to maximize the minutes of Nikola Jokic and point guard Jamal Murray, could take a chance with two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Houston Rockets guard was traded by the Indiana Pacers in January.
In 29 games with the Pacers and Rockets combined, Oladipo recorded 20.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Plus, Oladipo may have already played his last game against the Rockets:
Report: There is a lot of confidence that the Rockets will trade Victor Oladipo before the trade deadline, via @wojespn. pic.twitter.com/rF5tvFyZmN
– Hope Central (@TheHoopCentral) 23. March 2021
The purchase of Oladipo involves a clear risk. The 28-year-old could leave in Free Agency this summer, making him a potential loan for any team that brings him in via a trade. The Rockets probably need at least one first round pick in exchange for Oladipo, plus a quality player. However, Houston does not have the typical leverage of a club offering a star player in trade talks, as it is clear that Oladipo has no intention of signing with a rebuilding club.
That’s where the Nuggets come in, as they can take advantage of the fact that the Rockets want to move on from Oladipo. Denver can bring in Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a future first-rounder to get Oladipo. While Dipo could leave Denver after a few months, the club will likely try to trade the defender long-term.
Oladipo’s arrival could put the Nuggets back in the title hunt. At least it puts them back on the map to return to the Western finals, which seems unlikely if their roster remains the same. West seems very open, which the Denver administration should be aware of when discussing whether or not to make a deal with Oladipo.
The trio of Jokic, Murray and Oladipo is a tempting proposition that could become a reality for the Nuggets if they play their cards right between now and Thursday 3pm.
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