Nuggets’ dream scenario for 2023 NBA trade deadline
The Denver Nuggets recently managed to emerge from the crowd as the best team in the Western Conference. After a bit of a slow start to the season, with key pieces such as Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. returning to the swing of things, the Nuggers have taken off recently, and their 34-14 record is the best in the West. currently.
For the Nuggets, the first half of the 2022-23 season has been exactly what they hoped for. Nikola Jokic makes a very strong case for winning his third consecutive MVP award, and the players around him such as Murray, Porter and Aaron Gordon all contribute to that. Denver has built a very deep team, and it’s no surprise to see them emerge as a strong Finals contender.
With the 2023 NBA trade deadline approaching, the Nuggets don’t necessarily have to frantically try to make deals to improve their team, because again, they’re already in a pretty good position. But they have a few needs that could be met, so let’s take a look at the Nuggets’ dream trade deadline scenario and see what would need to happen for it to materialize.
Nuggets Dream Scenario for Trade Deadline
Right now, the Nuggets’ biggest weakness seems to be their center rotation, and more specifically their inside defense. As mentioned before, Jokic is an absolute madman and can do anything at a high level. But he can’t play 48 minutes every night, and when he’s not on the court, Denver has no one to rely on behind him.
Jokic’s current replacement at center is DeAndre Jordan, who is no longer the player he once was. Jordan still has some value as a paint player at both ends of the floor (4.8 PPG, 5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 76.7 FG%), but it’s becoming clear we can’t count on him if the Nuggets want to win a title. This causes them to make a pair or discrete moves at the trade deadline to consolidate this weakness.
The first step is to strike a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Naz Reid, who Denver has recently been linked to. Reid is an OK offensive player, and his stats aren’t anything special (10.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1 BPG, 53.7 FG%), but he’s a definite improvement over in Jordan. It’s also worth noting that Reid does this despite playing just over three minutes more per game than Jordan.
Reid is a solid but unspectacular center, but that’s really all the Nuggets need from him. Jordan has been a liability, and if Denver is to achieve their ultimate goal this season, they’re going to need a more capable player than aging Jordan. That’s exactly what Reid is offering here, and the Nuggets probably wouldn’t have to give up a ton to get it.
The second move would be some sort of reunion that would see the Nuggets pick up Jarred Vanderbilt from the Utah Jazz. Vanderbilt was part of the Rudy Gobert trade this past offseason, and took a big step forward during his time with the Jazz. With Utah becoming deadline-day sellers, it would make sense for them to try and move Vanderbilt while they can.
Vanderbilt is primarily a power forward, but he can also play as an undersized center at times. The Nuggets could use another wing defender who has the versatility to play in multiple different locations, and that’s what Vanderbilt is offering here. Reid might be a more pressing addition, but Vanderbilt might be just what the Nuggets need to fill out their rotation.
Vanderbilt’s numbers this season aren’t otherworldly (8.5 PPG, 8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 55.3 FG%), but it’s easy to see why he’s such an attractive trade target for Denver. He clearly has a lot of skills that helped him become a key part of Utah’s rotation, and Denver could bring him back to town after sending him to Minnesota in the 2019-20 season.
Those two moves would fill the Nuggets’ two biggest needs, making it a dream scenario for Denver. Their home defense would get a huge boost, and they’d immediately have a few extra deployable bigs that could help on offense as well. They’re not huge moves, but when you’re where Denver is, you don’t need to do a lot of flashy moves.
It doesn’t matter what the Nuggets competitors do, because those moves would instantly make them one of the deepest teams in the entire league. It’s clear that Denver has championship aspirations right now, and if they want to take a step forward to achieve those aspirations, throwing in those two deals would definitely do the job.