As the Denver Nuggets finalize preparations for the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday, it’s becoming increasingly clear just how important Thursday will be. With two first round draft picks and defensive questions to address, the Nuggets are expected to be active in trade discussions. There have already been rumors about Denver’s interest in trading up 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 gravity of the situation. They are canvassing the league and identifying potential options. In those conversations, it’s clear that opposing teams may or may not be willing to deal with Denver, and that willing may come down to how much the Nuggets plan to sweeten the pot. As discussed on Sunday, the Nuggets will have the 21st and 30th picks at their disposal in trade talks. They also have Bones Hyland and Zeke Nnaji as young prospects along with veterans Will Barton, Monte Morris, and Jeff Green. Denver will most likely be offering some combination of those players and picks in order to facilitate a trade.
The biggest questions remain thus: what players will the Nuggets target in trades? How much will they offer to find the best fit possible? Are those respective teams actually interested in such a move?
Let’s cast a wide net and discuss who the Nuggets might target in trades this week:
Tier 1 – Not an upgrade, but a better fit
De’Anthony Melton – Guard, Memphis Grizzlies
The trade: Melton to Denver, Monte Morris to Memphis | GOLD | Melton to Denver, 21st pick, $8.2 million traded player exception to Memphis
Melton is one of the best defensive guards in the entire NBA. His 3.0% steal rate through the first four seasons of his career places 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 an elite fit in Denver’s backcourt next to Jamal Murray. With the Grizzlies potentially losing Tyus Jones in free agency, Monte Morris would replace a glaring need for a competent point guard behind the explosive but liable injury Ja Morant.
Dillon Brooks – Wing, Memphis Grizzlies
The trade: Brooks to Denver, Will Barton and 2024 second round pick via OKC to Memphis
Also in the Grizzlies backcourt is Dillon Brooks, a 6’7″ wing defender with little conscience for shot selection. The Nuggets don’t need another volume shooter, especially if Brooks shoots 30.9% from three-point range again. They could certainly use Brooks’ physical perimeter defense though. The Grizzlies may not need Barton back specifically (and it could just as easily be Morris here) but Barton went to University of Memphis and may enjoy a return to his college stomping grounds.
Josh Richardson – Wing, San Antonio Spurs
The trade: Richardson to Denver, Barton to San Antonio
Richardson was traded to the Spurs last trade deadline for Derrick White, and he spent the rest of the season mostly coming off the bench. Richardson played pretty well though, shooting 41.5% from three-point range on the year after some subpar shooting seasons. His main calling card is defense though as a versatile perimeter defender with long arms. He would help Denver’s perimeter defense for sure. Barton may be a better fit in San Antonio as a bench scorer behind Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson (or be flipped at the trade deadline to a contender).
Matisse Thybulle – Wing, Philadelphia 76ers
The trade: Thybulle, Danny Green, and 23rd pick to Denver, Barton to Philadelphia
This trade was actually proposed by NBC Sports Philadelphia in a recent mock draft, and it makes sense for both sides. The Sixers add a more consistent shooter and playmaker 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 questioning his defensive impact. The Nuggets need to take chances, and adding a two-time All-Defensive guard that’s played just three seasons in the NBA feels like a decent bet. Denver also gets another first rounder and Green, who’s rehabbing a torn ACL and will likely be out for the entire year.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Wing, Washington Wizards
The trade: Caldwell-Pope and a 2025 protected first round pick to Denver, Barton and 21st pick to Washington
One of the most straightforward fits between player and team is Caldwell-Pope and the Nuggets. In his last five seasons between the Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers, KCP has averaged 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.0 steals in 28.4 minutes per game while shooting 38% from three-point range. His floor spacing and defense pair nicely with what contenders need, and the Nuggets fit the bill. It’s easy to see KCP sliding into the starting shooting guard spot, defending ball handlers while spacing the floor for Murray and Jokić.
For the Wizards, Barton is a more potent scorer and playmaker for others than KCP. The Wizards ranked 21st in offensive rating last year and could use some more perimeter 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 true question mark (beyond health) is the point guard play. Reggie Jackson was fine as a starter last year but not great, and the Clippers have chosen to go point guard by committee behind him. Perhaps Morris fits as another stabilizer to what is a fairly volatile roster. The Nuggets get Mann in return, who’s a physical combo guard with solid defensive skills. He’d be a great fit next to Murray and Jokić.
Tier 2 – A moderate upgrade
Josh Hart – Wing, 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 in the CJ McCollum deal before the 2022 trade deadline. He had some success with the Blazers, but there are questions about Portland’s vision and the direction they ultimately want to go surrounding Damian Lillard with capable veterans. Hart would be incredibly helpful in Denver as a connector in the starting lineup. Perhaps Lillard would be interested in reuniting with a former teammate in Barton, and the Blazers could add the extra draft picks to deals that improve the rest of the roster.
I’ve 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 the Spurs, and he helped them reach their first NBA Finals since 2010. Unfortunately, White’s offensive stood out against the Warriors, and there’s a possibility that the Celtics could have buyer’s remorse.
If that’s the case, 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 some playmaking skills off the dribble. The Nuggets could use that, and the Celtics could use the stability in the backcourt that Morris and Barton would each offer.
Bogdan Bogdanovic – Wing, Atlanta Hawks
The trade: Bogdanovic to Denver, Barton, Jeff Green, and 30th pick to Atlanta
The Hawks are set to make some waves this off-season with their personnel moves, and one of the players potentially caught in the crossfire is Bogdanovic, the Serbian wing shooting 38.4% from three-point range for his career. Bogdanovic isn’t the best defender on the market, but he’s capable, and his offensive versatility (and connection with Jokić) might make up 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 might make the Hawks more interested in a package featuring Barton, Green, and a first round pick.
Luguentz Dort – Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
The trade: Dort, 34th pick to Denver, Zeke Nnaji, 21st pick, and 2029 protected first round pick to Oklahoma City
One of the best perimeter defenders (potentially) available, Lu Dort would be an excellent fit with the Nuggets as a fifth starter. The Nuggets already made a trade with the Thunder though, and given that Sam Presti already controls Denver’s 2023 first round pick AND 2027 first round pick, the Nuggets sending out another future first to the same team might not be enticing.
Still, if the Nuggets are serious about competing, there are few perimeter defenders more capable than Dort. He’s physical, athletic, and relentless, all traits Michael Malone would certainly love to add to the mix.
Tier 3 – A big swing
Malcolm Brogdon – Guard, Indiana Pacers
The trade: Brogdon and 2023 2nd round pick via MIA/HOU/DAL to Denver, Barton, Green, Bones Hyland, and 21st pick to Indiana
If the Nuggets attempt to acquire the best player they possibly can without breaking up their core group, Malcolm Brogdon is as good as it gets. The 29-year-old guard has averaged 18.9 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game in Indiana while shooting 44.7% from the field and 35.2% from three-point range. He’s capable of scaling up on offense as well as scaling down, 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 line up with the timeline of Tyrese Haliburton and whoever the Pacers select at 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 get Brogdon to add to a guard rotation that includes Murray and Morris, an elite trio of decision makers in the backcourt.
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 outside of the box. The Nuggets have always been interested in Anunoby dating back to draft night in 2017. They never got him then, and since that point, the Nuggets have added Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and Zeke Nnaji to the mix, a bunch of 6 ‘8″ to 6’10” forwards 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 plenty of lineups with positional versatility. For Toronto, they acquire Barton as a solid offensive option in their rotation, Nnaji to be a long term Anunoby replacement, and multiple first round picks. It’s a major haul, but if Anunoby is the best defender on the market, maybe he’s worth the risk.