General Manager Tim Connelly, struck gold in the Rocky Mountains at the trade deadline Thursday afternoon. Similar to Zebulon Pike’s second expedition of 1806, Connelly sought, found, and cashed in on a haul with assists from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic.
The Nuggets started the feast with an appetizer early on Thursday with the trade for Javale McGee. A former Nugget, McGee returns to Denver with championship experience and years of improvement in his defensive game. McGee’s game is what the Nuggets sorely need; defensive rebounding and shot-blocking. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nuggets sent recently acquired, yet underperforming, Isaiah Hartenstein and two second-round picks.
The Nuggets’ main course was acquiring Aaron Gordon to create a fantastic four. In return, the Nuggets sent Gary Harris, RJ Hampton, and Denver’s 2025 first-round pick, with protections. Harris, who was extremely popular in the lockerroom, has struggled with injuries and his offensive game. The Denver Nuggets also acquired power forward Gary Clark in this deal.
The player that the Nuggets may regret including in the deal is RJ Hampton. Hampton will have a great opportunity to flourish with increased playing time in Orlando. The 2025 Draft pick that the Magic will also receive in this deal should be expected to be towards the end of the first round. This assumes that the Nuggets play to their potential as a championship contender.
The Denver Nuggets announced their intentions to become a championship contender immediately with these trades. By going all-in right now, a repeat visit to the Western Conference Finals appearance is mandatory. The Nuggets have the perfect combination of youthful pieces and a veteran presence to support another deep postseason run. Additionally, Michael Porter Jr will be in the midst of his second playoff trip and his first as a full-time starter. Michael Porter Jr. has proved that given playing time that he can be respectable on defense, but his bread and butter is his ability to create and score.
The addition of Aaron Gordon brings the defensive energy that Michael Malone has been searching for this season. Defensively speaking, the Nuggets got a lot better with the additions of McGee and Gordon. Add to that, Paul Milsap, JaMychal Green, and PJ Dozier, and the Nuggets have a team that can be pesky and scrappy in the playoffs.
Looking at the current roster as it stands, Coach Malone can play with a variety of lineups on any given in-game stretch. They could play small ball against the Suns with a Morris-Murray-Barton-MPJ-Gordon lineup with three strong offensive options and strong rebounding on the glass. They could play big to match up with the Lakers by going with Murray-MPJ-Gordon-Jokic-McGee to counter an LBJ-AD-Drummond frontcourt.
If I were to take a guess at what the starting lineup will be when Gordon and McGee are available, this is what I project:
- PG: Monte Morris
- SG: Jamal Murray
- SF: Michael Porter Jr.
- PF: Aaron Gordon
- C: Nikola Jokic
With the following rotation coming off the bench:
- Facundo Compazzo
- Will Barton
- Paul Millsap
- JaMychal Green
- Javale McGee
Michael Malone will have the option to use ten players in his playoff rotation. That is two more than any other team in the NBA. The typical playoff rotation plays eight, so the Nuggets will have more weapons in the tank than most. The million-dollar question is: how will Malone fit all the pieces of the puzzle in time for championship aspirations?