Beat writer Mike Singer opens up the Nuggets Mailbag periodically during the offseason. Ask a Nuggets — or NBA — related question here.
If you had to name the most realistic trade targets who would they be? Also how aggressive do you think Calvin Booth will be as head of basketball operations?
— Bhuvan, Dallas
Do you think the Nuggets are more or less likely to star-chase with Calvin Booth? (eg packaging MPJ and/or Jamal Murray to go after Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, etc.)
— Jeremiah Zeigler, Colorado Springs
We’ve heard a lot about Calvin Booth’s intention to be aggressive when looking to upgrade the roster this offseason. Who are some players he could conceivably target if the Nuggets truly do decide to go all-in?
—Ryan, Groveland, Fla.
My favorite question because I’ve run my list past a couple of NBA executives, and they didn’t outright laugh at me.
First, a few rules. Upgrading defensively is a mandate, so my list has a bunch of plus-defenders. No position’s more coveted right now than two-way wings. Second, the Nuggets have registered some level of interest in a few of these players in the past, meaning, they’re not complete pipedreams. Third, a lot of what the Nuggets can return depends on what they’re willing to give up. As I’ve reported, I think Will Barton, Monte Morris and JaMychal Green are all available. I also think the Nuggets would listen on just about everybody not named Nikola or Jamal. So the potential for an impact trade is there, as long as the Nuggets are comfortable including a player of value.
Enough feet-dragging. Memphis’ Dillon Brooks should be on their list as a rugged defender who can also score. One problem with Brooks: He might shoot too much, actually.
Washington’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the right age, plays the right position and is stuck behind a star with the Wizards. He also has championship experience with the Lakers.
New York’s Cam Reddish is a young, somewhat capable defender who’s struggled to find consistency first with the Hawks and then with the Knicks.
Portland’s Josh Hart can defend in spurts, and the Nuggets might be able to get the Blazers’ ear with another draft pick or a young player like Bones Hyland or Zeke Nnaji.
It’s tough to tell who might be available from Atlanta, but the Nuggets should, at minimum, inquire on De’Andre Hunter, the promising two-way small forward from Virginia. On a different note, I wonder how Jokic would feel if Bogdan Bogdanovic was spreading the floor for the Nuggets next season.
Others worth considering: OKC’s Lu Dort and Kenrich Williams, and free-agent-to-be Bruce Brown. Two cheaper options: Miami’s Caleb Martin and Charlotte’s Cody Martin.
Is there a possibility that Nikola Jokic wins a third MVP? I know it depends on a lot but the media won’t budget in my opinion. Also do you think that we will lure free agents? I mean c’mon, who wouldn’t want to play with Nikola?!?!
—Korbin, Castle Rock
I think the media in general has been slow to accept Jokic as a superstar because of how unorthodox and non-traditional his game is. But when he puts up better numbers than his inaugural MVP campaign, and with less help, he becomes harder and harder to deny how special he is. That being said, the voting media (myself included) are humans, and a third consecutive MVP will be hard to justify because of A) voter fatigue and B) Joker’s regular-season success has yet to yield a deep playoff run for voters to feel validated. The Nuggets would probably need to finish No. 1 or No. 2 in the West for him to generate another strong campaign. I, for one, am not putting it past him.
Is there a possibility the Nuggets trade Will Barton this summer?
— Carlos, Halifax (Nova Scotia Canada)
I think there’s a very real chance Barton gets traded this summer. First, he’s on a reasonable expiring deal ($14.3 million), and second, as important as he’s been to their foundation, he’s not exactly what they need right now. There are age concerns, always questions of health and availability, and perhaps most importantly, defensive concerns. Barton’s contract, paired with another player or draft pick, could yield something worthwhile in return. A defensive guard perhaps?
As I’ve reported, I also expect Denver GM Calvin Booth to be more aggressive than his predecessor. If that means moving the longest-tenured Nuggets player, so be it.
Who are some players the Nuggets are potentially interested in for the draft or via free agency/trade? My view would be to stock up on wings and small forward-type players who can mitigate the risk if Michael Porter Jr. becomes a part-time player due to his injury concerns. I really like Christian Braun (Kansas) as a draft prospect and Wendell Moore (Duke). Thoughts?
— Dragan, Sydney, Australia
Since other questions ask about trade targets, I’ll use this space to talk about prospects. You’re correct. Adding wing defenders is a top priority. Both of your suggestions are good ones. Braun’s a long, competitive wing who can fill it up from outside. Adding floor-spacers who can also defend is essential. I like Moore, too. His physical profile bodes well for defending multiple positions, and the Nuggets could live with his somewhat limited offensive upside because of how prolific their attack already is. In some ways, adding a guy who isn’t a score-first guard makes more sense than someone who gets up 15 shots per game.
Others who I like at No. 21 for the Nuggets: Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji is a strong, multifaceted wing who can contribute on both ends of the floor. Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley is a springy guard with a ton of upside offensive. My favorite prospect for where they’re picking might be Ohio State’s Malaki Branham. The only knock on him is that he’s a freshman, so it’s fair to wonder how much he’d help in the immediate. His positional size is a huge plus and may be reason enough why he won’t be there when their pick comes around.
Will the Kroenkes ever decide to pony up for this team? It doesn’t take much to build a practice facility that brings them even with the rest of the league. Just feels like we may be stuck in neutral wasting the MVP’s golden years because ownership can’t spare a few bucks to invest in this team’s one chance to win a title.
—Bobby R., Greenwood Village
Kroenke vowed a practice facility was in the works, but he’s done that in the past as well. Pony up is an interesting phrase because the Kroenkes have invested in the roster, they just haven’t invested in things off the court. If they weren’t willing to pay Tim Connelly (who, again, wanted to stay), imagine what that looks like lower down the totem pole for other staffers. Don’t even get me started on the TV “disaster,” to quote Josh Kroenke.
Love following your beat. Was wondering if you could shed any light on how the NBA scoop game works, specifically the role that Shams and Woj play trying to break news before other reporters (and don’t worry, I notice when you’re first but don’t get credit). How do they manage to get fed juicy information before local reporters sometimes? Are they well liked? Do they have to pay? Super curious on this one!
—Sean McDonald, Grow up in Lyons
You really want to know how the sausage is made? Those guys are great at what they do. Their networks are expansive, and they both work hard at establishing, then watering, relationships. Oftentimes, if an agent or a team executive wants to get something out, they look to the people with the biggest audience. That’s what makes it difficult at times to compete with them. But if you pay close attention, you might see certain reporters send up a flare on certain stories before it gets to those guys. We call those big wins because that’s not usually how news flows, which is a credit to the job the big news-breakers do.