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Nuggets of Gold: Players Must Make Moves at the 2024 NBA Trade Deadline

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The reigning champions, the Denver Nuggets, appear stronger than ever. They even boast a higher winning percentage and improved net rating compared to their championship-winning season last year. While still among the league’s elite, the Nuggets recognize the need for roster adjustments to bolster their chances of another deep playoff run. We delve into potential players the Nuggets could consider moving before the trade deadline, including Reggie Jackson, Zeke Nnaji, and Justin Holiday.

The Nuggets’ 2023-24 NBA Season So Far

Undoubtedly, the Nuggets have demonstrated championship-caliber performance this season. They currently have a 32-15 record as we near the end of January. However, they find themselves trailing the emerging forces of OKC and Minnesota in the Western Conference standings.

Denver still has arguably the best starting lineup in the league, anchored by the unparalleled talent of Nikola Jokić. However, concerns linger regarding roster depth, particularly at the center position.

Jokić’s impact on the team’s success is undeniable. The Nuggets outscore their opponents by 325-plus points when he’s on the court. That’s compared to a deficit of 122 points in his absence. Sure, no backup center can single-handedly reverse this trend. Still, acquiring an upgrade over DeAndre Jordan or Zeke Nnaji could mitigate the team’s vulnerabilities.

Following a similar strategy to last year’s acquisition of Thomas Bryant, the Nuggets should explore the market for another quality big man.

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Michael Malone next to Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Considerations

Again, despite their commendable performance, the Nuggets are not without flaws, prompting consideration for minor adjustments. For instance, potential upgrades to the bench at center (as we already said) or point guard positions are worth exploring.

However, we should consider the Nuggets’ current assets. In terms of draft picks, they have first-round picks in even-numbered years until 2030 and second-round picks until 2030, except for 2027. As such, they possess a modest but usable collection of assets to facilitate trade negotiations.

Here we will look at the players whom the Denver Nuggets must move at the 2024 NBA trade deadline to improve their chances this season.

Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson’s tenure with the Nuggets has been marked by mixed performances and challenges fitting into the team’s system. This is particularly true given the demands of the backup point guard role. Despite inconsistency in his shooting and defensive vulnerabilities, Jackson has demonstrated his value. He has notably contributed to successful lineups during Jamal Murray’s absence. However, his $5 million salary could serve as a trade asset to pursue more impactful acquisitions. On the flip side, retaining him alongside a veteran combo guard remains a plausible scenario. That would offer Coach Michael Malone versatility in lineup configurations.

Zeke Nnaji

As we said, the backup center position continues to warrant attention for potential upgrades within the Nuggets’ roster. Keep in mind that DeAndre Jordan’s presence has overshadowed Zeke Nnaji. The latter’s performance has fallen short of expectations since signing his extension. Sure, the risk of a backup center impacting playoff series remains relatively low. However, considering past postseason experiences, exploring improvements in this area remains prudent. Nnaji’s underwhelming performance makes him a conceivable trade candidate, possibly indicative of a mismatch in his role within the team’s dynamics.

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Justin Holiday

Questions persist regarding the Nuggets’ depth at the forward position and Malone’s reliance on certain players in playoff rotations. The absence of versatile contributors like Bruce Brown and Jeff Green from last season’s roster underscores the need for dependable playoff rotation forwards. That said, Peyton Watson’s emergence signals a shift in trust dynamics. As for Justin Holiday, his standing remains uncertain. Malone’s evolving trust in various players, including Jackson and Christian Braun, suggests a fluid situation leading up to the trade deadline. Holiday objectively emerges as the most tradeable candidate here.

Possible Targets

A couple of potential trade targets the Nuggets could consider include Mason Plumlee and Jalen Smith.

Although Plumlee’s performance in Denver hasn’t matched his previous stint with the team, he remains a viable trade target. Plumlee’s absence due to injury has coincided with the Clippers’ resurgence. They have utilized Ivica Zubac and Daniel Theis in the frontcourt. With Plumlee’s $5 million salary being quite high, though another name could be a feasible trade target. That’s Jalen Smith, a former 10th overall pick. He is demonstrating steady performance with the Indiana Pacers right now.

Looking Ahead

The Denver Nuggets find themselves at a pivotal juncture as we approach the 2024 NBA trade deadline. Yes, they boast a formidable roster led by the incomparable Nikola Jokić. That said, strategic adjustments are imperative to fortify their depth and address lingering concerns. This is particularly true at the backup positions. Reggie Jackson, Zeke Nnaji, and Justin Holiday emerge as potential trade candidates. Each represents distinct opportunities to enhance the team’s playoff readiness.

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With careful consideration of both short-term objectives and long-term aspirations, the Nuggets stand poised to make calculated moves that could shape their postseason prospects. As the trade deadline looms, the Nuggets’ front office faces the daunting task of balancing immediate needs with the overarching goal of sustained championship contention.

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