It was officially reported Friday by Marc Stein that the Denver Nuggets are “actively looking to find Jusuf Nurkic a new home”. The 22 year old Bosnian big man is a highly skilled player with soft hands and a good touch around the basket. However playing him and Nikola Jokic just hasn’t worked out, and Nurkic has balked at coming off the bench. As a result he’s seen his minutes drop, averaging only 36 minutes total in the past 4 games.
For the season Nurkic is averaging 8.6 PPG (on 52.9% from the field) and 6.2 rebounds per game. He’s doing this on only 18.7 MPG, which includes 27 starts. With those stats, and with him under team control for the next 2 years, I would just have Nurkic come off the bench and learn to deal with it, as the Orlando Magic originally did with Nikola Vucevic. However it appears the Nuggets are much more gracious than I am and will look to accommodate his wishes. It’s clear that a change is needed for both the Nuggets and for Nurkic, but where can the Nuggets send him that is good for both parties? Let’s check it out.
Getting the deal done
Let’s get this clear. If Nurkic is traded, he will most likely be traded to a rebuilding team or one that is headed in that direction. This is the most feasible recourse for the Nuggets, although I’m pretty sure it is not a popular one. The reason for that is because the Nuggets will presumably get prospects and/or picks back in exchange, and while picks are nice and prospects are intriguing, the Nuggets already have a treasure trove of young players and logjams at a number of positions already. It’s also important to evaluate which teams could use Nurkic and build around him. The Phoenix Suns sound interesting, maybe Nurkic straight up for Alex Len and his expiring contract? The Nuggets could even get Phoenix to part with some future picks if they wanted to. Or what about Nurkic to Orlando for Jeff Green’s expiring contract? (Actually there is absolutely no way that deal gets done. Denver already has too many forwards; ditto with Orlando and their center position)
The point is that there are teams that can take Nurkic off of the Nuggets hands, the Nuggets have the luxury evaluate what they’re getting in return and see if that’s a good fit. It’s also important to assess the needs of the teams interested. The Nets are seeking to get rid of Brook Lopez, but are also in great need of young assets. Let’s say the Nets were able to trade Lopez, and then made a separate deal with Denver. The Nuggets could pick up an expiring contract or a bench player (Randy Foye or Luis Scola) and all would be well. Nurkic to the Nets would give Brooklyn a new prospect with the potential to build a team around. The Nuggets would get a couple of productive veterans to help them in their push to the playoffs.
As far as other teams, what about a straight swap with Altanta for Dwight Howard? (just kidding). Dallas is looking to offload Andrew Bogut; Denver has the cap space neccesary to deal Nurkic to the Mavs for the big Aussie, who’s passing and rebounding may fit in well with the Nuggets. Even if the Nuggets didn’t get Bogut, they could still send Nurkic to Dallas to fill their inevitable hole in the middle. There are a number of veterans with Dallas that could help the Nuggets in the 2nd half of the season. A title contender could probably also use Nurkic off the bench, a la the Warriors or Cavs, but not only do I doubt the Cavs have the personnel needed to make a trade with Denver, but they’re so far over the cap anyways that such a trade doesn’t seem to be immediately accessible. The same would go for Golden State, who seem to be content with their frontcourt situation, at least for this season.
In summary, Tim Connelly needs to take a long look at the offers on his table for Nurkic, and take the one that is works best for the Nuggets first and foremost. Of course Denver wants to do right by it’s promising player, but there is no reason for the Nuggets to hamstring themselves in trading a talented prospect for minimal return. Worst case scenario, no deal appeals to Connelly and the Nuggets stand pat until draft day to deal Nurk. This trading season has the potential to be very exciting for Nuggets fans and it will be interesting to see what the future holds. It’s just a shame that Jusuf Nurkic will not be a part of that future.