Photo: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
With the NBA trade deadline just four days away, the Nuggets need to secure a roster spot for Torrey Craig.
Torrey Craig has been a revelation for the Denver Nuggets so far this season. Craig was signed last summer on a two-way deal after he impressed the Nuggets brass with his play at the Las Vegas Summer League. The two-way deal Craig signed allowed him 45 days with the Nuggets and the rest of his time would be spent playing in the G-League. In ten games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Craig averaged 25.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and two blocks per game. Craig’s play with the Skyforce granted him a rapid promotion to the Nuggets and he hasn’t looked back since.
The greatest ability that Craig possesses is his ability to defend every position. Whether it’s Russell Westbrook or Anthony Davis, Craig has the ability to shut down the opposing teams best player night in and night out.
No Fly Zone. pic.twitter.com/7GGFxLPeOb
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) February 2, 2018
That block came in the Nuggets win against the Thunder on Thursday night and was an emphatic rejection against the leagues former MVP. It looked like Westbrook had a clear lane to the basket, but the make up speed Craig showed and the ability to make a play on the ball at the rim was just exceptional. DID caught up with Craig at Nuggets media day earlier this season and he discussed what the Nuggets were looking for from him last summer.
“Yeah for sure. They told me that from day one that they needed a lockdown defender and a guy who is athletic and can defend multiple positions. In summer league I actually guarded one through five so they were impressed with that and that’s definitely one of the qualities they said they were looking for.”
Craig’s certainly impressed in the defensive department, but what he’s given the Nuggets on the defensive and offensive glass has been just as important. In the Nuggets loss earlier in the week to the San Antonio Spurs, five of Craig’s six rebounds were offensive, and helped his rebounding average on the season move up to 2.6. That number may not seem like a lot, but it’s not the number of rebounds he’s averaging, it’s the importance of the rebounds he hauls in to give the Nuggets second chance point opportunities.
There’s no exact date for how many days Craig has left with the Nuggets, but its close to the 45 day limit that he’s given with his two-way contract. The issue the Nuggets have is that all 15 of their roster spots are currently filled by players under contract. If the Nuggets are unable to clear a roster spot, they will have to send Craig back to the G-League and will lose a rotation player whose contributed in 23 games so far this season. Craig averaged 12.6 minutes per game in the month of January and has become a staple in coach Michael Malone’s rotation. Securing Craig up for the rest of the season would not only help the Nuggets in the short term, but in the long term as well.
Some potential players the Nuggets can move on from are Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, and even Wilson Chandler. Moving on from any of those three would secure a spot for Craig, but the problem is they have to find teams that are willing to take any of those three players. The Nuggets best bet may be killing two birds with one stone and consolidating their roster in a trade for a veteran point guard. Emmanuel Mudiay has recently been thrust back into the Nuggets rotation, but the team still lacks that veteran presence off the bench to take over the team’s second unit. Here’s a potential trade the Nuggets could make that would net them that veteran point guard, and also clear a roster spot for Craig.
A couple of picks may end up being in evolved in this trade, but the Nuggets have been linked to Hill and this would give the Kings a chance to see more from rookies De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Another potential deal that would give the Nuggets another ball handler and would secure a spot on the roster for Craig could come from a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.
It would be tough to give up Beasley in any type of deal and the Grizzlies are also asking for a first round pick in return for Evans services. This move would give the Nuggets a veteran ball handler for the rest of the season and would give them a guy in Ben McLemore who they would hope benefits from a change on scenery. All in all, both deals would secure roster spots for Craig and would give the Nuggets veteran leadership they can use to hopefully return to the postseason for the first time in four seasons.
We’ll close the article with a great quote from Craig at media day when he talked about betting on himself over the summer. Craig had everything he wanted and was playing high level basketball in Australia, but at the same time he knew there was a better opportunity out there for him in the NBA. The Nuggets have found a gem in Torrey Craig and they’d be foolish to not lock him up long term, and all this came to be by just a little faith and believing in himself.