Nuggets make minor deal at deadline, here’s what you should know
Feb 8, 2024, 1:45 PM
The Denver Nuggets are the reigning champions and still have the best starting five in basketball. They came into Thursday’s deadline tied for first in the Western Conference but lacking serious assets to make a firey move. None of the Nuggets toughest possible foes made earth-shattering moves, but as was the case this summer, some deals that were made had Denver in mind.
So it made sense that the Nuggets didn’t make a trade that impacted their roster and in all honesty, a better move could be coming via the buyout market. The Nuggets did actually make a minor trade, sending out euro-stash big Kamagate Ismael Kamagate for cash. Calvin Booth telegraphed at the start of the season that the Nuggets would be riding with their guys this season, so if Denver is to repeat it’s going to come down to what they already have. And the Nuggets should be the favorites to win the West again after Thursday. With that in mind let’s look around the league.
Biggest trade that impacted the Nuggets:
The biggest trade of Deadline Day saw former All-Star Gordon Hayward sent from Charlotte to Oklahoma City. The Thunder are for real and should be taken seriously in the West, and they add a veteran with more playoff experience than the rest of their entire roster combined. Hayward isn’t the player who led Butler on a Cinderella run or the guy who earned a max contract anymore. But the 33-year-old 6-foot-7 forward is still good for 15 points a game, switchable defense and good connectivity. He won’t factor into the Thunder’s most important players and frankly might not even start, but getting him Tre Mann, Vasilije Micic and assets does make OKC a bit better. But OKC didn’t make the move that would’ve helped them the most, something covered below.
Sneaky good move that could impact the Nuggets:
A day before the deadline, Memphis sent 25-year-old backup big man Xavier Tillman to the East-leading Celtics for picks. The six-foot-nine player’s stats wouldn’t blow you away at 6 points and 4.6 rebounds a contest in about 18 minutes a game. But he provides Boston another option at big and another body to throw at Nikola Jokic if the Celtics meet the Nuggets in the NBA Finals. We saw in the most recent matchup between the two teams that Jokic ate against Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford seemed to have finally aged out of being suitable in the matchup. So it’s a nice add for Boston, plus Tillman comes from the West where he’s played Denver 11 times in his career, and his numbers against the Nuggets are all up above his averages. In a way, Denver not sending two picks out to solidify the backup big spot, may hurt more than where exactly Tillman has ended up.
Strangest moves that could impact Denver:
The Jazz picked up Kira Lewis, Otto Porter Jr., and a 2024 first-round draft pick in exchange for Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji. Utah has appeared to do some selling the last few days all the while they’re playing a lot better on the court. The Jazz could very well play the Nuggets in the first round, and they just sent out a bunch of frontcourt depth, though they still have Walker Kessler, John Collins and Lauri Markkanen.
Another trade that could impact the Nuggets was former playoff foe Phoenix adding solid role player Royce O’Neale and former CSU Rams standout David Roddy for a package of decent role players that didn’t work out with them. O’Neale was the best player in the deal, but this had more of a rearranging the deck chair vibe than it did serious pick-up.
The same goes for Dallas, who added PJ Washington for Grant Williams and Seth Curry,
Biggest trades that didn’t happen for the Nuggets
Two aging powers in the West appeared to punt on the rest of the season by not making trades. Both the Los Angeles Lakers, who were big winners at last year’s deadline, and the Golden State Warriors, who have made giant deadline moves in the past, didn’t make a move this week. The Lakers are 27-25, sitting ninth in the West while the Warriors are even in out of the play-in at 23-25 at 11th. Neither team as currently constructed is a serious threat to the Nuggets this year and they did nothing to change their fortunes. In fact, the lack of moves for each could hint at the end of LeBron James’ time in LA this summer as well as the Warriors breaking up the Splash Brothers. (Note: the Warriors made one small move in sending Cory Joseph out to Indy.)
The scariest trade that could’ve happened for the Nuggets on Thursday would’ve been the Thunder adding some size. OKC is 3-1 against the Nuggets this season and tied record-wise with each other. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the few players in the NBA who could be just as good as Jokic for multiple games during a series. And rookie big man Chet Holmgren has been awesome. But Chet doesn’t have a ton of meat on his bone, obviously hasn’t played a playoff game and there are almost no bigs behind him on the Thunder roster. By not adding a big, the Thunder could face foul issues and some lack of size issues in matching up with Jokic if they run into the Nuggets this spring.
But wait, the Nuggets could still make a move
Last year the Nuggets biggest in-season add came by picking up Reggie Jackson, who is now proving to be a valuable backup guard. The veteran was shipped out at the deadline to Charlotte by the Clippers because they had picked up Bones Hyland from the Nuggets. Then Jackson was cut by the Hornets and Denver added him as a free agent. Denver doesn’t have a roster spot open but they could cut a player and become players in the buyout market. Thanks to a new rule in the latest CBA, the Nuggets can only sign players who were making $12.4 million or less on their prior deal. That leaves plenty of interesting options if they are cut including former Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, former top-ten pick Killian Hayes, Jokic’s Serbian teammate Vasilije Micic and veteran big man Robin Lopez.
Other players on the buyout market could be Delon Wright, Otto Porter Jr., Danuel House, Seth Curry, Shake Milton, Devonte Graham, Furkan Korkmaz, Patty Mills, Kira Lewis Jr., Victor Oladipo and James Bouknight.
Breaking down the Nuggets minor trade
Kamagate was taken with the 46th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Once a promising future prospect at six-foot-11 and athletic, the 23-year-old has struggled to get playing time in the EuroLeague this year and has been loaned from a team in Italy’s top league to a secondary league. Kamagate was once thought to be a Nuggets backup center for the 2023-24 season but that got pushed back and with Zeke Nnaji’s extension, Kamagate time wasn’t coming soon. Probably unable to get much of anything else for him, Stan Kroenke ended up with something he loves: cash.