My, oh my, how things can change in a week.
This time last Thursday, we were talking about the Nuggets being the Western Conference’s top contender for next season. First, the Warriors lost Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to injury, likely for the majority of 2019-20. Then came the rumors that the Rockets’ All-Star backcourt pairing of James Harden and Chris Paul was basically refusing to play together in the future. I think we can all agree that the Nuggets were the better team in their seven-game series with the Blazers, even though Portland finished the series on top.
At that point, it wouldn’t have taken a ton of convincing to get me to believe that in June of next year the Pepsi Center would play host to an NBA Finals game. Then, in a span of just seven days, the entire landscape of the league flipped.
The Lakers became the odds on favorite to win the title when they traded three young starters and three first round picks to New Orleans for Anthony Davis.
On the other end of that deal, the Pelicans set themselves up for both the short and long-term. Adding Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and (likely) Zion Williamson, plus the fourth-overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, makes them a dangerous team right now.
Just yesterday, the Jazz snagged the top-tier point guard they’ve been longing for in Mike Conley and didn’t give up much to get him. They’ll certainly challenge for a top-three spot this year.
With the NBA Draft tonight, plenty of other teams will make moves to improve, while the Nuggets are forced to watch and wait. With no picks to use this year and not enough salary cap space to entice a top free agent, the front office’s options are limited.
I wish it was as easy as trading away Will Barton, Gary Harris or Mason Plumlee for an impact player. But what other team is going to do that?
The answer is none. But teams might be interested if the Nuggets included Jamal Murray.
Look, it’s not ideal and I get why people would call me crazy for even mentioning the thought of sending off the 22-year-old rising star. Murray is the Nuggets second-best player with plenty of potential left to grow into. In his first career playoff appearance, he averaged 21 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds.
But he’s also the only player on the Denver roster that will realistically bring back a top-tier talent to take the next step as a franchise.
If the Nuggets had been willing to part ways with Murray, they could have had a shot at Anthony Davis. He’s a top-five player in the league.
If the Nuggets offered Murray to the Rockets for Chris Paul or James Harden, they’d listen.
All three of those guys are the caliber of player that could bring Denver a title.
An offer including “The Blue Arrow” likely gets you into the conversation with any team shopping a premier player.
Are we confident that Jamal Murray is at that level? Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t. But right now, his value is higher than it’s ever been.
Any deal involving Murray would be a massive roll of the dice. Honestly, though, what trade isn’t?
In today’s NBA, you have to swing for the fences if you want to take home the trophy. The Raptors did it with Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers and Jazz are doing it with Anthony Davis.
Will the Nuggets be willing to follow suit? It’s a crazy idea, just crazy enough to work.