World champion or not, nobody can deny that the Denver Nuggets were the best team in the best league in the world last season. Led by perhaps the best player in the world Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets dominated the 2023 NBA playoffs to capture their first championship in franchise history. Denver’s main core of Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is still intact heading into the 2023-24 campaign as it looks to defend its crown.
However, the Nuggets did lose some key pieces who helped them raise the Larry O’Brien trophy last June — the most notable of them being Bruce Brown. Brown signed a fat two-year, $45 million contract with the Indiana Pacers. Veteran forward Jeff Green also left town and went to the Houston Rockets on a two-year, $16 million deal.
The Nuggets are banking on the growth of incoming sophomore Christian Braun, who had a stellar performance in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, to fill in some of the void left by Brown. They also signed Justin Holiday to a veteran’s minimum deal to add more depth.
Nonetheless, there are some players out there that the defending champs can still acquire to support their championship core. Here are two way-too-early trades the Denver Nuggets must pull off during the 2023-24 NBA season.
Denver Nuggets receive: Alex Caruso
Chicago Bulls receive: Zeke Nnaji, Peyton Watson, Vlatko Cancar, 2024 2nd round pick
The Chicago Bulls deem this season as the “last chance” of the current core led by DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic to do something relevant. They missed the playoffs last year and flamed out in the first round in 2022. But the fact of the matter is, this current iteration of the Bulls isn’t going to make some noise this season. It’s going to be a lot like the last couple of years, especially with their glue guy Lonzo Ball out for the entire year. With that said, Chicago shouldn’t waste time and just blow up the roster already to kickstart a rebuild.
Should the Bulls front office come to their senses, the Denver Nuggets should immediately call and inquire about Alex Caruso. In exchange, the Nuggets could trade some seldom used young players like Zeke Nnaji and Payton Watson, whom the Bulls could work on and develop, along with Vlatko Cancar and a second round pick. That package should be enough for Chicago to part ways with Caruso, whom they signed in the 2021 offseason.
Caruso would be the perfect player to slot into Denver’s championship cast, especially after they lost Bruce Brown in the offseason. The 6-foot-4 guard would give them another terrific defender who could wreck havoc on the perimeter alongside his former Lakers teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The 29-year-old’s defensive efforts did not go unnoticed either. Caruso made the All-Defensive First Team after anchoring the Bulls to a top-five defensive rating in the league last season. Of players who played at least 60 games, he ranked 4th in deflections per game and 12th in steals per game.
Denver finished 15th in defensive rating during the 2022-23 season. Since 2000, the Nuggets had the second-lowest defensive rating of a team that went on to win the championship, behind the 2001 Lakers who were 21st. It’s clear that the Nuggets need upgrades in that department and the addition of Caruso would certainly help.
Brooklyn Nets receive: Zeke Nnaji, Peyton Watson, Vlatko Cancar, 2024 2nd round pick
The Denver Nuggets could ideally use the same package to trade for Royce O’Neale of the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are in a weird situation heading into the 2023-24 season. They ideally should be hitting the reset button after they traded Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving midway through the 2022-23 campaign. But they acquired a budding star in Mikal Bridges, who could be the face of their franchise moving forward.
Brooklyn doesn’t really have much of an incentive to tank this season or even the next, given they don’t have their own picks for 2024 and 2025. Nonetheless, the Nets may want to cash in on O’Neale’s expiring $9.5 million contract and get more assets instead of just letting him walk away for nothing. If Brooklyn makes O’Neale available, the Nuggets should try to go after him.
O’Neale is a lot more like Bruce Brown in the sense that he plays much bigger than his 6-foot-4 frame. He carries a lot of what Brown brought to the table with his defense, hustle plays, and three-point shooting.
In 76 games with the Nets last season, the 30-year-old actually posted a career-best 8.8 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. While Caruso may be the better defender, O’Neale, a career 38.4 percent three-point shooter, is a better option from the perimeter.
Source link : https://clutchpoints.com/nuggets-2-way-too-early-trades-denver-must-pull-off-2023-24-nba-season
Author : Mike Cruz
Publish date : 2023-09-14 15:10:40
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