In the NBA, the worst place to be is in the middle. If you’re a chump, at least you have the chance to strike gold with a high draft pick who might revitalize your play and reinvigorate your fan base. (Unless you’re the Knicks.) If you’re a champ, no explanation is necessary.
Unfortunately, the middle is where the Nuggets are currently mired, which is why their sudden and varied inclusion in all the pre-draft buzz is a welcome sign after a tough 2013-14. The team owns the 11th pick in next week’s NBA Draft, a slot that should position them to pick a much-needed shooting guard such as Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas. Either player would help the Nuggets reclaim some of the mojo they lost last year—if they actually make the selection.
Among the rumors we’ve heard of late—in this 24/7 information age, tracking pre-draft or pre-trade deadline rumors is almost as entertaining as the games themselves—is that the Nuggets are talking to the Chicago Bulls about trading their 11th pick for the Bulls’ 16th and 19th slots. This could be the extent of the deal, or it could be part of a larger trade that might land someone like Jimmy Butler (a poor man’s Andre Iguodala) in Denver.
The Bulls are looking for trade partners so they can make a run at a possibly disgruntled potential free agent named Carmelo Anthony. (Let’s pause a moment so Nuggets’ fans can gather their collective rage, bemusement, and/or snarky Twitter retorts.) Or the Bulls might be targeting the definitely disgruntled potential free agent (next summer) named Kevin Love. In either scenario, the Nuggets could end up with some useful pieces, albeit ones not likely to shoot them way up or down the NBA pecking order.
But then on Thursday, a story emerged that the Nuggets are also talking to the Timberwolves about trading for that same Kevin Love. To land this All-Star, one of the most uniquely skilled players in the league, the Nuggets would have to give up Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler, and this particular rumor also has them acquiring former Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo and sending him on to Minnesota. Getting Love would give the Nuggets a top-five or -10 player who’s one of the best rebounders and three-point shooters in basketball. (He also throws the two-handed chest pass like a combination of Superman and Wild Bill Hickok.)
As with the vast majority of these “reports,” this one probably won’t come to fruition. And even if it did, it wouldn’t necessarily solve the Nuggets’ problems. Love is a Southern California native who wouldn’t necessarily sign a contract extension to stay in Denver beyond next year; he’s made it clear that he wants to play for a long-term winner, and Denver’s track record of convincing big-time players to put down roots here is nonexistent.
NBA title contenders almost always need a “Big 2″—or more recently, a “Big 3″—if they want any chance at a ring. Denver’s geography, so perfect in so many ways, simply isn’t seen as such by very many wildly talented professional athletes. But if the Nuggets can figure out a way to snag at least one, maybe that will lead to another one. For now, we can find it somewhat heartening that the franchise’s front office is at least attempting to make a splash instead of merely standing pat.
Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.
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