The Denver Nuggets shouldn’t be crazy buyers around the NBA trade deadline, but they have the elements in place to offer a sensible Aaron Gordon trade package.
Not many contenders can say they’re in such ideal position to present the Orlando Magic with a tantalizing proposition that could send the versatile 25-year-old forward from a perpetually struggling franchise to a potential championship squad.
This is the case for Denver, though, and the team should take full advantage of it. Even better news for Nuggets fans? It seems their front office is at least kicking the tires on a Gordon trade.
Denver Nuggets reportedly interested in Aaron Gordon trade
According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Denver is among the gaggle of teams trying to acquire Gordon prior to the NBA’s March 25 trade ultimatum.
Few teams, if any, can say they’ve done as good a job drafting and collecting young talent than the Nuggets have. They somehow seem to manage landing steals no matter where they’re picking in the draft order.
Take their current core, for instance: Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick in 2014, Jamal Murray went seventh overall in 2016 and Michael Porter Jr. was the 14th pick during the 2018 NBA Draft.
As long as that trio remains in place, Denver has plenty of other younger players, bargain veterans and key contributors on expiring contracts to float in trade packages, not to mention any draft picks Orlando might be interested in.
One thing to consider, though: Fischer’s report also states that the Minnesota Timberwolves nearly pulled off a trade for Gordon in which it would’ve only cost them Ricky Rubio and some draft capital. Granted, their future picks are bound to be higher than where the Nuggets draft going forward, yet there would probably be protections in many of those assets.
With all this in mind, it’s worth looking into what Denver can put on the table to get the Magic to move off Gordon, who’ll have just one year remaining on his contract after this season.
How an Aaron Gordon trade to Denver Nuggets might look
- Nuggets get: Aaron Gordon
- Magic get: Gary Harris, Zeke Nnaji + 1st-round picks in 2021 and 2024
To keep things simple and avoid a three-team deal or something crazy, this framework from TradeNBA.com’s engine checks out — and makes sense for both sides.
Harris was once a promising young player for Denver. Injuries and inconsistency, combined with the depth the Nuggets have collected over the years, have phased him out of the rotation more and more.
But still only 26 years of age, Harris still has his whole prime ahead of him. The injuries he’s dealt with have been more of the soft-tissue variety as opposed to something major like torn knee ligaments. His apex came in 2017-18, when he had shooting splits of 48.5/39.6/82.7 en route to 17.5 points per contest.
Gordon has always been kind of an awkward tweener with the Magic, and Harris would give them an upgraded perimeter defender to pair with Markelle Fultz when he’s back from injury next season. Then, Denver’s 2020 first-round pick, Nnaji, is a more finessed big man than Gordon who can pack some punch off their bench as part of a promising frontcourt rotation.
Between Harris getting a fresh start, Nnaji potentially providing a spark and unique element Orlando doesn’t have on offense, it’d make sense for both to be part of a Gordon trade. Plus, the future first-round picks, including one in the upcoming draft, gives the magic more means to collect talent at a bargain.
As for Gordon’s fit with the Nuggets, with such superior offensive personnel around him led by Jokic, Murray and Porter, there’s little doubt Gordon would be at his most offensively efficient. Also, , he seems like exactly the type of versatile defender on the wing that would boost Denver in its clear area of weakness.
Porter is still searching to find his stride as a defender, but having someone more experienced like Gordon, combined with Will Barton, offers a blend of size, versatility and athleticism that would give opponents in the Western Conference serious problems.
What’s also great about Gordon’s contract is he’ll only be a cap hit of about $16.4 million in 2021-22, per Spotrac. That should be extremely manageable for Denver, and it’s unlikely he’ll have leverage to command a max contract if he settles in as the Nuggets’ primary role player behind their young-stud triumvirate.