PREVIEW: After trades, Atlanta Hawks take on Denver Nuggets

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Mar 26, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts after making a three-point basket in the third quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets return home a different team than the one that went on the road on Tuesday.

The Atlanta Hawks made a deal, but one trade rumor that never materialized looks like a good decision after one game.

The teams will meet Sunday in Denver with the trade deadline passed and the rosters a little more clear.

The Nuggets shook things up by trading guards Gary Harris and R.J. Hampton and a future first-round draft pick to Orlando for one of the top players on the market, forward Aaron Gordon, and forward Gary Clark. Denver also swapped centers with Cleveland, getting JaVale McGee for his second tour with the franchise in exchange for Isaiah Hartenstein and two future second-round selections.

Gordon and McGee will be available for Sunday’s game.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly knows he gave up valuable pieces in the elite defender Harris and the potential of Hampton, but getting Gordon helps shore up some issues in the front court. The biggest thing will be how the new players will jell with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

“Any time you make a big addition, you have to do so first and foremost thinking about your best players,” Connelly said. “Nikola and Jamal are clearly our two foundational pieces. How do you help them? How do you protect them? Any major move we make is firmly with those guys in mind. Both Aaron and JaVale check both those boxes, can both help and protect those guys.”

The two likely will get a chance to find out early how they will work in the rotation. The Nuggets are coming off a 113-108 win at New Orleans on Friday night and will play nine of their next 12 games at home, starting with the Hawks.

Read More: Winners and losers of eventful NBA trade deadline

Atlanta is coming off an impressive 124-108 win at Golden State on Friday night to stop a two-game skid. The Hawks beat Denver 123-115 in Atlanta on Feb. 21 behind 35 points from Trae Young. John Collins had 11 rebounds in that win, but there was speculation he was going to be dealt before the trade deadline Thursday.

Instead, the Hawks traded guard Rajon Rondo to the Los Angeles Clippers for guard Lou Williams and kept Collins, who responded with 38 points Friday night.

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said he was contacted about Collins but never considered dealing him.

“There’s been a ton of speculation out there all along about John, since the negotiations didn’t get finalized last year, on his extension,” Schlenk said Friday. “But we’ve been steadfast that we view John as a big part of our team, a big part of our franchise, and like with all our players, we do our due diligence to see what their value is. But I don’t think that you’ve ever heard myself or anybody else in the Hawks organization say that we don’t place great value on John. We do. We never had any serious conversations, with any team, about moving him this year.”

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Adding Williams could help the Hawks’ bench production and brings in a hometown player with playoff experience. Williams said on Instagram he considered retirement after the trade but softened that stance later in his post.

“There’s plenty left in my tank, and I’m privileged to continue my career in my back yard,” he said.

–Field Level Media

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