Would Kyrie Work in Denver
For the second time this offseason the Denver Nuggets have been linked to a high-profile point guard looking for a new town. Whether or not that comes to fruition is anyone’s guess.
In an announcement that threatens to shift the balance of power even further from the Eastern Conference, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving voiced his displeasure in playing with LeBron James and asked for a trade out of Cleveland. Lots of talk and little action have come since then, but with the Cleveland Cavaliers recently signing Derrick Rose, it looks like both sides are preparing for life without the other in 2017.
The Denver Nuggets are one of the teams that the disgruntled guard could envision himself playing for this season. The argument can be made that the Nuggets are just one piece away from being a major threat in the stacked Western Conference. With burgeoning center Nikola Jokic alongside talented guards Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, as well as free-agent signee Paul Millsap, Denver looks poised to break into the postseason for the first time since 2012. Hypothetically, here are the pluses and drawbacks if Irving chooses Denver.
Irving is a legitimate top-5-point guard in the NBA and can be the tide that raises all boats for his team. Despite having instability at their own guard spot last year, with Emmanuel Mudiay inconsistently starting off the year before and veteran guard Jameer Nelson forced into the starting role, Denver still finished third-ranked in the league for points per game — just behind NBA Champion Golden State and Conference Semi-Finalists Houston. The Nuggets had little trouble putting points on the board.
Adding Irving to the mix automatically transforms the Nuggets from an up-and-coming team into a threat for the Warriors, Rockets, and Spurs in the West. The main core of Jokic, Millsap, and Irving would rival just about any other big three in the league and makes the Denver offense that much more multi-faceted. On its face, with a combo scoring and distributing guard in Irving and the best passing big man in Jokic, it’s hard to find any team that would be able to contain the offensive firepower the Nuggets could have at their disposal.
As tantalizing as Irving in Denver may be to Nuggets fans, it’s still farfetched. President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and company have made it abundantly clear they have no intention of sending Murray or Mudiay in any trade offer, hampering what Cleveland would likely be want in return for shipping off a player of Irving’s caliber. More than that, Irving doesn’t help the Nuggets with what they lacked last season: playing defense with any kind of conviction. Yes, Denver scored a lot of points (almost 112 per game), but they gave up almost as many (just a shade over 111) — ranking them only ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, and Phoenix Suns in points given up per game.
A grumbling Irving also might not be a great fit for a Nuggets team that figures to be one of the younger in the league again this season. Say what you want about Irving as a player, but it’s disconcerting to see the guard adamantly wanting to get out of Cleveland with the team poised to make a run at another NBA Finals. Irving also hasn’t done himself any favors in getting out of Cleveland, giving a list of only a few teams as viable trade options along with still having two years left on his current contract, and, in effect, putting a damper on any team that isn’t willing to mortgage the farm on a player who may not end up being a long-term solution for any team.
Adding It All Up
Irving brings a name and certified star-power to Denver, who has sorely lacked both since the departure of Carmelo Anthony. While we might salivate at the thought of Irving helming a high-octane offense, those ideas may be limited to daydreams. Despite Irving being out there for the taking, Denver and others have made little to no headway in getting him out West.
It may annoy basketball fans in Colorado, but the Nuggets are making a smart decision in not moving heaven and earth for a player who could be trying to enhance his stock with an eye towards 2018-19. Irving as a Nugget would put a lot of fannies in the seats and a lot of tummies in jerseys, but it could end in heartache just as easily. For their money’s worth, it’s best that the Nuggets stay out of the Kyrie Irving derby and stick to developing their promising core.