- Jeremy Freed
Trade Deadline Marathon 2018-19: Day 1.5
Somehow, despite losing the most games to injury in the NBA thus far, the Denver Nuggets find themselves atop the Western Conference. Aside from their success on the court, the biggest positive is that they've found playing time for their abundance of young talent, and discovered in a few cases that they have some very good players. Now is the time to sell high.
Denver receives: PF Aaron Gordon, PF Amile Jefferson, PG Isaiah Briscoe
Orlando receives: PF Trey Lyles, PF Mason Plumlee, PG Monte Morris, 2021 1st Round Draft Pick
Monte Morris has been a revelation in his second year for the Nuggets, and if there's anything Orlando needs, it's a revelatory young point guard. As the Magic continue to sort out their glut in the front court, this deal provides a few things.
First, they get their point guard in Morris. Anyone who watched him play at Iowa State is entirely unsurprised by his ability on the court, and knows this is no flash in the pan. Second, it frees up more minutes for front court of the future Jonathan Isaacs and Mo Bamba. Third, it immediately frees up considerable salary cap space this summer: Florida, without a state income tax, has considerable appeal. And fourth, it secures a potentially interesting player in Trey Lyles to give a look at down the homestretch of the season -- as you can see, the trade machine actually thinks this deal makes the Magic better -- and three wins could mean the difference between playing in the playoffs and watching the playoffs from home.
For the Nuggets, it's about consolidation of assets. Jefferson and Briscoe balance roster slots -- the prize is obviously Aaron Gordon. With Paul Millsap's contract expiring after this year, and Lyles not taking the 'Power Forward of the Future' mantle on his shoulders, the Nuggets move to fill what is more or less their lone line-up question mark moving forward. Nikola Jokic has the center position locked up for the foreseeable future, as does Jamal Murray the point, and Gary Harris, shooting guard. A healthy Will Barton is a good-but-not-great wing, and Aaron Gordon filling out the front court would cement Denver's place at the top of the West for years to come.
Gordon is the perfect complement for Jokic, who has an unconventional big-man game. Jokic, unlike many centers, is not dependent on proximity to the hoop to have an impact. With his court vision and floor sense, Jokic would provide the pogo-stick-legged Gordon with no shortage of easy cuts and dunks, and Gordon can even hold down the center position if the Nuggets want to go super small and run opponents ragged in the high altitude of the Mile High City.
Orlando probably needs a first to sign off, and since the Nets already own Denver's 2019 pick after the Nuggets shed Kenneth Faried's contract, the Magic have to wait. Perhaps it's for the best -- the pick the Nets will get this year appears to be on pace to be as low in the first as you can go. It's a win-win if the Magic can get over the hump of trading Gordon; we'll see if they can.
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