The One Trade Denver Nuggets Must Consider Making This Offseason

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The One Trade Denver Nuggets Must Consider Making This Offseason
USA TODAY Sports

There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Denver Nuggets.

General manager Masai Ujiri will now be running the basketball operations with the Toronto Raptors, and the Nuggets must find a new GM with less than four weeks until the NBA draft. Also, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Clippers are interested in talking to head coach George Karl about their head-coaching vacancy.

Denver's offseason plans will also primarily be influenced by the decision of Andre Iguodala, who has a player option of just over $16 million next year. It makes sense for Iguodala to opt out of that option and see what's out there in free agency, but the Nuggets could still sign him to a longer deal that isn't worth as much annually.

Let's say Karl stays put, Iguodala enjoys playing beside Ty Lawson enough, and Iggy likes this trade to the extent that he chooses to re-sign with Denver for the next three or four years in hopes of winning the NBA Finals.

 

Kevin Love and Derrick Williams for Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee and Evan Fournier

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

If there's one position in particular the Nuggets can upgrade at in their balanced attack, it's center. Kosta Koufos did a fine job with his eight points and 6.9 rebounds last season, but he isn't someone who can dominate in the post and isn't the ideal player for transition basketball. He's more of a role player and big body to keep the opposition out of the lane.

JaVale McGee can fly through the air and bring energy off the bench, but he's got his offensive limitations and doesn't show up consistently. Furthermore, neither Koufos nor McGee can shoot from outside the paint.

Kevin Love is listed as a power forward, but being a dominant rebounder at 6'10" and 260 pounds, he could move to the center spot in this case.

Love's displeasure with the Minnesota Timberwolves has been well-documented in the past, and even though Flip Saunders is now the team president, do the Timberwolves really want to keep someone who has been unhappy with the franchise with as many gaps as they have on their roster?

If Minnesota dealt Love to the Rocky Mountains, he is someone who can take over down low and stretch the defense to the perimeter. More importantly, he would compliment Kenneth Faried and the attacking guards.

Denver could force teams to double-team him in the post, which would help the struggling three-point shooting and give the guards easier opportunities to create passing lanes as they cut to the basket. If the Nuggets put Love at the top of the circle, the rim protector has to come out and guard him, which opens things up for the athletic Faried.

Here's a look at Love's shot charts in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

(Shotcharts are from NBA.com)

Love's numbers took a minor dip last year because of his hand injury and only playing 18 games, but with the offseason to get healthy and by entering the prime of his career, his numbers the two seasons prior to last year should be more indicative of what his future holds. Love averaged 20.2 points with 15.2 rebounds in 2010-11 and 26 points with 13.3 boards in 2011-12.

 

How Both Teams Benefit

Aside from what Love brings, Derrick Williams fits in George Karl's up-tempo offense. As a 6'8" small forward with solid athleticism, Williams can attack at the rim and finish strong. 

He started last season on the slow side, but Williams picked up his game, started 56 times and finished the year averaging 12 points and 5.5 rebounds. He's only played in the league for two years and has the potential for a bright future.

This also helps the Nuggets salary-wise to a certain degree.

If Iguodala gets a longer deal with the Nuggets, his paycheck should be lower than the $16 million his player option is for, but it should also be at least over $10 million annually. Therefore, before this trade would occur, Denver would be paying out four players of eight figures through 2015-16 and Lawson over $13 million in 2016-17.

It wouldn't put the Nuggets in a huge bind, but it also doesn't give them many options as far as free agency is concerned. 

This trade gives Denver a little more cap room and flexibility down the road. 

(All salary information is from HoopsWorld.com)

Effectively, this doesn't tie up as much guaranteed cash long-term, and the Nuggets would be improving their roster to become a more serious contender in the West next year. 

Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have plenty of space and can still sign Nikola Pekovic to a longer deal.

Minnesota gains a versatile offensive threat in Gallinari, who posted 16.2 points and 5.2 boards last year before his ACL tear. Plus, if the Nuggets are going to get someone coming off a major injury, so will the Timberwolves.

McGee will bring a motor the Timberwolves haven't had in a long time and can be the rim protector to back up Pekovic. You'd also have to think Ricky Rubio would love to have someone to pass to above the rim. 

To cap off the deal, Fournier moves over to the Twin Cities to add a little backcourt youth to the Timberwolves and help their awful three-point shooting

 

What Does Denver's Starting Lineup and Rotation Look Like?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Even though the Nuggets are losing three components, there isn't a huge shakeup.

Lawson and Iguodala continue the backcourt duties.

With Gallinari's departure, either Wilson Chandler or Derrick Williams take over at the 3 with the other becoming the sixth man. Chandler averaged 16.1 points and 5.8 rebounds as a starter once Gallinari went down, and Williams increased his production the last three months last season. Chandler makes more sense because of his familiarity with the team, but at least Karl has the option.

Faried is still the acrobatic power forward, and Love takes over as the starting center.

Off the bench besides the sixth man, Denver still has Andre Miller to back up Lawson, and Koufos can come off the bench after Love. Corey Brewer will be an unrestricted free agent and can still be a scorer if Denver re-signs him.

Even if the Nuggets let him walk, along with perhaps Anthony Randolph or Jordan Hamilton in the mix, they also have the 27th-overall pick in the NBA draft and could have a small amount of extra cash to use in free agency to finalize the rotation.

While the Nuggets are taking a minor step back in terms of their explosiveness, they would be improving some of their weaknesses and should consider making this move to increase their chances at getting past the first round of the playoffs.

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