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NBA Trade Rumors: Nuggets Eye Defensive Wing to Boost Bench as Jokić Carries Offense

Erin WalshDecember 30, 2022

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Porter Jr. #1, Bones Hyland #3 and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets look on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on December 28, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets are looking to add a defensive wing to come off the bench ahead of the NBA's February 9 trade deadline, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick.

"They want to get longer, more athletic, versatile, defensive-minded and bigger in that department. The Gordon trade with Orlando in March 2021 continues to pay big dividends, and adding another player with that sort of skill set would be the dream scenario here," Amick wrote.

The Nuggets already have one of the best offenses in the NBA. They rank second in the league with a 116.4 offensive rating, behind only the Boston Celtics (117.3).

MVP candidate Nikola Jokić is leading Denver offensively, averaging 25.7 points and 9.4 assists while shooting 61.9 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from deep. The Nuggets also have six other players averaging double digits in scoring—Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., Bones Hyland, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown.

While Jokić isn't the best defensively, the Nuggets have been even worse on that end of the court without him. The 22-12 club is 24th in defensive rating with a 114.1 overall mark, per NBA.com. That number is 112.1 with Jokić on the court, which would give the Nuggets a top-10 overall defensive rating, but it rises slightly to 114.2 with him absent.

Following the 2021-22 season, the Nuggets acquired Caldwell-Pope in a trade with the Washington Wizards and signed Brown away from the Brooklyn Nets in hopes of improving their defense.

Back in October, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters that one of his goals in 2022-23 was to mold his team into one of the top five defensive teams in the NBA.

"We understand that you can't be 15th in the NBA in defensive efficiency and be serious about winning at a high level," Malone said at the team's media day. "You look at the two teams in the NBA Finals; they were (No.) 1 and 2."

The Nuggets are far from being one of the best defensive teams in the league, though. If Denver wants to win an NBA title, it's going to have to improve defensively. The Celtics, for example. have the NBA's top offense and rank seventh defensively. They currently sit first in the East with a 26-10 record after reaching the Finals last season.

To their credit, the Nuggets are still second in the West, but if they can improve their frontcourt defense off the bench, they will take a big step forward in contending for an NBA title.