5 players the Nuggets should consider trading for this summer

Jun 9, 2022, 4:33 PM | Updated: 4:38 pm
Luguentz Dort and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope...
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets may be a piece or two away from being legitimate title contenders in 2022-23. This offseason is a huge opportunity for the organization to get a player or two that boost the club into the NBA’s top tier. But there are a lot of question marks after Tim Connelly’s departure to Minnesota. What will General Manager Calvin Booth do in his first offseason?

Many expect Booth to be aggressive based on reports. That means the Nuggets could package players already in Denver like Will Barton and Monte Morris or trade the No. 21 pick in a deal to get a proven NBA player. If the Nuggets keep their selection, here’s who they could target. But if they trade their pick or send it out with a rostered player, here’s who they go after.

Most of the players on this list address the Nuggets’ most apparent need, perimeter defense:

Luguentz Dort

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with a 6-foot-8 wingspan Dort fills in nicely at shooting guard. He’s a career 33% shooter from deep and is known as one of the better guard defenders in the league. The 23-year-old was undrafted out of Arizona State and hustled into a really strong three seasons in the NBA. So why would the rebuilding Thunder trade a young player who scored 17 points a game last season and is a plus defender?

Due to being signed as an undrafted free agent, the Thunder have a team option for just under $2 million this summer for Dort. They can decline the option, making him a restricted free agent, or they can pick it up, but Dort will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023. With two highly touted young players in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey plus the emergence of Tre Mann, the Thunder have the guard spot locked down. Couple those players with the second overall pick, and OKC may not see Dort as a long-term player, opting not to pay him. Another aspect here is an extension will eat into the high number of cap space OKC should have for next summer.

While it’s not certain that Dort is on the block, if the possibility even exists, Denver is a perfect fit. He would immediately start at shooting guard, and Barton will likely be sent back to the Thunder with a young player like Zeke Nnaji and picks. Dort could handle the league’s top guards while Aaron Gordon took the assignments of the opposition’s best wing. Against Dallas, Dort would be on Jalen Brunson while Gordon would match up against Luka Doncic.

Dort is also a Canadian, giving the Nuggets a fully canuck backcourt. The two are expected to play together on the 2024 Canadian Olympic team.

Josh Hart

Another player that could immediately start for the Nuggets at shooting guard, Hart, is a stronger offensive player than Dort. Hart can create, averaging a career-high four assists per game last season, and he shot 50/37/77 splits in 13 games with the Blazers after being traded from New Orleans.

A piece in the Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers, Hart has also never appeared in the postseason but is known as a hustle player and a decent defender.

With Portland seemingly caught between rebuilding and building back up around Dame Lillard, a lot of moves could be coming, and Hart is one of their most movable players. But again, like Dort, Denver is in the division, which can sometimes complicate trades.

Hart isn’t as good of a fit as Dort, but he’s somewhere between what Dort could do and what Barton is, so overall a really solid addition. Plus, at 27-years-old, his future cost may be lower, giving the Nuggets better incentive to trade for Hart. He’s 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, so he’d also add so much-needed size to the guard spot. Hart is also probably the strongest rebounder among similar players to add, snagging nearly six per game over his career.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Another player part of a big Lakers trade, KCP, was sent to Washington last summer for Russell Westbrook. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound shooting guard won a title with LA in the bubble. Over the past three seasons, KCP has shot 39.5% from three on four-and-a-half shots a game. He’s also a solid defender and very durable, having twice played all 82 and over 67 games in all of his nine NBA seasons.

KCP is a solid and somewhat inexpensive 3-and-d player. Due to make $14 million next season, the Wizards could easily deal him. Who knows what D.C. will do, like actually nobody knows! KCP could be a player that gets moved if they blow up the team, finally dealing Bradley Beal or could be moved in an effort to retool around Beal.

Caleb or Cody Martin

This is technically two players, but they’re identical twins. Each comes in at 6-5, 205 pounds. They’re both restricted free agents, so the Nuggets would either need to trade for their rights or sign and hope the other team does not match.

Cody, playing for Charlotte, has had a slightly better NBA career, going for eight points, four rebounds, and two and a half assists per game last year.

Caleb was a key part of the East’s top regular-season team, the Heat. This past season he had a career year in his first on South Beach after leaving Charlotte. Proving himself first on a two-way, Caleb scored nine, grabbed four and helped with one assist per game. Caleb shot over 41% from deep on over two shots a game this past season.

Each of the two were stand-out players at Nevada. Neither would be a clear-cut starter for the Nuggets but would fill a role. In this scenario, Bones Hyland could end up starting. And in truth, the Nuggets may be able to get this done while keeping both Barton and Morris, given they could technically sign for the minimum or mid-level exception.

OG Anunoby

If Lu Dort on the Nuggets is a home run, Anunoby is a grand slam. He is unlikely to end up a Nugget—it just seems like fate at this point—but, we know Denver loves him, and were trying to land him during the infamous 2017 NBA Draft mess up. Like Dort, Anunoby scored 17 points per game last season.

Anunoby is a 6-foot-7, 232-pound forward that can defend guards. He may be too similar to Gordon to be a perfect fit but he’s the best player on this list.

A career 37% three-point shooter, Anunoby can definitely space the floor.

He’s already asked for a trade, but he’s the type of player every team in the NBA may want. On top of that the Nuggets would need to go deeper into the tax for Anunoby, as he’s making over $17 million each of the next three seasons.

Some other players to watch:

The Nuggets also have the need for a backup center if Boogie Cousins doesn’t re-sign or if the teams opts for a player that can both play the five and with Jokic. The Nuggets could also move on from the Greens which would make them need a backup power forward even if they do trust Nnaji.

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5 players the Nuggets should consider trading for this summer