Jamal Murray was on a superstar track before tearing his ACL last April. He was ruled out indefinitely for 2021-22.
The Nuggets’ No. 3 offensive option, Michael Porter Jr., had season-ending back surgery in November.
So right now, it’s Jokic and …. well, that’s mostly it. Aaron Gordon is a key part of the team but has never been a go-to scoring option. The rest of Denver’s roster is filled with role players.
If the franchise hopes to solidify a spot in the postseason and make a run, it needs to acquire some scoring around The Joker. The Nuggets don’t have a ton of trade chips to offer other teams, but that doesn’t mean helpful deals can’t be made around the margins.
And if for nothing else, the organization needs to give him more options so we can watch an artist continue to paint an offensive masterpiece.
Here are three moves the Denver Nuggets can make at this year’s trade deadline to give Jokic some much-needed help.
Add some shooting with Eric Gordon
Despite having Jokic as an all-world facilitator, Denver is just 23rd in scoring thus far in 2021-22.
Via Bleacher Report, the Houston Rockets have let it be known that Gordon is available. However, they want a first-round pick in return, a somewhat lofty price to pay for a guard who will be making nearly $20 million next year at age 33.
But, should Denver make another postseason push (which they would be planning to do in this scenario), that would become a late first-rounder and of less value to the Nuggets.
The deal would also need to involve some cap gymnastics with Gordon’s contract, but the former Indiana Hoosier would be an instant offensive upgrade around Jokic.
EG is still a productive player. He’s averaging 14.9 points this season with shooting splits of 51/46/74. That 3-point percentage puts him No. 2 in the league behind Joe Harris.
Gordon’s ability to space the floor and shoot at multiple levels would be helpful around a playmaker like Jokic.
The Nuggets need production and scoring in the backcourt, and the 14-year veteran still provides that.
Acquire another offensive playmaker and scorer in Caris LeVert
The Indiana Pacers made LeVert available — along with big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis — in December. According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, the asking price for the Michigan product is a first-round pick and a “good” young player.
The allure of LeVert in Denver surrounds his scoring and playmaking ability in the backcourt. At 6-foot-6, he can vacillate between a big two-guard or a wing.
In 31 games this year, the 27-year-old is averaging 18.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. His shooting percentages are down, but like Gordon, rotating around a sun like Jokic would presumably make everything easier.
LeVert is also an underrated facilitator, which would ease some of that burden off Denver’s franchise center. In his final year with the Brooklyn Nets, when he was a featured part of the offense, the sixth-year guard posted six assists per game.
In an injury-shortened 2020-21 campaign, he averaged 5.2 assists between the Nets and Pacers.
The Nuggets — and Jokic — would benefit from having a player like LeVert starting in the backcourt.
Take a swing at an ideal Jokic running mate in Harrison Barnes
The final trade on this list may be the best the Denver Nuggets can do at this year’s deadline. Harrison Barnes is one of the most productive yet forgotten names on the market, and his skill set would complement the 26-year-old Serb’s well.
As with Gordon and LeVert, Barnes’ offensive production would be his main selling point. But the former North Carolina Tar Heel brings much more to the table than either of the other two targets in this scenario.
Barnes is averaging 16.2 points this season with splits of 45/42/84. He also doesn’t demand the ball — he’s just third on the Kings in shot attempts (11). (Sacramento isn’t exactly loaded with All-Stars).
The 6-foot-8 forward is also pulling down more than six rebounds per game. His versatility is another benefit as he can easily switch between the three and four spots, as can Gordon.
The 29-year-old has played in 64 playoff games and won an NBA title in 2015 as a starter with the Golden State Warriors. Experience matters to a team expecting to keep hold of a playoff spot, and postseason experience matters even more.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.