The Nuggets don’t need to hire Chauncey Billups to win a championship. But it’s time for president of basketball operations Tim Connelly to stop talking about being aggressive in the trade market and go get Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler or New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis.
You interested in patiently waiting until 2020 for the Nuggets to be more than dust bunnies for Kevin Durant to mop off the floor? Me, neither.
While disgruntled Indiana star Paul George informed the Nuggets months ago his next move would be to the beaches of Los Angeles rather than the mountains of Colorado, Butler is definitely on the trade block and Porzingis might be, depending on the mood of zen master Phil Jackson when he brushes his teeth on any given morning.
Do the Nuggets have the resources to obtain Butler or Porzingis in a trade? Here are two deals, humbly proposed. Connelly can pick the one he likes best, and doesn’t even have to give me credit. All I ask is his silent and eternal gratitude.
Trade A: Denver sends Wilson Chandler, Will Barton and Emmanuel Mudiay to Chicago in return for Butler, a three-time all star who averaged 23.9 points last season and has two years remaining on his contract before he can opt out in 2019.
Are the Celtics or Cavaliers offering Chicago a better deal? If so, maybe the Nuggets could consider substituting Jamal Murray for Mudiay in their offer.
Trade B: Denver sends Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangomez in return for Porzingis, the 7-foot-3 “Unicorn” who could join forces with Nikola “Big Honey” Jokic to make the Nuggets a matchup nightmare for nearly every team in the league.
As much as I like Murray, I’m not sure he and Hernangomez would be enough to tempt the Knicks. It might require Denver to up the ante with a No. 1 draft pick.
If Connelly can’t compete with Boston and Cleveland in the bidding for Butler, then maybe the talent on the Nuggets’ roster isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If the Nuggets can’t get the best of crazy uncle Phil in trade discussions with the Knicks, then maybe I overestimated how well franchise president Josh Kroenke learned the art of the deal from his billionaire father.
As the Nuggets’ brass finalized their plans for the 13th overall pick in the NBA draft, Arturas Karnisovas stood on the practice court at the Pepsi Center earlier this week and succinctly explained his mission, now that he has been promoted to general manager.
“You have to start showing results,” Karnisovas said.
Building slowly on the modest success of last year’s 40-42 record and biding time until the Warriors get tired of ruling the NBA might be a solid basketball strategy for the Nuggets. But it’s not going to put fannies in the seats in Denver, dead last in league attendance.
The rise of a super team in the NBA has turned the most chaotic week on the league calendar into a feeding frenzy, with star players and GMs alike looking for some way to put up a fight against the Warriors. The draft always makes cellphones burn hot with trade chatter. Now is the time for Denver to strike, or forever hold its peace, as one of the franchise’s long-ballyhooed trade chips, Danilo Gallinari, decides whether he wants to leave town as a free agent.
When Billups goes to work for LeBron James, don’t come crying to me. Although I’ve pushed long and loudly for Denver to hire Billups as Mr. Big Shot in the front office, my understanding is the Nuggets have shown interest but never seriously considered giving him a truly serious job.
Billups wants to be the architect of a champion, not a Wal-Mart greeter at the Pepsi Center. From all indications, the Cavaliers have a higher opinion than his hometown does of Billups, as good at motivating people as identifying the factors that make a winner.
Connelly freely admits the Nuggets make regular projections, looking at how many years down the line there might be a real opportunity for them to compete for an NBA championship. How long will the window of dominance by Warriors be open? “It was a big reopening for Golden State when K.D. re-signed,” Connelly said.
So why wait? Go get Butler, one of the league’s top 15 players. Add him to Jokic, who will be rewarded with a ticket to the All-Star Game as soon as Denver wins enough games to garner more respect. Then maybe the notion of veteran point guard Chris Paul joining the Nuggets as a free agent wouldn’t be so crazy.
Hey, it’s all a longshot for Denver. But there’s only way to score big.
Shoot for the moon.