Enough games have been played this NBA season to sense where teams stand relative to the rest of the NBA. Some NBA Teams have solidly established themselves as playoff contenders, whereas others have fallen outside of the playoff picture. It is early enough in the NBA season where the right trade could save a season for certain teams, and this eight-part series of trades could turn around each team involved with the right factors.
Denver Receives: DeMarcus Cousins, Matt Barnes
Sacramento Receives: Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Kenneth Faried
Denver is a team with a lot of depth. They have 10 players playing at least twenty minutes per game for them, and they have quality NBA players at every position. Sacramento, on the other hand, features DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, who have combined to take 41% of the team’s field goal attempts, 45% of the team’s two pointers, and 61% of the team’s three pointers.
Sacramento has a solid roster, and there is the question as to whether or not Cousins is holding them back. Denver has the depth to be great, but no one true alpha player. Neither of these teams have made the playoffs the past few seasons, and this trade could help change that for both teams.
While the losses of Faried, Murray, and Jokic are great, they are not the end of the world for Denver. None of them are consistent starters this season, and they are playing under half the game on average, as Faried (23.4,) Jokic (22.6,) and Murray (21.3,) have diminished roles for what their talent merits.
Cousins is well worth the losses. He is averaging 27.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He also has 2.2 win shares, so his star power is translating into wins. Putting Cousins on a team like Denver pushes them into the playoff race. Cousins is a franchise player, and Cousins can finally have a team around him with a lot depth.
Denver head coach Mike Malone was also Cousins’ head coach in Sacramento for over a season, and Cousins spoke out against the decision to fire Malone. The two definitely have a connection, and Cousins was arguably his best defensive self under Malone with a defensive rating of 101 in the season Malone coached him 2013-14.
Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are the perfect compliments at the forward spots with their ability to score, shoot, and rebound. Gary Harris and Will Barton don’t disappoint at shooting guard, and if Mudiay can come into his own as a point guard, then Denver will be solid for years to come.
The fact that even with losing three big contributors, Denver still has players like Jameer Nelson, Barton, Jusuf Nurkic, Matt Barnes, and Darrell Arthur off their bench, and then prospects Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, and Jarnell Stokes in reserves is very encouraging.
Sacramento is definitely not getting the short end of the stick, however. Faried, Jokic, and Murray can all play, and in fact, they combine for more win shares (2.8) than Cousins and Barnes (2.3.) Getting rid of Cousins gives them three solid starters and potential stars at multiple positions, and it allows for their young potent big men to have an opportunity.
Jamal Murray is beginning to come into his own as a professional, averaging 21.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 26.5 minutes per game on 57.5% shooting and 68.8% from three his last three games. He won’t be able to sustain that level of efficiency, but he is showing that he is going to be in the NBA for years to come.
Jokic is another special talent. He made the All-Rookie 1st team last year, and had 6.7 win shares as a rookie. It appears as though he’s hit either a sophomore slump or he just isn’t as effective against opposing power forwards as centers, but Jokic is a special talent who is very effective in a 20-25 minute starter role. The Nuggets have been 8.9 points per 100 possessions better with Jokic on the court over the past two seasons, and he’s averaged 16.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.0 blocks per 36 minutes in 93 games.
Faried’s case is more interesting. He is simultaneously having an up and down season. His box score production is down; he is averaging career lows in points (8.7,) field goal percentage (47.4%,) and his assists (0.9) and minutes (23.4) are the lowest since his rookie season, but Faried is also averaging career highs in rebounds (9.3,) steals (1.3,) blocks (1.1,) and defensive rating (100.) Faried is also getting win shares at the highest rate (.176 per 48 minutes) since his rookie season. Faried played at his highest level alongside current Kings Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, and Kosta Koufus, so the chemistry is there for Faried.
Here are the resulting rosters:
|Projected Denver Nuggets Depth|
|PG||Emmanuel Mudiay||Jameer Nelson||Alonzo Gee|
|SG||Gary Harris||Will Barton||Malik Beasley|
|SF||Wilson Chandler||Matt Barnes||Mike Miller|
|PF||Danilo Gallinari||Darrell Arthur||Juan Hernangomez|
|C||DeMarcus Cousins||Jusuf Nurkic||Jarnell Stokes|
|Projected Sacramento Kings Depth|
|PG||Ty Lawson||Darren Collison||Garrett Temple|
|SG||Jamal Murray||Arron Afflalo||Malachi Richardson|
|SF||Rudy Gay||Ben McLemore||Omri Casspi|
|PF||Kenneth Faried||Kosta Koufus||Skal Labissiere|
|C||Nikola Jokic||Willie Cauley-Stein||Georgios Papagiannis|