If you’re under the mistaken impression that anybody other than Nikola Jokic is the best player in the NBA, fight me.
But another MVP award would be a mere trinket in Joker’s trophy case.
The only thing that matters now? Seeing the best player in Nuggets history get his hands on the Larry O’Brien Trophy as league champion.
It’s more than a dream. I’ve got a modest proposal for how Denver can make it happen.
Bring me O.G. Anunoby, the 6-foot-7 Toronto forward who is the most versatile defensive player in the league.
Can the Nuggets persuade our old friend Masai Ujiri to trade Anunoby, whose coming-into-prime age (25) and NBA bargain salary ($17.357 million) make him among the best values in the league?
It won’t be easy, because Denver’s cupboard of future draft choices is a little bare. So let’s start by offering the Raptors Michael Porter Jr. and Bones Hyland.
To make the deal work under parameters of the salary cap, the Nuggets would also have to take on the salary of Toronto guard Gary Trent Jr. in this proposed trade.
MPJ and Bones are both sweet scorers, as well as guys who pump up the volume that can raise the roof of Ball Arena. But while watching Denver blow the doors off the Los Angeles Clippers on its way to a 66-32 halftime lead without Porter contributing a single point, it occurred to me that this team doesn’t require any more offensive firepower to win a championship. In the fourth quarter of a playoff series, what the Nuggets will need is a defender to shut down Luka Doncic or Kevin Durant.
With no super team in the league, the time for Joker and the Nuggets to win it all is now. It’s championship or bust. General manager Calvin Booth fully embraces his responsibility to help Joker earn a ring that would give him a seat at the table with the greatest players in league history.
Shortly after taking the wheel from Tim Connelly in the driver’s seat of the Nuggets bandwagon, Booth said: “When we talk about Nikola, the MVP of the league, I’m the steward of his peak years. You want to optimize those and take advantage.”
With guard Jamal Murray still rounding into form during his recovery from a torn ACL that kept him out of action for more than 500 days, Denver is the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. That’s a testament not only to Jokic’s mind-bending magic, but also the demanding nature of coach Michael Malone.
“Every question about us playing well is going to come back to defense,” Malone said after Denver’s 122-91 rout of the Clippers.
But don’t sleep on Booth’s importance to Denver’s pursuit of a championship. Although quiet and far from flashy, Booth brings a harder edge to the front office than the kumbaya vibe favored by Connelly to a fault.
The under-the-radar acquisition of Bruce Brown amid the NBA’s annual free-agent frenzy for a $6.479 million salary was an absolute steal of a deal by Booth. Brown is a glue guy who’s a must for every championship team. But he will undoubtedly opt out of the second year on his contract with Denver to test the market, and it’s extremely difficult to figure how the Nuggets can retain him.
That’s one more reason why there’s no time like the present for Denver to go all-in. As we’ve recently witnessed with the Los Angeles Rams and the Colorado Avalanche, teams owned by Stan Kroenke don’t mess around when there’s a legit chance to win a championship.
My modest proposal: Bring me O.G. Anunoby before the trade deadline Feb. 9, even if it means saying goodbye to MPJ and Bones.
And should the Raptors say no to that deal?
The job of Booth is to make a trade that gives Jokic the best chance to win the only trophy he really cherishes.
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