The Denver Nuggets have shown themselves to be legitimate contenders last season, beating the Los Angeles Clippers after going down 3-1 in the series. However, they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Conference Finals and didn't look particularly convincing against LeBron James, losing in 5 games. A way to rectify that is to add more talent. The Nuggets are great at drafting and developing talent, but at some point, you need experienced stars to take you to that next step.
A good trade target for contending teams like the Nuggets is former All-Star DeMar DeRozan. Despite not making an All-Star team since he left Toronto, DeRozan has put up consistent numbers on the San Antonio Spurs. DeRozan is on an expiring contract, and it isn't clear whether he will decide to stay in San Antonio. In that case, it would be good to trade him in order to get assets. If the San Antonio Spurs were to trade with the Denver Nuggets, here is how a trade could pan out.
Denver Nuggets Receive: DeMar DeRozan
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Gary Harris, Will Barton, a future first-round pick
The Spurs Get Good Value For Their Star
DeMar DeRozan is in the last year of his contract, so many teams won't risk trading the farm for a possible one-year rental. The Nuggets, however, could take the risk on the older star. DeRozan would allow them to get a "Big Three" of star players, and try and make the Finals. The Nuggets would send out Gary Harris and Will Barton as the contract matching centerpieces in the deal. Gary Harris has been in a continued slump offensively this season: he is a good defender, but he doesn't really have a huge offensive role with Jamal Murray in town. Only a few seasons ago, during the 2017-18 season, Harris was viewed as a solid two-way guard and was averaging 17.5 PPG. Perhaps Gregg Popovich can help him rediscover his magic. Popovich makes pretty much any player better with his coaching, so Harris could be viewed as a reclamation project.
Will Barton is a solid shooter at the wing position that can be a spark plug scorer off of the bench. He could also start if a team needed shot creation in the starting lineup. Barton's key is his versatility on offense: he can be asked to play a smaller or a larger role and is effective in either. The future pick that the Nuggets would give up won't be a lottery pick as they seem to be a playoff team for years to come. But the San Antonio Spurs are known to find value at the end of the draft. For a star that might leave after the end of the season, this seems like a good haul.
The Nuggets Get A Proven Scorer
At this point, DeMar DeRozan has become severely underrated. Yes, he got embarrassed by LeBron James in the playoffs, during his time with the Toronto Raptors. But what team hasn't been beaten by James in the Eastern Conference? LeBron James was nicknamed "The King Of The East" for a reason. DeRozan is an entirely capable player. He is a bit of a dinosaur himself in the modern 3 and D league, preferring the midrange, but is shooting 2.5 attempts from 3PT range during the 2020-21 season on a 46.7% clip. While the percentage from 3PT range will most certainly go down, this shows some growth in his game. DeRozan would be a great secondary shot-creator on the perimeter behind Jamal Murray and is also experienced in the playoffs.
The key appeal of DeMar DeRozan is that he wouldn't be forced to be a No. 1 option like he was in Toronto, or like he currently is with the San Antonio Spurs. As a lot of the defensive attention would be focused on the young superstars on the Nuggets, DeRozan could focus on playmaking for their other teammates, and creating his own shot one on one. He won't be doubled or triple-teamed, as defenders can't simply ignore Nikola Jokic or Jamal Murray. DeRozan is at his best when creating his own shot one on one: this trade would allow him more space on the offensive end.
The Nuggets wouldn't have to give up that much to get him, and if they're contending then losing a future pick isn't that big of a deal. While they would trade away two key members of their rotation, the risk is worth it to get a proven star and amazing scorer in DeMar DeRozan.