Kiz: The Avs are so close to raising the Stanley Cup they can taste the champagne. Believe me, the Nuggets have noticed. They want some championship hardware to call their own. New front office honcho Calvin Booth seems bent on the aggressive pursuit of fresh talent to help two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, as you have reported. Let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty. Is this backcourt big enough to keep Jamal Murray, Monte Morris and Bones Hyland happy? If the Nuggets want to make a meaningful trade, does a point guard who fans love have to go?
Singer: In short, probably. If you’ve been along for the Jokic ride the last few years, you’ve inevitably been there for Morris’ steep ascendance, too. It’s not hard to see why fans fell for the gritty, late second-round pick with a knack for rising to the occasion. It’s also not hard to see why fans pinched themselves as a precocious, skinny rookie named Bones won them over last season. With an audacious shooting range and Curry-like confidence, not to mention a story that tugs on all the heart strings, Hyland quickly won over Nuggets faithful. Both have an argument for an increased role. To maximize the talent around Jokic, one likely has to go.
Kiz: While Murray recovered from his knee injury, Morris demonstrated he can be the starting point guard for a winning team. Although Morris is the ultimate professional and a great teammate, a player in the prime of his career wants to maximize his playing time and earning power. So help guide me through a delicate issue: Yes, Morris loves his teammates in Denver. But do you think he would welcome a trade to become an established starter, instead of returning to his role as Murray’s backup?
Singer: To become the player Morris has, he had to have supreme confidence in himself. At no point during his basketball journey did that confidence get capped as a backup. I think Morris views himself as a starter and depending on what the situation becomes in Denver, if there was an opportunity for an increased role elsewhere, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t embrace it. But a lot of that depends on who remains when the dust settles. What happens with Hyland? Does Will Barton, another starter, get moved? I think there’s a delicate dance of musical chairs going on.
Kiz: Call me crazy. But with Murray on the Denver bench in street clothes, I think Hyland might have risen to No. 2 in the heart of Nuggets fans during games, trailing only Jokic. So here’s where I need your basketball expertise: As much as we all love Bones, he seems more suited to a long-term role as sixth man rather than the nightly grind of being a starter required to defend on the perimeter. Am I nuts to think that Booth should at least listen to how much other NBA teams might give up to trade for Hyland?
Singer: Kiz? Nuts? Who would dare say such a thing? Booth should listen on all offers, but here’s the problem. Hyland, on a rookie deal, isn’t making much money. Therefore, due to trade rules, the Nuggets wouldn’t be able to get much value in return. Any theoretical move probably would need to include Barton and his $14 million contract to return an established player. Moving Morris ($9 million/year) is a lot more feasible even if he’s the more reliable, established guard at this point.