The Denver Nuggets are in a season of transition full of new challenges and injuries. Despite returning much of the franchise-record 57-win team from a year ago, the Nuggets have struggled to find a rhythm through 29 games. Denver sits at 14-15 and is mired in a six-game losing streak. New head coach Brian Shaw wants the team to play inside-out basketball and a more traditional halfcourt offense with elements of the triangle.
Reports broke Saturday that the Cleveland Cavaliers had placed center Andrew Bynum on indefinite suspension due to conduct detrimental to the team. The Cavaliers are also determined to trade Bynum and are actively shopping him.
Denver is in a prime position to make an offer for Bynum. The Nuggets have been collecting assets since trading Carmelo Anthony in 2011. Not only do they have pieces to make a deal happen, Denver is an ideal destination for Bynum. Shaw was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers for much of Bynum’s tenure there. The two men have championship experience together as well as a valuable player-coach relationship.
Bynum has called Shaw “a great coach” who “worked a lot with him.” This sounds like most of the endorsements Shaw has received from players that have played under him in his time as an assistant coach. The history between Shaw and Bynum would be a strong argument for bringing the big man to Denver.
Bynum also has valuable playing experience under Phil Jackson, the master of the triangle offense. Shaw was experimenting with elements of the triangle offense early this season with the Nuggets before determining that he did not have the personnel to successfully implement that offense in Denver. Trading for Bynum would be a step in the right direction for Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly. Acquiring Bynum would send the message that management supports the new coach and that they are behind what Shaw is trying to bring to Denver.
Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke famously said in the offseason, “I’m not here to win awards, I’m here to win banners.” If Kroenke wants to put his money where his mouth is, he will pull the trigger on a Bynum deal. Once again, this will show support of Shaw and send a message to the rest of the league that Denver is serious about competing for an NBA championship.
Early this season it became clear that JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried will not be able to coexist in the same frontcourt because they operate in many of the same areas on the floor. Unfortunately, the Nuggets have many duplicate players on their roster – players with very similar skillsets and body types that make it difficult to put a versatile lineup on the floor.
Denver is lacking a traditional, back-to-the-basket center and that is one thing that NBA championship teams traditionally possess – a dominant big man. McGee and Faried do not fit the bill for that role. The Nuggets have already made it clear that they have no intention of dealing Faried. This could mean that their belief in McGee is dwindling.
The Cavaliers were willing to gamble on Bynum, that might mean that they are willing to roll the dice again by dealing him for an injured McGee. Cleveland also is reportedly interested in parting ways with shooting guard Dion Waiters. This is another player that the Nuggets could be interested in or perhaps the Cavs could use a Bynum deal to unload Waiters as well.
The Nuggets could easily put together a package for both Bynum and Waiters with or without the inclusion of McGee. Although, it would make the most sense to try to dump one center with a large contract if they were taking on another. A deal centering on McGee and Wilson Chandler works under the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Nuggets could also choose to send several pieces to Cleveland in exchange for Bynum and Waiters.
No matter what deal Denver does to acquire Bynum, it is without question that Bynum is one of the top big men in the NBA when he is healthy. After missing all of last season, Bynum has played in 24 out of the Cavs 29 games this year, so he would appear to be healthy. The Nuggets could use a player with an elite skillset and Bynum would fill that role. He is a championship-caliber center that has proven he can play in Shaw’s system. Connelly and Kroenke should be making calls already to get Shaw a big man that would make him successful in Denver.