The Minnesota Timberwolves should take a cue from the Denver Nuggets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 12: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets celebrates after scoring on Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MARCH 12: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets celebrates after scoring on Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Will Barton, Jerami Grant
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 12: Jerami Grant #9 and Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets look on during the game against the LA Clippers. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Dominating the Trade Market

Four of the top eight minutes-getters on the Nuggets roster were initially acquired via trade.

Gary Harris is the only one who was acquired on draft night and never played for another team. The other three (Will Barton, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee) were all acquired as part of other moves to acquire underutilized or under-appreciated talent from other teams.

On draft night in 2014, Harris was traded with Jusuf Nurkic and a second-round pick to Denver in exchange for McDermott and Anthony Randolph. Harris has been an important part of the Nuggets’ rotation over the last few years despite battling several injuries. He’s shot 36 percent on 3-point attempts for his career and is in the first year of a four-year extension signed prior to last season.

Comically, two of the other three players acquired via trade were pilfered from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Barton was first. The 2012 second-round pick was a fringy rotation player who played only about 11 minutes per game over his first two-plus seasons in the league, shooting just 19.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

Prior to the 2015 trade deadline, the Blazers packaged Barton, Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver and a first-round pick that later became Malik Beasley in a move for Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee. This was more grand slam than home run for the Nuggets, as Barton averaged 14.4 points per game off the bench in his first full season in Denver and has blossomed into a 36.4 percent 3-point shooter and 14.2 point-per-game scorer over the past four seasons.

Could the Wolves land D'Angelo Russell in a 3-team deal?. light. Hot

(Not-so-fun-fact: the pick used to select Barton originally belonged to the Wolves and was sent to Houston with Jonny Flynn in the infamous 2011 trade-back initiated by David Kahn. Ironically, it was repackaged and sent to Portland with Flynn the following year.)

Plumlee was acquired from Portland with a second-round pick prior to the trade deadline in 2017 in exchange for Nurkic and a first-round pick.

It was seen a slight overpay at the time, as Nurkic was an exciting 22-year-old center in the midst of a solid campaign for a good Denver team. But the long-term fit next to Jokic was iffy at best, and the Nuggets correctly identified Plumlee as an ideal backup, solid complement to Jokic and superior all-around defender.

Plumlee inked a three-year extension after the season that expires in summer of 2020.

Lastly, the Nuggets shipped a 2020 top-10 protected pick to Oklahoma City to acquire Jerami Grant, who broke out last year for the Thunder as a versatile player capable of playing both forward positions. Given what is looking more and more like a breakout rookie season from Porter in 2019-20, it certainly appears as though the Grant trade was worth it.

Let’s summarize what this roster looks like and how the top 12 players on the roster were acquired.

How the 2019-20 Denver Nuggets were built

Via Free Agency

  • Paul Millsap
  • Torrey Craig – Undrafted Free Agent

Via Draft

  • Jamal Murray – First Round
  • Juan Hernangomez – First Round
  • Malik Beasley – First Round
  • Michael Porter – First Round
  • Nikola Jokic – Second Round
  • Monte Morris – Second Round

Via Trade

  • Gary Harris
  • Will Barton
  • Mason Plumlee
  • Jerami Grant

dark. Next. Will the Wolves be buyers or sellers at the deadline?

There’s no two ways about it. That’s how a perennial playoff contender is built. And while there are decisions to make this offseason (Millsap and Plumlee will both be free agents), there isn’t any sign that the Jokic-Barton-Murray-Harris led Nuggets will be slowing down.