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After the Nuggets made a splash with Orlando, they went and made the savvy move to bring back JaVale McGee. Shoring up their rim protection.

Denver showed just how prudent they are at evaluating their own roster in trading for former Nugget JaVale McGee. The fact Denver got him for essentially peanuts, is impressive. They only gave up Isaiah Hartenstein and two 2nd-rounders in 2027 (unprotected) and 2023 (pick protected through No. 46) to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That is essentially a bag of chips for what McGee will do with rim protection and elevating the defensive energy whenever Jokic needs a breath. I also see some scenarios against certain opponents where you may see both on the court at the same time.

Nobody carry’s a team the way Nikola does, and as a result, no other team has the offensive and defensive drop-off when their big leaves the court like the Nuggets do. This was a specific move meant to alleviate the pressure on Jokic to play every minute of every game. It also allows him to hopefully relax when he is on the bench knowing his replacement is still at a starter level for a lot of NBA teams. The forward-thinking of this front office never ceases to impress me.

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Even more so than the trade for Aaron Gordon, the box score watchers won’t understand the impact. His slash of 8 pts/5.2 rebs/1 assists doesn’t exactly leap off the page. But the Nuggets least needed attribute was scoring talent. They already have that in droves. What they needed was big to come off the bench and give those 5+ rebounds and 1 block per game. Jokic is the only player on the Denver roster averaging more than 1.0 blocks-per-game. The entire sports media industry has talked en masse about the rebounding and defensive issues that have held this squad back.

Well, enter a Nuggets front office who saw the same deficiency and made 2 trades to completely flip the script and gave up almost nothing of the future to do so. Kudos to Calvin Booth and the company for strengthening the roster without mortgaging the future. And got 3 players that were 30 or younger in the process. JaVale McGee is 30, Gordon is 25, and Gary Clark is 26. These are not strictly “win now”, but “win from now on”, type of moves. But are they the ones to take them over the top? Only time will tell. In the meantime, let’s enjoy what this group is capable of on the floor each night.

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One of the biggest things JaVale brings will never show up on any box score. The man is a dawg on the court, do not discount the change in aggression that was shown in the Western Bubble Conference Finals, when L.A. went big with AD/JaVale/Dwight. The Nuggets did not have a single dude that you worried about throwing a pillow, let alone a punch outside of Paul Milsap on occasion. Now they got 1 guy hungry for his first take of success, and the other that can remind the rest how close they were just a few short months ago. And more importantly, what it feels like to complete the journey.