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NBA PM: Nuggets Standing Pat?

The Denver Nuggets are not trying to “give anyone away” prior to the trade deadline.

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Shortly after the Denver Nuggets traded Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers, rumors started to surface that Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler could be the next two Nuggets on their way out of Denver. At 17-20, the Nuggets are only four games out of the playoff picture, which may not seem insurmountable but making up those games is actually quite difficult in the Western Conference when you’re also battling against the New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns for that final spot.

That’s why many have wondered if the Nuggets would continue making moves and start a mini-rebuild. They are without a true star player, and have $58 million on the books for next year, which doesn’t include Chandler’s full salary or Afflalo’s $7.5 million player option. Nuggets GM Tim Connelly is limited in how he can improve the team moving forward outside of the trade market, which is why he was quick to jump on the offer of two future first round picks for Mozgov. Chandler, who is coveted by the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers, understands that despite assurances from management and Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw that they’re not trying to ship him off, that he too could be gone with the right offer.

“If a deal comes along that’s a pretty good deal, you’ve got to make it of course,” Chandler said to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. “And some guys say they’re not going to trade you, and then they trade you. I’m not saying that (Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly) is that guy, but you never know. You can never feel too safe about anything.

“I went through it before. I was told I wasn’t going to be traded and then I got traded. So, I just try not to even think about it.”

Afflalo is handling the possibility of having to pack his bags for the second time in less than a year in stride as well.

“I’ve been through it for the past few years now,” Afflalo said. “It was really heavy last season. For me, it is what it is. I kind of just look at the perspective of my career, just where I started and where I’m headed. To me, rumors, in a sense, tend to be a positive thing. It just shows my development and my growth as a player.”

Shaw is quick to point out that the Nuggets are not conducting a fire sale on par with the likes of the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. They did trade Nate Robinson for Jameer Nelson yesterday, but that was a move to bring in a player who they think can help them win more this season.

“We’re not trying to give anybody away,” Shaw said. “In the case of [Mozgov], getting two first-round picks for a guy that wasn’t drafted with our team being in the situation it was in, at that time it was something that couldn’t be passed up.

“I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that anybody on our team and everybody on our team, if there were an offer that was too good to pass up, everybody would be expendable. If Phil Jackson came out of retirement and said he wanted to come coach the Denver Nuggets, I’m expendable. You know what I mean? It is what it is. We all have had to deal with it at some point in our careers. They’ll be fine.”

With just over a month remaining until the trade deadline, Connelly has to come to a decision on what kind of team he thinks he has. They’ve been plagued with injuries since his arrival, making it really difficult to make any decisive judgments. He basically has to come to a conclusion on his team’s potential as assembled without ever seeing them play together extensively. If he thinks that they are capable of cracking the top eight and being a tough out, then the right move is to stand pat, continue to let them build chemistry, try to make a late run and hope to have better health in 2015-16. However, if he wants to put more of his fingerprints on the team and change its foundation, then moving Afflalo and Chandler prior to the deadline are two of his easiest methods to do so.

News and notes: Here’s a look at the latest rumblings from around the league:

  • According to Chad Ford of ESPN, the Philadelphia 76ers are not sold on reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams as one of their centerpieces moving forward and are open to moving him. However, he will not come at a cheap price tag and he’s difficult to offer equal value in return for due to still being on his rookie contract. At this stage of the rebuilding process, everyone is clearly available in Philly, but few are as costly as Carter-Williams is.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson turned down a four-year, $52 million extension offer prior to the October 31 trade deadline. He’s one of a few members of the 2011 draft class to bet on himself and embrace restricted free agency this summer instead of taking the early extension offer. Whether it pays off for Thompson is up in the air, though, as he is averaging just 9.7 points and 7.9 rebounds a game on a Cavaliers team that extended Anderson Varejao, still needs to lock up Kevin Love long-term and recently acquired Timofey Mozgov. They’re going to have one of the highest salaries in the league next year without Thompson’s new deal, so he could be kicking himself this offseason in the likely scenario that the Cavaliers, or any other team, don’t make that same offer.
  • Darius Miller was reportedly set to join the Los Angeles Clippers on a 10-day contract, but was not in the condition that the team wanted to see him in. While they’re not ruling out the possibility of bringing him in later, veteran guard Dahntay Jones has taken his spot for now and the Clippers have other small forward options they’re considering, including the aforementioned Wilson Chandler and the soon-to-be free agent Tayshaun Prince.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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