The ‘James Harden sweepstakes’ were expectedly won by the Brooklyn Nets this past month. They unloaded a slew of players and first-round picks to lock the deal and edge out a couple of vying teams, including the Denver Nuggets.

With all that over and done, the Nuggets are now rumoured to have shifted their focus on three particular players, two of which are sought-after guards, namely Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic.

In exchange, it is said that the Nuggets are putting Michael Porter Jr. on the table, their valuable young asset with star potential. MPJ was also believed to be the centrepiece in Denver’s past offer for Harden.

Here’s what Sam Amick wrote on The Athletic yesterday:

“Until [Michael] Porter Jr. finds a way to meet the lofty expectations they’ve placed upon him consistently, the temptation will always be there for the Nuggets to make a move for a more proven commodity. The pursuit of players like Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine or Aaron Gordon could unfold down the line if they become available, though rival executives don’t expect them to be available before this deadline. Sources say, however, that the Nuggets’ focus at the moment is on improving this group as it’s currently constructed.”

Sam Amick

Gordon is the most possible, but Beal and LaVine are two star-level guys who can be lured into jumping ship. The Wizards (6-17) and Bulls (10-15) are not doing well this season and have both missed the postseason in consecutive years. It’s clear that all the agony of losing is certainly mounting for the respective stars. The pressure is also growing fast since it is starting to become apparent that they are wasting their prime years away on downtrodden squads.

Keep in mind that Beal averaged a league-high 30.3 points per game last season and is scoring higher this year with 32.8 PPG. LaVine is on a similar path. After posting 25.5 PPG in 2019-20, he’s upped it to 28.2 PPG this season on a smooth 51% shooting (both career-highs).

Denver, of course, isn’t cruising on that awful trajectory. Though only 14-11 on the season, the team is still quite respectable due to its memorable 2020 playoff run and the great talent on the roster, led by All-Star and current top MVP candidate Nikola Jokic and sweet-shooting guard Jamal Murray. It should be very intriguing to see Jokic and Murray get bolstered with a high-scoring, explosive guard.

Do the Nuggets have enough assets to offer?

They have decent pieces, but either way, this is where Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly can further prove his worth. Getting the caliber Bradley Beal or Zach LaVine out of their respective teams is tough even if you have considerable trade chips because the opposing GM will try to squeeze every possible asset out.

Denver’s potential offer has the upside of the 22-year-old, 6’10 Porter Jr., who can score and play the three and four with guard-like energy, plus the combination of youngsters Monte Morris, PJ Dozier, RJ Hampton, and Bol Bol, and veterans Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and JaMychal Green.

Picks-wise, the team still has its 2021, 2022, 2026, and 2027 first-round selections, and possibly 2023, 2024, and 2025 if it stays a lottery pick.

The Nuggets are taking on the Los Angeles Lakers next to avenge the second-half collapse they suffered last week. They’ll meet this Monday, at 11 AM, Manila time.