The Denver Nuggets' quest to repeat as NBA champions surprisingly fell short of even Western the Conference Finals. Denver not only lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but were stuck in the mud for much of that series, too. Their starting lineup, among the best units in the NBA during the regular season, was a -33 in the playoffs. Denver's lack of depth did not help matters, either. The Nuggets could look to make some trades in the offseason, with Zeke Nnaji being a potential candidate to get dealt.

Nuggets offseason trade candidate: Zeke Nnaji

Denver Nuggets forward-center Zeke Nnaji (22) moves to the basket as Memphis Grizzlies guard John Konchar (46) defends during the first half at FedExForum
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Denver has invested a lot in Nnaji, who was the 22nd pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. The Nuggets took him over the likes of Immanuel Quickley (No. 25), Jaden McDaniels (No. 28), and Desmond Bane (No. 30), among others. They also signed Nnaji to a four-year, $32 million deal extension last fall that kicks in for 2024-25.

Denver just hasn't gotten much return on their investment so far. In four seasons, he's played only roughly 2,405 minutes. On one hand, it's understandable that a young player hasn't gotten much playing time on a contending team that is trying to win now. However, that didn't stop the Nuggets from giving players like Christian Braun and Peyton Watson big minutes this season.

Nnaji's minutes have steadily dipped over his career. He went from 17 minutes per game in his second season to 13.7 last year to just 9.9 in 2023-24. Considering that the Nuggets lost Jeff Green, their de facto backup center last season, in free agency the previous summer, Nnaji's minutes tumbling is all the more baffling.

Nnaji is a bit undersized to be a center at 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds. But there are plenty of examples across the league who play the five at that size in spurts. Larry Nance Jr. (6-foot-8 and 245 pounds) would be one. Having a player like that would've been really nice for Denver to have in this series against Minnesota.

Karl-Anthony Towns had his way attacking guards like Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He got these matchups more and more as the series progressed as Denver opted to have Aaron Gordon defend Anthony Edwards. It was a series where they really could've used someone like Nnaji. Alas, Nnaji played 13 minutes in the Western Conference Semifinals, all of which came in garbage time.

Everyone else is untouchable

As mentioned earlier, the Nuggets' starting lineup was one of the best groups in the league. It likely would've performed better in the postseason had Murray not dealt with a nagging calf injury. Even with their playoff struggles, there isn't any good reason to break up that lineup. If Denver wants to make a trade to fortify their roster, it can't be with any of those guys.

Braun was solid against Minnesota as well. He seems safe from any potential offseason trade. Watson's relegation to the bench versus the the Timberwolves was sad to see, but he was a key contributor for Denver across the 82-game grind. The Nuggets likely won't be trading him away, either.

If they're making a trade for veteran help and depth, there isn't much else to choose from. Nnaji is the one the Nuggets would most likely look to be dealt. He has NBA experience and has flashed useful defensive versatility for someone that size.

There's a useful player in Nnaji somewhere, but it doesn't look like he'll become one in Denver. A trade where the Nuggets add to their depth and Nnaji finds a place where he can get more minutes appears beneficial for both sides. Whether Denver can swing a trade like that will be worth watching once the NBA offseason kicks into gear.