The Denver Nuggets' 2024 playoff run ended abruptly and unexpectedly. It left fans and analysts alike in shock. As the team faces the offseason, the front office must address glaring weaknesses. Of course, they want to build a roster capable of returning to the championship contention. Here, we explore three pivotal trades the Nuggets must consider to bounce back stronger next season.

Reflecting on the Nuggets 2023 season

The Denver Nuggets entered the 2023-24 NBA season with high aspirations. This was fueled by their championship run the previous year. Building on their momentum, they finished the season with a 57-25 record, improving by four wins. This earned them second place in the Western Conference. The Nuggets clinched their sixth consecutive playoff berth on March 31, 2024, with a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. On May 8, 2024, Nikola Jokić was honored with his third MVP award in four seasons.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Nuggets faced the Los Angeles Lakers in a rematch of the 2023 Western Conference Finals. That ended in a 4-0 sweep for Denver. This time, the Nuggets won the series 4-1, advancing to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Conference Semifinals. After falling behind 0-2, the Nuggets rallied to win the next three games but suffered a blowout loss in Game 6. In Game 7, despite holding a 20-point lead in the third quarter, the Nuggets witnessed a fierce comeback by the Timberwolves. Minnesota won the game 98-90 and the series 4-3. Denver became the first team in NBA history to blow a 15-point halftime lead in a Game 7. Now, the 2023 NBA champions go back to the drawing board.

Nuggets' Nikola Jokic looking serious in front. Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns smiling in background.

Here we will look at the three trades that the Denver Nuggets must make after shocking playoff loss in 2024.

Trading for Nick Richards

Strengthening the backup center position remains a top priority for Denver. This is where Nick Richards comes in. His $5 million salary for next season fits well within Denver's trade limitations. They can use Reggie Jackson or Zeke Nnaji as the primary trade pieces and enhance the offer with second-round picks. If the Charlotte Hornets are interested in Hunter Tyson or Julian Strawther and the Nuggets are open to negotiating, the deal could include additional incoming players.

Richards, a 7-footer, would bring energy and efficiency to the non-Nikola Jokić minutes. His ability to finish above the rim would ease the workload on the floor generals running the backup units. In addition, he has a solid touch around the basket. Richards successfully converted 59.2 percent of his hook shots this season (29-of-49).

Sure, filling the 12 to 15 minutes that Jokić doesn't play each game isn't the most critical mission. That said, Richards would significantly enhance Denver's rebounding during those non-Jokić stints while also reducing the burden on Aaron Gordon to play the center position too frequently during the regular season.

Apr 7, 2024; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Nick Richards (4) reacts to the call during the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Spectrum Center.
Scott Kinser-USA TODAY Sports

Adding Seth Curry for Scoring Depth

The Nuggets excel in nearly every aspect of the game. However, high-volume three-point shooting isn't one of their strengths.

This is somewhat intentional. When they can consistently dismantle opposing defenses inside the arc, there's less incentive to focus on perimeter shooting. Of course, they are actually pretty accurate from three-point range (37.4 percent this season, 10th overall). That said, they attempt fewer shots from beyond the arc than any other team (31.2 attempts per game, the lowest in the league).

Given this context, it's reasonable to wonder if they'll look to add more shooters this offseason. This is especially true if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jackson opt out of their player options and leave in free agency.

This is where someone like Seth Curry would be a natural target. Recall that he is a career 43.1 percent shooter from distance. As such, Curry offers enough scoring and secondary playmaking ability inside the arc to be more than just a shooting specialist. At 33, he seems out of place on the rebuilding Hornets. He also likely wouldn't require a significant trade package.

Acquiring Jae'Sean Tate for Versatility and Grit

Denver's bench felt the absence of Bruce Brown's unique blend of defensive versatility, playmaking, hustle, and occasional scoring all season. Yes, the Nuggets hoped one of their young players would step up to fill this role. However, none managed to replicate Brown's impact.

Few players possess a similar skill set. Still, someone like Houston's Jae'Sean Tate comes close. He is relatively affordable with a $7.1 million team option and could become available due to the Rockets' crowded wing rotation.

Although Tate's three-point shooting (career 30.6 percent) has not developed as hoped, the Nuggets might overlook this limitation. As long as Tate contributes in other areas, Denver can manage his shooting deficiency. Additionally, playing alongside playmakers like Jokić, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon might improve his shooting percentage to near league average. Tate's ability to energize his teammates and his relentless effort would be quite beneficial as well.

Looking Ahead

After a shocking playoff exit to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Denver Nuggets must make strategic moves to address their weaknesses and return to championship contention. By targeting Nick Richards, Seth Curry, and Jae'Sean Tate, the Nuggets can enhance their roster's depth, defense, and scoring. These trades would not only improve their on-court performance. They would also position them for a deeper playoff run next season. As the offseason progresses, all eyes will be on the Nuggets' front office to see if they can make the necessary moves to transform potential into reality.