The Denver Nuggets have always looked like they are good enough to fit in and compete with the league, but never enough to win it all. This has held true for decades as the team has yet to win its first championship, never even reached the Finals, and have only made it to the Western Conference Finals thrice within the last 49 seasons.
However, they always seem to have a good shot at making the playoffs as they have made it for a total of 25 times as well. Nevertheless, this can be attributed to some trades that the team has made.
Here, we take a look at the five best trades in Denver Nuggets history and rank them according to their impact.
5. J.R. Smith
When the Nuggets acquired J.R. Smith from the Chicago Bulls for Howard Eisley and two second-round picks in 2006, it was a win. Their roster was already loaded with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Nene. Smith went on to play for the Nuggets for five seasons and he averaged 13.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. He added some firepower to the scoring of the team and played a crucial role in the team’s success during his tenure.
4. Allen Iverson
The Nuggets made one of the biggest trades in recent history when it traded for Allen Iverson in exchange for Joe Smith, Andre Miller and a few draft picks back in 2006 as well. With a lineup featuring Iverson along with Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Nene, this was believed to be the perfect boost that the team needed to finally advance deep into the playoffs after never getting past the first round. However, it never panned out as expected as the Nuggets were eliminated from the playoffs in two of Iverson’s trips. Nevertheless, Iverson brought excitement and hype back to the city of Denver even though he wasn’t as successful as everyone would have liked.
3. Fat Lever, Calvin Natt, and Wayne Cooper.
It’s always a gamble when the front office trades a budding superstar. This was exactly the case when the Nuggets decided to trade a 25-year old budding superstar in Kiki Vandeweghe to the Portland Trailblazers in 1984. Vandeweghe was coming off of two consecutive seasons as an All-Star and he was the leading scorer at 29.4 points per game over four seasons in Denver. Be that as it may, they finished with a 38-44 record during Vandeweghe’s last season in Denver and were beaten by the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. The franchise then proceeded to take a chance by trading Vandeweghe in exchange for Fat Lever, Calvin Natt, and Wayne Cooper. The gamble luckily paid off as they went on to go for 50-32 the following season and they finally made a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Natt and Cooper were mostly scorers posting 23.3 points and 12.1 points respectively while Lever averaged across the board numbers of 12.3 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game. Lever and Natt also eventually became All-Stars in their tenure in Denver.
2. Chauncey Billups
Billups was perfect for the Nuggets. He was a hometown hero having grown up in Park Hill and playing his college basketball up at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This meant great excitement for not only his career but the loyal fans of Denver as well. He brought his much-needed leadership experience to the team and lead it to a trip to the Western Conference Finals where they were a few plays away from defeating the Los Angeles Lakers. In his five seasons with the team, he had his one of his most productive stat line with an average of 16.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. While he was unable to bring a championship to the city, it definitely brought a sense of closure for Mr. Big Shot when he returned to his roots.
1. Alex English
This may go down as the greatest trade in Denver Nuggets history. The team let go of George McInnes who was averaging 15.6 points to go along with 10.3 rebounds in exchange for a young and unproven forward in Alex English from the Indiana Pacers. It turns out that all English needed was to be inserted into the starting lineup as his scoring output exploded for 21.3 points on a ridiculous 48-percent shooting to go along with 9.4 rebounds per game. The Nuggets knew they won the trade in 1980 as English was just entering his prime and could arguably end up as the greatest Nugget of all time. He went on to play 11 seasons in the Mile High, putting up 25.9 points during his time in Denver. He also leads the franchise in most points scored (21,645), games played (837), assists (3679), offensive rebounds (2038), and minutes played (29,893).