J.J. Hickson has handled trade rumors and reduced playing time in the best possible way, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. The Nuggets have been shopping the 27-year-old center/forward, who has been with the team since signing as a free agent in 2013. Hickson, who has fallen out of the rotation, is making nearly $5.614MM this season in the final year of an expiring contract. Coach Michael Malone has acknowledged the difficult situation that Hickson is in and complimented him for approaching it professionally and keeping himself ready to play.
Dempsey lists several other Nuggets who are attracting interest as the February 18th trade deadline nears:
- Denver is getting numerous inquiries about Will Barton but doesn’t seem interested in making a deal. The 25-year-old shooting guard has taken a step forward this season, averaging 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Dempsey says the Nuggets know they have a “gem” in Barton, who is signed through the 2017/18 season.
- The Nuggets began getting calls on second-year center Joffrey Lauvergne before the season started. Denver turned down those offers, and Dempsey believes the team will keep Lauvergne, in spite of a report that the Nuggets are seeking a late first-round pick for him. The Post scribe acknowledges that it’s not a certainty the Nuggets will hang on to the big man, but Malone has stated more than once that he considers Lauvergne part of the future, Dempsey notes. Lauvergne, who was the 55th pick in 2013, is also signed through 2017/18.
- Kenneth Faried isn’t on the trade block, but Dempsey believes a “too good to be true” offer might change the Nuggets’ minds. The 26-year-old power forward has three years and nearly $39MM left after this season on the extension he signed in 2014.
- The Nuggets were mentioned in Blake Griffin trade rumors last week, but Dempsey doesn’t think the Clippers will be dealing their star forward this season. He says L.A. has a “win now” philosophy, but that could change with another playoff disappointment. If that happens, the Nuggets would still be interested in Griffin this summer.