The Nuggets‘ need to upgrade their perimeter defense prompted them to pull the trigger on a trade for Aaron Gordon at last season’s deadline, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post in a look back at the deal that sent Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a future first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Gordon and Gary Clark. Gordon sparked Denver to a 19-6 finish and is happy to be in a stable environment after six and a half seasons with the Magic.
“When I was there, it was something new every year,” Gordon said. “New coaching staff, new GM, new players. It was just so much fluctuation all the time. We didn’t know whether we wanted to tank or whether we were trying to win. It was like having your foot on the gas and the brake at the same time. Burnout.”
Coach Michael Malone called the trade “a necessary move,” but it wasn’t easy for the organization to part with Harris, who grew into a locker room leader during his time in Denver, and Hampton, whom the Nuggets viewed as a potential steal in the 2020 draft. Singer notes that Denver’s subsequent backcourt injuries would have given Hampton a chance to shine if he were still on the roster.
“It definitely was a blessing in disguise,” Hampton said. “I feel like my talent and my work ethic, God blessed me with an opportunity to come to this situation in Orlando and play right away. I’m grateful for that. At the same time, I’m grateful for Denver. They took a chance on me.”
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Owner Stan Kroenke may have been behind the Nuggets‘ decision to give a five-year maximum extension to Michael Porter Jr. despite his injury history, according to Marc Stein of Substack. Both attended the University of Missouri and Kroenke has been an advocate for Porter ever since he joined the organization, Stein adds.
- The Jazz are experimenting with a small-ball lineup that became necessary when backup center Hassan Whiteside was ejected from a game last week, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Although the early results haven’t been positive, the team may want to keep developing it in light of the matchup problems that the Clippers created for Rudy Gobert in last year’s playoffs.
- Thunder coach Mark Daigneault watched film of his team’s historic 73-point loss with the rest of his staff, but he didn’t show it to the players, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “The lessons that you want the team to take from that game are self-explanatory,” Daigneault said. “I didn’t see a need to double down on that. The feeling that you would try to generate with the film already exists. Letting it breathe I think is almost more powerful than to dwell on the actual visuals of it.”