Denver Nuggets downgrade at point guard for no reason

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

The Denver Nuggets were ready to trade Andre Miller, but they also needlessly gave away a second-round pick and a young asset to get an inferior replacement.

One of the Denver Nuggets' main struggles this year has been an over-reliance on Ty Lawson. After the losses of Andre Iguodala to trade and Danilo Gallinari to injury, Lawson has been the team's only offensive playmaker in the starting lineup, asked to create the entirety of the team's offense for the majority of the game. And after the season-ending injury to Nate Robinson, the team's only other significant offensive initiator, this over-reliance has become even more jarring.

Clearly, the best way to solve this problem was to downgrade at point guard.

In a pair of deals, this is what the Nuggets seem to have done. The first smaller deal sees Denver move Jordan Hamilton to Houston in exchange for Aaron Brooks, while the second bigger deal sees Andre Miller sent to Washington. The Wizards in turn sent Jan Vesely back to Denver as well as forwarding Eric Maynor to Philadelphia, with both teams sending Philadelphia a second-round pick for their troubles.

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Brooks -- who had a right to veto the deal he magnanimously decided not to use -- is traded for the second time by a Rockets franchise seemingly content with Isaiah Canaan's ability to handle whatever third-string point guard minutes are needed. The one time 19.6-points-per-game scorer is a bit player at this point in his career, a three-point shooter who has lost the ability to create he had in his youth despite only being 29 years of age. Brooks's high-scoring days were always slightly misleading and flattering of his abilities -- he had a free license to do as best he could that year, which can be very beneficial to a point guard, as D.J. Augustin can currently attest -- yet there was more to his game than the streaky three-point shooting and inefficient off-the-dribble game he mostly offers now. Also one of the worst defenders at the point guard spot in the league today, it is difficult to see how, whatever they thought of Hamilton, the Nuggets see Brooks as more useful of a piece going forward.

The deals see the Nuggets swap out Hamilton, a young backup forward whose option for next year was not exercised and on whom they had seemingly given up, in exchange for Vesely, a young backup forward whose option for next year was not exercised and on whom the Wizards had seemingly given up on developing. Both are in the middle of career-best years, but that term is a very relative one to the two previous ones. Hamilton remains inefficient and shot-happy, but he nevertheless has enough hot streaks to have his uses as a bench gunner, one who also rebounds extremely well for his position and has moments of usefulness when tuned in defensively. He is already better than Brooks, bigger than Brooks and five and a half years younger than Brooks. The only thing Brooks has over him is cost -- a $884,293 cap number for Brooks versus a $1,169,880 one for Hamilton. Once accounting for proration, that is a difference of only about $100,000. It will be a shame if Hamilton was given up on for this comparatively trivial amount of money.

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Meanwhile, Vesely continues to look unskilled, unaware and unhelpful on offense, just as raw as he was the day he joined the league. However, he has managed to have more of an impact defensively this season in a limited role. Denver gets two months to examine what chances of redemption it has with him. Yet Vesely must take his place in a queue behind another highly comparable reclamation project, Anthony Randolph, and the Nuggets' long-term project forward, Quincy Miller. There seems little way Denver has the minutes, need or desire to do anything with Vesely, who is essentially in this deal for salary reasons. And yet Denver still had to give up a second to get him.

It is better than paying Miller to go away, and the moves save Denver about $800,000 this season, and (more importantly) the $2 million guaranteed portion of Miller's contract for next season. This is a significant saving on a malcontent. But a team in flux such as this needs its second-rounders, and that second-rounder could frankly draft someone better than Vesely.

Washington gets a rental of a 37-year-old point guard, an upgrade at its weakest position. It has shored up a weakness with a good player, even if that good player is a 37-year-old declining malcontent player signed to a sizable deal with a sizable buyout next season. It cost them a No. 6 pick, a Bi-Annual Exception and a second-round pick from New Orleans to do it, but the price is ultimately acceptable: the pick used on Vesely was a sunk cost long before this week, as was Maynor. In the grand scheme of things, this is a disappointing return for two significant investments, yet the deal must be judged in isolation.

Miller will be more effective in the backup point guard role than Maynor, who was struggling horribly and who has not looked the same since his injury. While Miller himself is very much on the downside of his career, his is something of an Indian summer. He will help Washington in its desperate push to become the third-best team in the East, a genuine achievement for the endlessly terminal Wizards. They will face an awkward decision over the summer as to what to do with his buyout, yet even if they take it, paying $2 million for Miller to go away is not really any different to paying Maynor $2.1 million to stay.

Washington, then, addressed a need for an acceptable price. Philadelphia gets a steal, bagging two second-round picks for a cap hit it can easily accept, with a slight chance at a reclamation project along the way. Yet Denver downgrades at point guard, downgrades at forward, downgrades in the caliber of reclamation project, does nothing to solve the superfluousness that plagues its roster and gave up a second-round pick in the process. It did all this just to save roughly $3 million in a deal in which Philadelphia earned two second-rounders for taking up just $2.1 million.

It is surely obvious who gains more here.

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