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The Nuggets aren’t expected to make a deal at the deadline. Why not?

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The Denver Nuggets are a very, very good basketball team. They somehow survived a brutal early season road schedule and have gone 22-3 at home, which is obviously very impressive. Currently the 5th seed in the Western Conference, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Nuggets jump up a spot or two in the standings and secure home court advantage in the playoffs. Playing with that pace in that altitude would obviously make them a dangerous first round opponent for any team.

Even with that advantage, it’s still hard to take Denver seriously as a legitimate title contender. The Nuggets are a completely average defensive team at 14th in defensive efficiency, they still can’t shoot from perimeter (24th in 3-point percentage), and late in tight games, they have a tendency to collapse offensively. In games decided by 5 or less points, the Nuggets have a 9-10 record. Hero ball late in games has its issues, but the Nuggets often don’t have a sense of what they want to do in the halfcourt late. Is it Ty Lawson in isolation? Andre Iguodala in the pick-and-roll? Something for Danilo Gallinari? The answers haven’t come easily.

Those things alone are enough to fuel the theory that Denver is built for the regular season, but not for the playoffs. Again, the Nuggets are very good, but they are definitely flawed.

With all the depth and assets Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri has to play with, it would make sense to try and cover up some of those flaws at the deadline, right? But that might not be the case:

To me, this is surprising. Denver should be one of the teams likely to make a deal, even if it’s a small move. Trading Timofey Mozgov, a guy the Nuggets pretty much can’t keep next year, would be a good idea.

Wilson Chandler is another guy to shop. Chandler is on a decently sized deal ($25 million over 4 years), but he’s playing 20 minutes a night and may be unhappy. Still just 25 years old, some team might buy him as a future wing solution. The Nuggets certainly don’t need him with Iguodala, Gallinari, Corey Brewer and even Andre Miller playing next to Ty Lawson quite a bit. Looking forward, promising young scorer Jordan Hamilton is waiting in the wings, so it’s unclear how big of a role Chandler would have in the future, anyway.

It’s understandable that the Nuggets might not want to compromise their core or their style of play. But to be a true title contender, they simply have to get better defensively, and it’s hard to see how that happens this year without being active at the deadline.

PBT Podcast: Derek Fisher fired, plus your trade questions from Twitter

Derek Fisher
Associated Press
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Derek Fisher is out as coach of the New York Knicks.

In this latest podcast, NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman discuss the odd timing of that move — we expect another shoe to drop as to why. It’s not that Fisher was a great coach, but replacing him with Kurt Rambis mid-season is not an upgrade. And Luke Walton isn’t available until this summer.

After struggling to figure out what the Knicks are thinking, Helin and Feldman answer questions off Twitter from readers/listeners on the coming trade deadline including discussions of Blake Griffin, Jeff Teague, the Pistons, the Jazz, the Knicks, and more.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Warriors’ center Festus Ezeli to have knee surgery, out indefinitely

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli, left, of Nigeria, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Denver. Golden State won 118-105. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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Festus Ezeli has been a rock-solid backup for the Warriors this season, playing almost 18 minutes a night behind Andrew Bogut giving the team 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a contest. Golden State’s defense is 3.6 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, and he’s part of the team’s long-term plans.

But he’s going to be out for a while now following knee surgery, the team announced and as reported by Monte Poole at CSNBayArea.com.

http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/festus-ezeli-undergo-knee-surgery

The surgery is exploratory, which is why the Warriors say there is no timeline for recovery yet.

The surgery is on his left knee; it was his right one that had reconstructive surgery and forced him to miss all of two seasons ago.

This is a blow to the Warriors’ depth, but little has slowed their march this season. More Mo Speights is not ideal, but the Warriors can just go small more often and run teams out of the building that way.

Ezeli is a restricted free agent this summer and the Warriors would like to keep him on the roster and expand his role, particularly if they do not retain Andrew Bogut. The severity of this knee injury could impact Ezeli’s ability to earn a big contract this summer, but hopefully for him, it’s not that serious.

Russell Westbrook stands behind Kevin Durant, mimics him during interview (video)

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, gestures after scoring as forward Kevin Durant stands by during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 117-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Choose your spin.

This is why Kevin Durant is leaving the Thunder. Russell Westbrook doesn’t respect him.

or

This is why Kevin Durant is re-signing with the Thunder. He and Russell Westbrook have so much fun together.

Report: Magic open to talking Tobias Harris trade, looking to add experience

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) grabs the uniform of Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (12) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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Tobias Harris signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Magic just last summer.

Now, just 50 games later…

Marc Stein of ESPN:

I’m skeptical this is significant. Teams discuss trades for many players for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean the player is likely to be dealt.

Orlando in particular has a roster of players who cause significant debate about their value. It’s helpful to know what other teams think of Harris, and soliciting trade offers is a good method to learn his worth.

It’s more intriguing the Magic are looking to add experience. They should probably go the opposite route, but they’ve tried (and failed) for years to accelerate their rebuild. At 22-28 – four games and three teams from playoff position – now is not the time to seek shortcuts. Spend the rest of the season developing young players – and probably securing a higher draft pick in the process.

One of Harris’ best traits is his youth. He’s just 23. See what other teams would offer for him, sure. But, in all likelihood, it’s better to let him grow into the veteran Orlando needs rather than trading him for one when the rest of the team isn’t ready to win, anyway.

My guess is that’s what Orlando will do. Remember, always consider who has incentive to leak this information anonymously and what they’d be positioned to know.