As the Jimmy Butler soap opera drags on and shifting trade demands are as confusing as the rules/scoring system for cricket, fans of other teams are asking, “can we get in on the Butler sweepstakes?” That should be answered with another question, “What are you willing to give up?” Because right now the price is everything except a Space X flight around the moon.
Denver has not been seriously involved in the talks, in part because three key guys are untouchable in Denver, according to a report from T.J. McBride at Mile High Sports.
A league source has told Mile High Sports that the Nuggets young core of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic are all “untouchable” in trade talks. That young trio is looked at as the future of Nuggets basketball and they are being treated that way by the front office.
Jokic being on this list is a given — he is their franchise cornerstone, a likely future All-NBA center who this summer signed a five-year, $148 million extension with the Nuggets. The Nuggets are also very high on Jamal Murray, who started 80 games for them last season, averaged 16.7 points per game, shot 37.8 percent from three, but most importantly began to mature as a guy who knows how to run the team and has real chemistry with Jokic. Nuggets brass expect a big leap from Murray as he enters his third season, so it’s not a shock they don’t want to trade him anywhere.
Harris is more of a surprise. He’s just 24, entering his fifth NBA season, and has become a quality two-way wing player who came up with some clutch shots. He averaged 17.4 points per game (he’s kind of a sleeper that way), shot 39.4 percent from three, and he’s on a four-year contract locked in at a reasonable price considering his production ($16.5 million this season). He fits what they do.
But untouchable? Butler is better than Harris on both ends, and if the cost of getting in the conversation was Harris, that should not deter Denver. There are other factors here — would Butler re-sign in Denver, and do they really want to give Butler a max extension when he’s got Thibodeau miles on him and has shown some injury issues — but it’s worth considering. Harris is a quality wing, but untouchable should be reserved for a higher level of player.
Denver should take the step forward to being a playoff team this season, but they need this core to grow — and Isaiah Thomas to help boost their bench, when he gets healthy — to climb up that next rung on the ladder. And if a great trade falls into their lap… untouchable is a strong word.