In Denver, the air is thin, and the Nuggets are mediocre, and Wilson Chandler doesn’t want to be a member of the team anymore.
According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the 29-year-old forward wants to get traded because his role with the team has been so inconsistent, and that’s despite him having, arguably, the best season of his career. Chandler’s suited up for 44 of the Nuggets’ 48 contests, but he’s only started for 13, and that could be the problem.
The last two years, he’s been Denver’s starting small forward more times than not. What makes this outcry so bizarre is that Chandler hasn’t played this well since his early days with the New York Knicks, and he’s posting career-highs in points (15.4) and rebounds (6.8) while shooting 45.1 percent from the floor.
He’s just one game removed from his 26-point outing against the Los Angeles Lakers, but before that, his production was way down. Chandler totaled just 18 points during a three-game stretch from Jan. 24 to 28, and that was after he tallied double-digits in 10 of the 11 games before.
If being a starter is what Chandler wants, he’s shown the league that he can produce, and he was unusually hot to kick off the campaign. By the end of December, he averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds in 31.2 minutes a night, and he eclipsed the 20-point benchmark on nine different occasions. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it sounds a lot better when I tell you that he only tallied single-digit points in five of his first 30 games. It’s not astronomical production, but it’s good enough to be the third (or maybe second) option somewhere.
Chandler’s proven his worth as a rebounder and as a slasher, and his respectable three-point clip of 35.1 percent sweetens the deal just a tad. However, he’s far from being a defensive stopper. And that’ll definitely be taken into consideration by an interested party.
As for the Denver Nuggets as a team, they’re tweeners. They really shouldn’t be in playoff contention, but, with this year’s Western Conference, they could sneak into the postseason. At 21-27, they’re tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth seed.
It’s a situation where if they want to rebuild, the entire organization needs to more committed than when Will Smith was teaching Kevin James how to dance in Hitch. They have the young talent to start from scratch, and they also have three picks in the coming draft: one first and two second-rounders. That first, though, is from Memphis, and the Grizzlies are having a shockingly good season.
The roster isn’t too old, but it’s also not too young, and that means that anyone who gets traded will be able to contribute. Chandler is the third-oldest player on the roster behind Jameer Nelson and Mike Miller, and he, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried could fetch a pretty penny if sent to the proper team. Moreover, those guys are in their primes. They’ve been around the league and know their role.
Gallinari and Faried aren’t on the block publically, but it’s possible that the Nuggets’ masthead decides to rebuild behind closed doors.
I cannot stress it enough — parting ways with your top talent means you and your team can’t expect to win going forward.
Denver’s future is bright, but it’s going to start bleak. Shipping off Chandler, Faried and Gallinari leaves Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Will Barton as the team’s new core. All of them have potential, but it won’t manifest instantly.