The Denver Nuggets' acquisition of Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline was immediately identified by the biggest and best NBA brains around as the most impactful going forward. Through eight games, the assorted takes have aged beautifully. Gordon is playing a much different role on a stacked Nuggets team than he did a hopeless Magic squad and it's resulting in far more winning and greater efficiency.
Denver is 7-1 since the trade and currently sits in the Western Conference's No. 4 position. Last night's debacle against Boston broke a torrid run and was by far the worst performance from the uber-athletic forward since joining the team but, hey, pobody's nerfect.
Gordon has been in the black for seven of eight games with Denver in terms of plus-minus. He's playing less than one fewer minute than he did in Orlando and scoring three fewer points per contest. But he's doing everything with more urgency and expertise. Not being the focal point of the offense has allowed his shooting percentage to jump from .437 to .567 as he's been able to get closer shots and do what he does best — attack the rim. He's shooting 2.6 three-pointers per game instead of 4.5 and boasts an unholy .696 shooting percentage on two-pointers.
Perhaps most importantly, he's been heaven-sent on the defensive end, where he's more than capable of guarding opponents' best players. With Gordon, Denver is allowing 104.8 points per night, down from 110.9 before adding him to the roster. Going from a middle-of-the-pack defensive team to an elite one at the trade deadline has worked wonders before. And having that stopper also fit seamlessly into a fiercely efficient offensive role as well is a cherry on top.
The West remains wild due to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. And the uncertainty surrounding Utah and Phoenix who seem damn good on paper but haven't proved it in the postseason recently. Denver was in the conference finals last season and a game away the season before that. It boasts the most experienced core not wearing purple and gold.
What looks like a smart move could in time look like brilliant, potentially title-deciding move.