Yesterday, John Denton of Florida Today reported the Orlando Magic have contacted the Denver Nuggets regarding the availability of point guard Chucky Atkins. There's no mention of which player the Nuggets might receive in return, but that's not problematic. The Magic have a $3.3 million trade exception due to their sending Keyon Dooling to the New Jersey Nets last summer, an exception which they can send to Denver for Atkins due to his near-matching salary of $3.2 million. Early this afternoon, Orlando cleared a roster spot by waiving forward Jeremy Richardson, whose contract was soon to become guaranteed. A swap of Atkins for the trade exception makes so much sense for both teams that I'm kind of shocked that it could actually happen. I'll explain why after the jump. Note: the update to this post also follows the jump.
Orlando receives a third-string point guard, which it desperately needs due to starter Jameer Nelson's susceptibility to injury and backup Anthony Johnson's creakiness. Maybe that last bit isn't fair to Johnson, who's two months younger than Atkins and has a better injury history. The argument (I could say "point," but that'd be hokey) stands, though: Orlando needs a point guard it can stash on its bench--or the inactive list-- upon whom it can call in case of emergency, and Atkins can be that point guard. He takes care of the ball and only shoots when he has to, which is a good thing considering his declining ability to connect from the field. This season, his PER (6.8) and field-goal percentage (25.0%) stink, but that's okay: he'd be in the game to distribute the ball, and even then for only brief stretches.
Denver, meanwhile, cuts costs and moves the slightest of bits closer to going under the league's luxury-tax threshold. The Nuggets have made slashing payroll a priority recently, a philosophy which lead to their trading Marcus Camby to the Los Angeles Clippers for the option to swap second-round draft picks this summer. If this deal has a drawback for the Nuggets, it's that losing Atkins leaves them in the same predicament Orlando is now: with only two point guards. But Denver is better suited to play in that situation than Orlando is. Chauncey Billups, their starter, is extremely durable--he's played in at least 70 games in each season since 2000/2001--and averages 35 minutes a game. Anthony Carter, Billups' backup, doesn't have a similar Iron Man reputation, but did play 70 games for the Nuggets last year and all 21 of their games this season.
The potential deal will hit a big snag if Denver wants a player in return--keep in mind I say this without any insider knowledge, though. Brian Cook is the only player the Magic would be willing to part with right now--until Mickael Pietrus returns from injury, the Magic will want to keep Keith Bogans and his expiring contract--and his conditioning makes him a poor fit for the Nuggets, who run at the league's 6th-fastest pace... in Denver's high altitude, no less. The other option could be J.J. Redick, who would thrive as a spot-up three-point shooter in Denver's offense. However, the Magic would likely refuse to trade a 24-year-old specialist like Redick, unproven as he is, for a 34-year-old emergency option like Atkins.
So, assuming the Nuggets are willing to deal Atkins to the Magic, for a mere trade exception, Orlando would be wise to accept the offer. But what say you? Could the Magic find a better player at the same cost? Is Atkins even a good fit for them? My answers are "no" and "yes," respectively, but this is an open forum. Fire away.
UPDATE: Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News offers his take on the situation here. As expected, the Nuggets don't have much interest in Cook; Bogans, however, is a different story.
Also, as readers have indicated in the comments, this post does not address the salary-cap implications for the Magic were they to make this deal. Mybad.