Nets open road trip in Denver (Feb 24, 2017)

February 24, 2017

The trade deadline has passed and the teams' rosters are set for the last quarter of the season. For the Brooklyn Nets, that means playing out the string while integrating three new players starting with their game in Denver against the Nuggets on Friday night.

The Nets acquired Andrew Nicholson and guard Marcus Thornton -- whom they were planning to waive, according to reports -- from Washington on Wednesday and then added K.J. McDaniel from Houston before the deadline Thursday. It won't turn around a lost season in which Brooklyn (9-47) is last in the Eastern Conference.

The biggest news out of the Nets camp is the deal that wasn't made. Brook Lopez stayed put and will be with the team as it starts an eight-game road trip against the Nuggets (25-32).

More importantly for Brooklyn is the two picks it received in the separate deals -- the Wizards' first-rounder this year and a protected second-round pick from the Rockets. The Nets, who have Boston's first-round pick this year, have two of the first 30 picks in June.

"Obviously, we value the draft," Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks told Newsday. ""Having two picks now gives you some opportunity whether you can move up with those picks or you can hold them where you are if your players are there at the time, or you can use players and picks. There's a lot of different things we can do there. We like the draft, so we'll see where we go."

The Nuggets were mildly active before the deadline but didn't move any of their core players. They acquired Mason Plumlee from Portland on Feb. 12 and, in what seems like a reaction to the blockbuster trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans on Sunday, got Roy Hibbert from Milwaukee on Thursday.

The two big men give Denver some size to deal with the Pelicans' formidable frontcourt that features Cousins and Anthony Davis. After Thursday's 116-100 loss, the Nuggets lead New Orleans by 2 1/2 games for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

"It gives us a big body. It gives us protection at the rim," Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said of acquiring the 7-foot-2 Hibbert in a radio interview with Altitude Sports on Thursday. "He's a guy who has had some success and has a lot of experience. We had a roster spot and we needed a big body. It will be interesting to see what Roy brings."

Denver fans might get a quick look at the big man Friday night against the Nets. Brooklyn gets back guard Jeremy Lin from a hamstring injury that has limited him to 12 games this season. He has missed the last 26 games but could be thrust back into the starting lineup against Denver.

"I'd like to start him but we're going to get all the information and then make a decision," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said.

This is an important stretch for the Nuggets if they want to get back to the postseason for the first time in four seasons. Denver plays 11 of its next 16 games at home, and winning most of them would go a long way to improving its playoff chances.

Another thing that would help would be improved defense. The Nuggets have scored at a high rate but they've given up plenty of points in the process.

The team knows the defense will have to improve over the last 25 games.

"For us to be a playoff team, we have to defend a lot better and more consistently," coach Michael Malone told The Denver Post. "If we do that and our offense stays where it's at, we're a pretty good basketball team."

Thursday's loss over a made-over Kings team is a small sampling. Against the Nets, they'll find out if they can do it against a rested team.