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Offseason Outlook: Denver Nuggets

Guaranteed Contracts


Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents/Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (27th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $51,887,846
  • Options: $16,154,750
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $638,872
  • Cap Holds: $20,447,209
  • Total: $89,128,677

Most teams with 57 regular season wins, the Coach of the Year and the Executive of the Year would still find themselves alive in the postseason this time of year, but that's not the case for these Nuggets. Denver finds itself out of the first round for the ninth time in 10 years, with critics once more heralding the ineffectiveness of the team's egalitarian approach. There is no superstar on this roster, and Andre Iguodala, the team's closest facsimile, is likely to opt out of his contract and hit free agency this summer.

Team president Josh Kroenke and GM Masai Ujiri have both expressed a desire for Iguodala to return, and re-signing him would appear to be the team's top priority if the Olympic gold medalist opts out. A new contract for Iggy would likely hamstring the team's financial flexibility from a cap standpoint, though the primary option for upgrading this roster would likely be a trade. The Carmelo Anthony deal, the  Nene/JaVale McGee swap and the Nuggets' participation in the Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum blockbuster that netted them Iguodala last summer represent three major trades in an 18-month span. Restraint isn't what put the Executive of the Year trophy in Ujiri's hands, and I wouldn't expect him to stand pat for long.

Danilo Gallinari's torn ACL could complicate matters. Gallinari is just 24 years old and on an affordable contract that will pay him $32.561MM over the next three seasons. He represents one of the team's best assets if Ujiri wants to make a deal. The same could be said for 25-year-old Ty Lawson, though the Nuggets just signed him to a four-year, $48MM extension that kicks in next season, and they seem to view him as a long-term building block.

A better option might be Wilson Chandler, who is due $20,273,739 through 2016, not too dire a price for someone who can play both forward positions and shot 41.3% from three-point range this season. Kosta Koufos has severely limited shooting range, but he makes just $3MM next season and next, with only $500K guaranteed in the final season of his contract. That, along with his size, rebounding and efficiency, could intrigue other teams. The Nuggets also have Kenneth Faried with two years left on his rookie deal, and while they'd be loath to part with a bargain like him, they might be willing to do so if they could make him part of a package for a superstar.

Chandler, Koufos and Faried might allow for decent return in a trade, but Denver probably isn't getting a marquee player unless they're willing to include Lawson or another team is willing to take on Gallinari as damaged goods. Ujiri could get creative and structure a sign-and-trade with Iguodala or Timofey Mozgov, but doing so would require the players' consent, which makes it tricky.

The Nuggets reportedly plan on extending a qualifying offer to Mozgov, though there's some doubt that they'd do so, since he could just accept it and make nearly $4MM next season as overpriced end-of-the-bench filler. The 7'1" center was a hot trade candidate at the deadline this season, so if the Nuggets float the offer and Mozgov doesn't bite, rival teams in need of size could be goaded into overpaying for Mozgov to scare the Nuggets off from matching. If Ujiri can negotiate a fairly priced multiyear deal for the Russian, he could be thrown into trade discussions again at next year's deadline.

The other notable free agent on the roster is Corey Brewer, who enjoyed a renaissance this season and drew high praise from George Karl. His poor outside shooting was exposed in the playoffs, however, and his 5-for-28 shooting in the final three games of the Warriors series may have cost him plenty of money. That could allow the Nuggets to pick him back up at a cheap price, although the team's subpar performance from behind the three-point line this season suggests they should go after someone with better touch. Denver was 20th in made three-pointers this season, and it's been known since March that the team will target sharpshooter Kyle Korver in free agency, likely with its mid-level exception. Korver will likely have plenty of suitors, but the Nuggets could look to other three-point gunners if they miss out on him.

Denver's 57 regular season wins were a franchise best, but NBA teams are measured on their success in the postseason. Anthony was around for many of the team's playoff failures, but he was also the centerpiece of the Nuggets' lone escape from the first round in recent memory, in 2009 when they went to the Western Conference Finals. That, coupled with this year's shortcomings, should be enough to persuade Ujiri to step up his pursuit of superstar talent, no matter how risky (Bynum) or unproven (DeMarcus Cousins) it may be.

Additional notes:

  • Mozgov's situation is unusual, since his cap hold is much greater than his $3,925,536 qualifying offer would be. He was undrafted, so he never signed a rookie-scale contract, and thus his cap hold is 190% of his salary from this season instead of the QO.
  • The Nuggets have already made one offseason decision, having kept Quincy Miller on the roster for more than seven days following their final game. That triggered his partial guarantee for next season.
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3 thoughts on “Offseason Outlook: Denver Nuggets

  1. Audiknight

    Why the hell is Wesley Person listed as being an FA that counts toward our cap? (didn’t he last play in like 2005?)

    • HoopsRumors

      His cap hold is still on the Nuggets’ books, but they’re not still paying him. If they want to clear cap space, they can renounce him at any time, but they haven’t been below the cap since he played, so it hasn’t been necessary so far.

      — Luke

  2. Doug Risch

    Karl needs to go upstairs or just hang it up. You cannot justify a team having been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round 9 out of 10 years especially a team that won 57 games. He did a good job during the season, but when it comes to the playoffs he too often is slow to adjust and gets out coached. They should not have lost to Golden State. Right now that team is playing way over its collective heads but I’ll be very surprised if S.A. doesn’t knock them out. Brewer disappeared in the playoffs and the need for three point shooters is great. Karl should develop the young talent he has for that which includes Fournier and Hamilton. Any defensive deficiencies they have can be learned. Much tougher to teach a guy to become a great shooter. Miller plays way too long and his age is beginning to show. He is,
    however Karl’s pet. Just another reason for George to hang it up.

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