The Nuggets will face a crucial decision with third-year center Nikola Jokic after this season, and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports examines the possibilities. Denver has a team option to keep Jokic for the minimum salary of a little more than $1.6MM next season, but that would make him an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. The Nuggets could choose to decline that option, making him a restricted free agent this summer with Denver being able to match any offers. Feldman estimates Jokic could get about $109MM [about $27MM annually] over four years in restricted free agency or $146MM over five years [about $29MM annually] in an offer from the Nuggets.
There are benefits to keeping Jokic on a minimum salary for another year with more than $110MM already committed for 12 players next season. Giving Jokic a max deal for 2018/19 could put the team so far into the luxury tax that it couldn’t escape by trading Kenneth Faried or Mason Plumlee. Opt-out decisions by Wilson Chandler [more than $12.8MM for next season] or Darrell Arthur [nearly $7.5MM] could help ease the tax burden, but neither is certain to do that.
There’s more today out of Denver:
- After being slowed by illness for much of the season, Juan Hernangomez is healthy and ready to contribute, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. The second-year center contracted mononucleosis in October and was available for just two of the season’s first 12 games. He was sidelined by the flu in late December and has appeared in only 18 games so far. “I said to Coach [Michael Malone], ‘I’m ready if you need me,’” Hernangomez said. “I don’t say ‘I need to play.’ Of course I want to play. But I don’t [put] pressure on him, because he’s the coach and he makes the decisions. I just tell him I’m ready, in any case, and I’m ready to bring my energy.”
- The Nuggets need to admit Emmanuel Mudiay was a failed draft pick and find a veteran to help them reach the playoffs, contends Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. The seventh pick in the 2015 draft, Mudiay has struggled with his shot since coming to Denver. Kizsla suggests Sacramento’s George Hill as an option, although the Kings would have to be persuaded to take Faried’s contract in return, or possibly Orlando’s D.J. Augustin as a lower-cost option.
- Jusuf Nurkic made his first trip back to Denver this week since being traded to Portland last year and wasn’t eager to reminisce, Mizell writes in a separate story. Nurkic said he has “no relationship” with Malone. “Everybody knows why we didn’t work [in Denver],” Nurkic said. “To be honest, I’m happy I’m here. The story’s over. I have a new story, and I’m really excited where I am.”