Nuggets

Nuggets’ Title Window Exists Now More Than Ever

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The Denver Nuggets have entered a new phase in the Nikola Jokić era.

The 7’0″ Serbian maestro is coming off his second-consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award, and with his prime years ahead of him, time is of the essence to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to Colorado.

With former lead executive Tim Connelly taking a massive front-office offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves, all eyes are on former 1999 second-round pick and newly named President of Basketball Operations, Calvin Booth.

The 48-34 Nuggets battled through an arduous 2021-2022 season where the squad was without two of their most prolific scorers in Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray. Even with all the adversity thrown at them this season, Denver finished the regular season with the No. 6 seed in the West. That first-round matchup against the now Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors would end up being the kiss of death in a 4-1 first-round loss.

With all this being said, one question still looms over Nuggets faithful heading into one of if not the most-important offseasons in the history of the franchise– what can they do to make sure they have done everything to put every necessary piece around the two-time reigning league MVP?

Is it Officially Time to Move on from Barton?

Nuggets fans either love or dislike Will the Thrill, but it is no secret his name will consistently come up during the offseason as a name to watch on the open market. Barton signed a two-year, $30 million contract before the 2021-22 season, and he is on his way toward earning $14,375,000 in 2022-23.

In 71 games played:

  • 14.7 PPG
  • 4.8 RPG
  • 3.9 APG
  • 43.8 FG% on 12.6 attempts/game
  • 36.5 3P% on 6.1 attempts/game

Barton of course has the ability to score and facilitate at a high level, but it’s yet to be seen whether he can be a viable and dependable second option to Jokić when players like Murray and Porter are not on the floor.

With the Nuggets thrown an injury curveball this season, this was the opportunity for Barton to step up on and off the floor. Has he done enough to keep his spot on a guard-heavy roster?

That remains to be answered.

Can a Fully Healthy Big 3 Win it All?

Think back to the NBA bubble just two years ago. A brilliant and magical preview of what this hungry Denver team can be.

Let’s not forget that when this trio was all together against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz, they were an absolute nightmare.

The Mile High Trio’s Previous Season Averages:

  • Nikola Jokić 2021-22: 27.1 PTS, 13.8 REB, 7.9 AST
  • Jamal Murray 2020-21: 21.2 PTS, 4.0 REB, 4.8 AST
  • Michael Porter Jr. 2020-21: 19.0 PTS, 7.3 REB, 1.1 AST

The numbers simply do not lie. When all three are at full health and attacking at a high level, they morph into one of the best scoring tandems in the league. It has been a long time since Nuggets fans have seen their core healthy and the future is looking very intriguing coming into the 2022-23 season.

Booth has a heck of job ahead of him this summer, and surrounding these players with every bit of talent, physicality and scoring will be of the utmost importance.

What is the Rippling Effect of the Green Deal?

On June 13th, Denver began the offseason sweepstakes with a salary dump, sending JaMychal Green to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 30th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Trade Details

  • Nuggets Receive: Pick No. 30 and two future second-round picks
  • Thunder Receive: Green and a protected 2027 first-round pick

While Oklahoma City adds yet another pick to their treasure trove of assets over the next decade, the Nuggets now have more flexibility financially to hit the market with aggression. Not only do they move Green’s expensive contract, they also move on from a player that over the last couple of years has not lived up to the hype of being the next Jerami Grant for the Nuggets.

Multiple scenarios are now in play for Booth heading into draft time. Do you use those two picks to acquire high-level talent in a stacked first round, or do you attach them to a Barton or someone else to pick up a big-name player to further enhance the roster heading into 2022-23?

What 2022 Draft Prospects are a Dynamic Fit with Picks 21 and 30?

Christian Braun – Guard/Forward – Kansas

  • A long 6’7″ wing who has a multifaceted game.
  • Averaged 14.1 PTS, 6.5 REB, and 2.8 AST on a championship team.
  • An All-Big 12 Second-Team member whose draft stock has late first-round appeal.
  • A smart and willing passer with a high-level IQ.
  • An aggressive attacker who can raise up with a high release point.

Ochai Agbaji – Guard – Kansas

  • An automatic selection if available at No. 21 
  • The senior Big 12 Player of the Year led the National-Champion Jayhawks in scoring with 18.8 PPG.
  • The exact kind of physical 3-and-D option that Denver so desperately needs at the wing position. 
  • A staggering 40.7% 3PT this past season makes him one of the most coveted shooters and scorers in the Draft.

Christian Koloko – Center – Arizona

  • With the contract situations of Demarcus Cousins in question, Koloko looks to have major upside.
  • An agile and mobile big man who brings a sense of tenacity on the court. 
  • A talented low-post scorer with the ability to run the floor and create off the dribble at the top of the key.
  • His 7’1″ frame gives him the elite abilities to rebound and block shots at a high elevation point averaging 2.8 blocks a season ago. 

David Roddy – Forward – Colorado State

  • A potential match made in heaven with the local basketball star.
  • The figure and frame of a scrappy and skillful forward who can do literally everything.
  • Can be a facilitating point forward as soon he crosses half court. 
  • Brings an uncanny and unique 6’6″ bulky frame.
  • Increased his 3P% from 27.8% in ’20-21 to an eye-popping 43.8% this past season.

With only a little over a week until the 2022 NBA Draft, the clock is ticking to see what Denver will do with their two first-round draft picks and other assets.

One things is certainly clear– the Denver front office is all in on putting the right pieces together to win now. The Western Conference is becoming more and more formidable heading into next season, and the Nuggets will look to climb back to the upper echelon.

About Sam Stern

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