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5 free agents the Nuggets should pursue this summer

Harrison Wind Avatar
May 31, 2016


Over the past three years, general manager Tim Connelly has responsibly handled the Nuggets salary cap. He’s balanced good market value contracts for quality starters with an exciting group of young players on rookie scale deals. Connelly has kept anywhere from $20-$37 million in cap room available for this summer, which means the Nuggets should be active come free agency.

While it’s unlikely a top-tiered free agent would consider taking his talents to Denver this year, or that the Nuggets would pursue a max-level guy, nor should they, there’s still money to spend. Connelly has gone on record saying how much Denver values continuity and how he personally thinks it’s “one of the most underrated aspects of the NBA.”

With that being said, here are five free agents and a couple other names the Nuggets should consider pursuing if they’re committed to keeping the continuity which they’ve built up over the past couple of years going.


Allen Crabbe, Restricted Free Agent, Portland Trail Blazers

Crabbe has led my list of free agent targets the Nuggets should pursue for much of this season. The 24-year-old took a huge step forward this year, averaging 10.3 points after scoring just 3.3 per game in 2014-15. His ability to stretch the defense from the 3-point line would give Denver another threat off the bench from deep and would help the Nuggets second unit drastically. Portland wants to hold onto Crabbe, and while he likely upped his profile during the playoffs when he shot 42.9 percent from 3-point land, he could still be gettable this summer.

Portland has an interesting offseason ahead. They may have as much as $40 million available to spend and could be a major player in the max level free agent market if they want to be. Dwight Howard and Al Horford are two centers, who combined with the Blazers’ dynamic backcourt, could move Portland up a tier in the West. It’s not all roses in Portland, though. The Blazers have a slew of their own free agents to worry about, including Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless who will all be looking for long-term deals. Gerald Henderson, who’s already in Portland, would be a cheaper, but elder option to replace Crabbe and C.J. McCollum is also eligible for an extension this summer. Whew! That’s a lot on general manager Neil Olshey’s plate, especially after the Blazers over-performed this year and expectations to improve on last year’s record will be heavy in 2017. It’s going to be tough to pry Crabbe out of Portland, but if he’s available the Nuggets shouldn’t be afraid to throw big money at the sweet-shooting wing. Crabbe may look for something in the 4 years, $60 million range this summer.

Allen Crabbe would elevate Denver's 3-point shooting to new heights. Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY Sports
Allen Crabbe would elevate Denver’s 3-point shooting to new heights.
Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY Sports

Marvin Williams, Restricted Free Agent, Charlotte Hornets

A stretch four, who’s also a solid defender? Check. Versatile enough to fit with a number of small-ball lineup combinations? Check. Williams is another restricted free agent who would fill a glaring need for Denver. He’s a new-breed four-man who blossomed this year in Charlotte, as he shot a career-best 40.2 percent from deep and averaged 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s not the flashiest guy on the free agent market but his production speaks for itself and he was one of the driving forces behind the Hornet’s resurgence this season. Williams could start at the four or come off the bench with the Nuggets and would be a nice compliment to Nikola Jokic and Danilo Gallinari in the Denver frontcourt.

Like Portland, Charlotte will also be busy this summer. Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum are both unrestricted free agents, the latter of which will reportedly re-sign in Charlotte. Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin will command substantial financial commitments on the open market as well and I’d think the Hornets will want to bring at least one of them back. Williams is 29-years-old and doesn’t exactly fit the timeline of Denver’s core, but like Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Darrell Arthur, could be part of the bridge that takes this team from the lottery to playoffs.

Jared Dudley, Unrestricted Free Agent, Washington Wizards

Dudley might seem redundant with both Gallinari and Chandler set to be at full health when the 2017 season begins, but another plus shooting swingman who can slide down to the four spot wouldn’t hurt, especially with the Nuggets injury history on the wing. Dudley, who played almost exclusively at the four last season in Washington, had an up and down year on a Wizards squad who tried to adapt in one offseason to the NBA’s small ball movement but didn’t exactly have the personnel to play it effectively. The 30-year-old can still hit from deep, can hold his own on the defensive end and would be a good locker room guy in Denver.

The Nuggets are in an interesting spot this summer where they have max-level cap space, but probably aren’t looking to enter the max free agent market and still have to reach the salary floor. That’s exactly why these middling free agents would be ideal for Denver. In Dudley, you could offer a one-year deal around $10 million, give or take, to get up to the salary floor, while not burning their money long term. It’s an interesting strategy that I think you could see a number of teams deploy, especially if they need to reach the floor but want to keep their books clean for max level room in the summer of 2017. The Cavs were interested in Dudley last season and he may look to hitch a ride with a contender, but the situation in Denver could interest the veteran wing.

Dudley's high basketball IQ and locker room presence would be a solid addition to the Nuggets. Credit: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports
Dudley’s high basketball IQ and locker room presence would be a solid addition to the Nuggets.
Credit: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports

Pau Gasol, Unrestricted Free Agent, Chicago Bulls

If the Nuggets are insistent on making the playoffs next year and want to briefly abandon the continuity they’ve built, Gasol would be an intriguing name to target. He could turn the Nuggets into a top-15 offense and his vision would give Denver another instinctive passer to go along with Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay. The 35-year-old’s basketball IQ would also raise Mudiay, Jokic, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Jusuf Nurkic‘s on-court intelligence and potentially speed up their maturity as well.

Gasol hasn’t let a lot slip about his impending free agency. He did state that the Spurs would be “interesting option” and odds are he won’t be back in Chicago. If he winds up in San Antonio it would likely be on a short-term deal and he could sign a similar contract in Denver as I referenced with Dudley and help the Nuggets get up to the salary floor on a one-plus-one deal. He’s on the downside of his career and may wind up chasing a championship, but make no mistake, Gasol is still productive. He averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds for the Bulls last season in nearly 32 minutes per game. Gasol can still operate effectively out of the high post and low block, and shot 45.9 percent from mid-range last season, per NBA.com. He’d do wonders for the Nuggets offense.

Darrell Arthur, Unrestricted Free Agent, Denver Nuggets

Oh hey, almost forgot about this guy. Arthur has a player option for $2.94 million which he has to decide on and most likely will decline by June 22. He’s expressed a desire to stay in Denver, even asking not to be traded at this season’s deadline, and will be in search of a multi-year deal that gives him some security. The Nuggets should pay the man.

Arthur was the Nuggets’ rock last season. He was the frontcourt player that coach Michael Malone enlisted the most trust in and continually closed games ahead of Jokic, Kenneth Faried, and others as Denver was roughly eight points better per 100 possessions defensively with Arthur on the floor. The 28-year-old also hit on a career-best 38.5 percent of his 3-point attempts and shot a healthy 44.4 percent from mid-range, per NBA.com The Nuggets might have to give Arthur something in the neighborhood of 3 years, $20 million, but it would be money well spent.

Arthur rediscovered his stroke from deep this year and proved his value to the Nuggets on the defensive end. Credit: Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY Sports
Arthur rediscovered his stroke from deep this year and proved his value to the Nuggets on the defensive end.
Credit: Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY Sports

Honorable Mention

Dwight Powell, Restricted Free Agent, Dallas Mavericks

Trevor Booker, Unrestricted Free Agent, Utah Jazz

Jon Leuer, Unrestricted Free Agent, Phoenix Suns



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