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The Nuggets may be watching the playoffs from the comfort of their homes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their eyes on some of the players still competing for the ultimate prize. Here are five players — who will be free agents after the season — they should be watching very closely. All would look good in powder blue and gold next year.
1. Monta Ellis – Player Option
Known for his ability to create offense, Ellis could fit in nicely with the Nuggets’ desire to return to a faster pace, but could also help them execute more crisply in the halfcourt. With the disappointing Gary Harris and unspectacular Randy Foye as the only two shooting guards on the roster, the Nuggets could definitely use an upgrade at this position. Ellis would have to opt out of his contract in Dallas, which is by no means a sure thing, but given the state of affairs right now, nothing is impossible.
2. Khris Middleton – Restricted
Middleton has made himself quite a bit of money with his performance over the latter half of the season and in the playoffs. He is no longer capable of being acquired at a bargain-bin price tag, but he may be the best shooter available on the market, and the Nuggets should place a high premium on that skill-set moving into the offseason. He would immediately spread the floor, further opening up their inside-out game.
3. Wesley Matthews – Unrestricted
This might be cheating a little bit since Matthews isn’t actually playing in the playoffs, but his team is, so there’s that. Matthews went down earlier this season with a season-ending achilles tear. Before that he was well on his way to a massive payday in free agency. Nobody really knows what to expect from Matthews upon his return, but taking a risk on signing him to a reasonable contract could be worth it if he comes close to his former level of play. Much like Middleton, he would open up the floor for his teammates, and adding another legitimate outside threat is something the Nuggets will definitely be interested in.
4. Robin Lopez – Unrestricted
Lopez is an energy guy who works hard and doesn’t expect many touches. He may be a bit redundant with Faried on the floor, but I’m also not convinced Faried will be a Nugget this upcoming season. Even with both of them on the roster, Lopez would make a lot of sense in lineups with Gallo or Chandler at the four, or paired with Nurkic for a “twin towers” look. He is someone that isn’t great in one area, but somehow makes those around him better. He would be a definite upgrade over Hickson as a backup big.
5. Marco Belinelli – Unrestricted
I have always thought Belinelli could start on the majority of teams in the league, including the Nuggets. He is not very athletic, but is an extremely good shooter, handles the ball well and makes good decisions. Pairing him with Chandler and Gallo would create matchup nightmares for most teams, but bringing him off the bench could also help anchor the second unit and give them a true outside scoring threat that they lacked from their bench this season.