For the first time in a long time, morale surrounding the Denver Nuggets is positive. They have found their superstar in Nikola Jokic and have a strong supporting cast around him led by Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.
In fact, Tim Connelly has even said that he’s hearing from agents of players who are interested in coming to Denver to play alongside Jokic.
With Danilo Gallinari opting out of his player option and plenty of team-friendly contracts throughout the roster, the Nuggets now have the ability to make a splash in free agency. The Nuggets will be able to afford a max-contract player this offseason to add to an already promising team.
Here’s a look at four players the Nuggets could and should target with all that available money…
2016-17 Salary: $20.072 million
In terms of fit and skill, Millsap may be the best option this offseason. The 6-foot-8 power forward would slide into the starting lineup and offer the Nuggets a two-way player to improve both ends of the floor. Millsap also lends a veteran presence that can greatly benefit the youthful Nuggets’ roster. He turned 32 in February and has 11 years of NBA experience. Millsap scored at the highest rate of his career last season, registering 18.1 points per game while shooting over 44 percent from the field. The Nuggets have been coveting Millsap for over a year, and there is no better time than now to get their guy.
2016-17 Salary: $5.893 million
The third overall pick in 2013, Porter has improved in each of his four NBA seasons. Last year, Porter set career-highs in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and field goal percentage. More than anything else, Porter would improve one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season. Porter ranked seventh among all small forwards in real plus minus. For a team in desperate need of defensive help, this metric is invaluable. At just 24 years of age, Porter has yet to enter his prime, and the Nuggets could scoop him up before he does so. Washington is expected to offer him a max contract in July, so the Nuggets might have to get creative to make this one happen.
2016-17 Salary: $11.286 million
Despite his showing improvement down the stretch last year, the Nuggets may not be committed to Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard. Holiday, still just 27 years old, has ample NBA experience after entering the league in 2009. Health is a concern with Holiday, but his production on the court is undeniable. In his eight-year career, Holiday has averaged 14.3 points and 6.2 assists per game. A Holiday signing would add even more depth to the Nuggets and allow the team to have options off the bench.
2016-17 Salary: $16.073 million
Hayward has no ties to the Nuggets, and getting him to the Mile High City might be a long shot, but his addition would make Denver one of the best teams in the Western Conference. As Gallinari’s replacement, Hayward would give the Nuggets a more prolific scorer with far less mileage and more efficient numbers. Looking at Hayward’s career trajectory, his growth figures to continue. He still has to opt out of his deal with Utah, and there will be countless suitors if and when he does. Though unlikely, this move would put Denver in the upper echelon of NBA talent.