The Denver Nuggets were eliminated in the first round this season, getting swept by the Golden State Warriors. However, there's no doubt that they are in a good position to be contenders going forward.
Superstar Nikola Jokic plans to extend with the team, and it seems as though the Denver Nuggets will have their core locked in for the foreseeable future. Perhaps we'll see them get to the Finals at some point within the next few years.
The Denver Nuggets do have to make some decisions on whether they want to retain certain rotational players this offseason. It is likely that no big moves are made, as the Denver Nuggets will be adding two stars, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to the squad for next season.
In this article, we will examine the status of each Denver Nuggets player for the 2022-23 season, and comment on what each player can provide for the team next season, and what the Nuggets should do regarding those players.
Nikola Jokic - $33.6 Million
Entering 5th Season Of A 5-Year $147.7 Million Max Contract: (2022-23: $33.6 Million)
Nikola Jokic is obviously the face of the Denver Nuggets, and the back-to-back MVP of the NBA. He averaged 27.1 PPG, 13.7 RPG, and 7.9 APG in the regular season, and he managed to lead the Denver Nuggets to the 6th seed, despite co-stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. both missing for the majority of the season.
While the 2022-23 season will be the last year of Nikola Jokic's current contract with the Denver Nuggets, he will reportedly sign a $260 million supermax contract extension when it is offered by the Denver Nuggets this summer.
After Jokic publicly stated his desire to sign the extension late last month, sources say the 27-year-old has reiterated his long-term commitment to the franchise this week and made clear his belief in the organization’s future in the wake of Connelly’s exit. Multiple sources tell The Athletic that when the Nuggets offer Jokic the five-year, $260 million supermax deal in July, the All-NBA center plans to sign the contract.
There is no doubt that offering Nikola Jokic the supermax should be a no-brainer for the Denver Nuggets. A team generally needs superstars to win championships and Nikola Jokic is one of the best superstars in the game. He is widely considered the best passing big man ever, and he is a one-man offensive powerhouse. The Denver Nuggets had the No. 6 offensive rating in the league this regular season, despite Nikola Jokic being the lone star on the roster.
The Denver Nuggets could potentially be a dangerous team with everyone healthy, and Nikola Jokic leading the charge. They have a good amount of players locked in already, and the key will be improving the depth on the roster.
Jamal Murray - $31.7 Million
Entering 3rd Year Of 5-Year, $172.6 Million Rookie Max Contract Extension: (2022-23: $31.7 Million, 2023-24: $33.8 Million, 2024-25: $36.0 Million)
Jamal Murray missed the entire 2021-22 season with an ACL injury, but he should be healthy for the 2022-23 season. Jamal Murray will likely be the No. 2 offensive option on the Denver Nuggets, and it was blatantly clear that the Denver Nuggets missed his shotmaking in this year's playoffs. Jamal Murray is a shifty guard that can score on all three levels, and hopefully, we see him shine in the upcoming season. He is also fairly solid defensively as far as guarding on the perimeter goes. During the 2020-21 season, Jamal Murray averaged 21.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 4.8 APG, while shooting 40.8% from beyond the arc.
The Denver Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals during the 2019-20 season with a healthy Jamal Murray. The Denver Nuggets need him to get back to playing at an All-Star level to get deep in the playoffs. Murray being back will certainly relieve some of the pressure on Nikola Jokic offensively, and hopefully, he hits the ground running.
There is definitely some concern about what Jamal Murray will look like after his ACL injury. However, sports medicine is extremely developed these days, and we have seen players like Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant come back and perform at a high level after serious injuries. Perhaps we will see Jamal Murray do the same next season, and if he produces at a high level, he is definitely worth the max contract that he's on.
Michael Porter Jr. - $29.8 Million
Entering 1st Year Of 5-Year, $172.6 Million Rookie Max Contract Extension: (2022-23: $29.8 Million, 2023-24: $32.1 Million, 2024-25: $34.5 Million, 2025-26: $36.9 Million, 2026-27: $32.9 Million)
Michael Porter Jr. is a player that has had a lot of injuries in his young career already. However, he has shown a lot of potential when healthy, and he could be a deadly wing player in the future if he develops properly. During his last healthy season in 2020-21, he averaged 19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 1.1 APG, while shooting 54.2% from the field and 44.5% from the 3PT range. Those splits are obviously insane, and while it is unlikely that he'll always be that efficient, it was certainly a fantastic season.
The Denver Nuggets will need Michael Porter Jr. to continue providing offense for them as a No. 3 option primarily, but it is possible that he'll have to step into the No. 2 role on some nights. He will also need to develop his shot creation as a whole to improve as a player, as there will be times when he will need to get his own shot and score 1 on 1. An astounding 79.2% of his made field goals were assisted during the 2020-21 season. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, self-creation will be the next step in his development.
Michael Porter Jr. is crucial to good the Denver Nuggets team can be, and how long their window of contention lasts. It is fair to speculate about his injury history, and whether he can stay healthy. If he can't stay healthy, then his contract will quickly become a bad contract. But if he can stay healthy and develop into that shot-creating wing, then the Denver Nuggets will be a powerhouse for years to come.
Aaron Gordon - $19.7 Million
Entering 1st Year Of 4-Year $86.6 Million Extension: (2022-23: $19.7 Million, 2023-24: $21.3 Million, 2024-25: $22.8 Million, 2025-26: $22.8 Million (Player Option))
Aaron Gordon has had a fairly productive season with the Denver Nuggets this year, being a fantastic two-way presence. He is capable of guarding the opponent's best player, while also playing well off of Nikola Jokic's playmaking as a supplementary offensive player. Aaron Gordon's athleticism will give the Denver Nuggets a different dynamic offensively, due to his ability to finish at the rim.
The Denver Nuggets locked Aaron Gordon to a new extension after trading for him, and that decision could prove prudent in the future. He should be perfect as the primary defensive player on the team and the 4th option offensively. A lesser offensive load will help mask his limitations on that end of the floor. He looks to be part of their primary core going forward.
Will Barton - $14.4 Million
Entering 2nd Year Of A 2-Year $30.0 Million Contract: (2022-23: $14.4 Million)
Will Barton is a player that fills a 3 and D role. He spaces the floor well, rebounds hard for a wing player, and plays perimeter defense. While he had to take on a higher offensive load as well as increased shot creation duties this season, Will Barton will generally be 4th or 5th in the offensive pecking order when the Denver Nuggets get fully healthy.
There's no doubt that Will Barton will be perfect for the Denver Nuggets in a smaller role. It is possible that he ends up getting traded due to him being an expiring contract, but we could also see the Denver Nuggets retain him and try to re-sign him at the end of the season.
Monte Morris - $9.1 Million
Entering 2nd Year Of A 3-Year $27.8 Million Contract: (2022-23: $9.1 Million, 2023-24: $9.8 Million)
Monte Morris was the starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets this season, but he will likely shift into a backup role next season. However, he was solid enough as a starter, averaging 12.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 4.4 APG this season, while shooting 39.5% from the 3PT range.
Next season, he and Bones Hyland will comprise the backcourt off the bench, and that's a potent duo to have as rotational players. Though Monte Morris could interest some teams due to his shooting, the best move for the Denver Nuggets would be to keep him and play him in his natural backup guard role, as depth is important in winning championships.
Jeff Green - $4.5 Million (Player Option)
Jeff Green is a solid forward who has been a key part of many playoff teams. He is a multi-positional defender who can also space the floor, and is also a decent enough finisher at the rim. While he shouldn't be relied on offensively, there are games where he can help the team with two-way play in limited minutes.
Aside from his 3PT shooting, Jeff Green had a solid year with the Denver Nuggets. It remains to be seen if he will decline his player option to get a contract elsewhere. Due to his age, it is quite likely that he would prefer to go to a contender. The Denver Nuggets are a contender next season, so it would make sense for him to stay there, but other options could be equally as appealing.
Bones Hyland - $2.1 Million
Entering 2nd Year Of 4-Year $10.8 Million Rookie-Scale Contract: (2022-23: $2.2 Million, 2023-24: $2.3 Million (Team Option), 2024-25: $4.2 Million (Team Option))
Bones Hyland was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the 2021 NBA Draft, and there's no question that he's had a promising start to his career, making the All-Rookie second team this past year. He is a shifty guard who is already a solid shooter at the NBA level. Perhaps he can develop into a sixth-man type of player, and maybe even start in the distant future.
Having a cost-controlled rookie with promising potential is a boon when a team is a contender. The Denver Nuggets are known for drafting well, and Bones Hyland is a prime example of that, as he is already a solid role player despite being picked at the end of the first round, at No. 26. It seems unlikely for the Denver Nuggets to move Hyland, and we'll see just how good he can become.
DeMarcus Cousins - Unrestricted Free Agent
DeMarcus Cousins is obviously not the star he once was, but he has reinvented himself as a solid backup big man. He posted up solid averages during the playoffs for the team, averaging 10.6 PPG and 3.4 RPG while shooting 65.5% from the field. He was a veteran minimum signing.
If he is willing to stay with the team on a reasonable contract, DeMarcus Cousins should absolutely be retained by the Denver Nuggets. He is the perfect backup to Nikola Jokic, and he has experience running Mike Malone's system already, having been coached by Malone during his time on the Sacramento Kings. Hopefully, we see him return to the team.
JaMychal Green - $8.2 Million (Player Option)
JaMychal Green is a player that is traditionally viewed as a 3 and D forward, but he was poor from range this past regular season, only shooting 26.6% from beyond the arc. However, he is still able to guard multiple positions, which means he still has value in certain situations.
It is quite likely that we see JaMychal Green accept his player option for next season, as he is unlikely to get more than $8.2 Million on the open market. It would make sense for him to try and play up his value next year, and aim for a good deal in 2023 free agency.
Austin Rivers - Unrestricted Free Agent
Austin Rivers is known for being a solid veteran that has had a lot of experience in the league and has been part of multiple playoff teams. His primary value is perimeter defense on guards, and he is a passable shooter from range.
There's no doubt that Austin Rivers will have a variety of teams to choose from in free agency, as a lot of teams would like to have him on a low-value contract. The Denver Nuggets would still have a decent number of guards under contract if they let him go, but keeping a veteran guard like him for what he provides in the playoffs is important.
Facundo Campazzo - $4.0 Million (Qualifying Offer)
Facundo Campazzo is a solid end of the rotation guard. While Campazzo is undersized, he is a capable passer and ballhandler, as well as a pest defensively against opposing guards. He isn't exactly an efficient scorer, but his other skills make him a positive factor in his limited minutes.
If the Denver Nuggets are able to get back Facundo Campazzo back either on his qualifying offer or a small contract, then they should absolutely do so. Campazzo would definitely be a solid performer in a spot minutes role, and on that sort of contract, that's all one can ask for.
Bryn Forbes - Unrestricted Free Agent
Bryn Forbes' best skill is shooting the ball from distance, and there's no question that he does it well. Bryn Forbes is a career 41.3% 3PT shooter during the regular season, and he shot 41% from the 3PT range with the Denver Nuggets.
Retaining Bryn Forbes on a reasonable contract would be a good idea for the Denver Nuggets, as a team can never have too much shooting on a roster. The Denver Nuggets do have other elite shooters on the roster though, so perhaps they will end up letting Bryn Forbes leave.
Zeke Nnaji - $2.6 Million
Entering 3rd Year Of A 4-Year $11.8 Million Rookie-Scale Contract (2022-23: $2.6 Million, 2023-24: $4.3 Million)
Zeke Nnaji was drafted in the 2020 NBA Draft with the No. 22 pick. He has become a solid rotational power forward for the Denver Nuggets, and he has shown flashes of his athleticism and rebounding ability.
There is no reason for the Denver Nuggets to move on from Zeke Nnaji. The team has already exercised his player option, and he is a great prospect to have as a rotational option.
Davon Reed - $1.6 Million (Qualifying Offer)
Davon Reed is a player that has bounced around the league but he is a decent enough end-of-bench wing option that can fill the 3 and D role. He hasn't been bad in the minutes that he's gotten.
The Denver Nuggets already have a variety of wing players on the roster, so we'll see what they end up doing. It's hard to see them decide to retain Reed, but having more wing options on the roster won't be the worst thing in the world.
Markus Howard - $1.8 Million (Qualifying Offer)
Markus Howard is a player that barely played for the Denver Nuggets this past regular season, only tallying 5.7 MPG last season. He did get extra minutes in the playoffs though, where he shot a respectable 42.3% from beyond the arc.
It is hard to see the Denver Nuggets retaining Markus Howard, as they already have a lot of solid rotational guards on the roster, and Howard being undersized isn't ideal either. However, perhaps he'll get another opportunity elsewhere due to what he was able to show last season.
Vlatko Cancar - $2.2 Million (Qualifying Offer)
Vlatko Cancar is an end-of-the-bench big man that simply plays rotational minutes in blowouts. He is solid at what he does, but it is unlikely that he will get more minutes on the Denver Nuggets going forward.
The Denver Nuggets could in theory offer him a qualifying offer, but it seems unlikely that they will retain him. Promising big man Zeke Nnaji is already on the roster, and if they re-sign DeMarcus Cousins, that leaves even fewer minutes for Cancar.
The Denver Nuggets Should Run It Back With A Few Changes
The Denver Nuggets made it to the playoffs as the 6th seed in the Western Conference this year, all without Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray. They have quality role players, and those players will be playing their natural roles next season when the Nuggets' stars are back, instead of being asked to play expanded roles like they were this season. Running it back with a few minor changes could be the recipe for success when it comes to the Denver Nuggets, especially since they don't really need to add more top-tier talent to their roster.
There is no question that the Denver Nuggets seem like a team that could end up competing for the championship next season. They have a superstar, supporting star-level players, and good role players who know how to fill their roles. The Nuggets are clearly a top-tier squad when healthy, but they have to remain healthy by the time the playoffs roll around if they are to be the squad that many expect them to be.
All salary data is sourced from Spotrac.com