Denver Nuggets: Offseason lessons from the Suns series

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Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets walks off the court after action against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference second-round playoff series. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets walks off the court after action against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference second-round playoff series. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Denver Nuggets offseason lessons: Jamal Murray’s health

This one is an obvious one and one that’s hard to fix without simply waiting. By hard to fix, I mean it can only be fixed by the passing of time.

Jamal Murray’s torn ACL will leave him sidelined for most of the 2021-22 NBA season and the Denver Nuggets will have to look for a short-term replacement for early in the season. This incoming player will also have to be content coming off the bench for the playoffs as Jamal will likely be back in the lineup and better than the replacement.

Given Denver’s salary situation, they will be looking to find his replacement on the cheap, either at the minimum or slightly above.

Some of the names on this list aren’t too bad and you could envision the player coming in, being a lesser-quality starter early in the season and then one of the better guys off the bench later.

The first player to mention should be Austin Rivers. He was the best available player on the free agency market when Jamal went down and it was a perfect marriage between the two, one needing a team and the other needing a scoring guard.

Rivers likely has the inside track here since his contract would again be at the minimum and he’s already familiar with the Nuggets’ offensive sets, even exceeding in the Portland series.

But he was the best guy available but more importantly, the only guy available. How does he stack up against some of the other names like Avery Bradley, Bryn Forbes, Reggie Jackson, or Reggie Bullock? These names are clearly more secondary guys, but could all be greater fits than Rivers.

It’s hard to find a better solution without the money to throw at these players, but an interesting name on the market for a free agent is Victor Oladipo. His stock has taken a few hits this season after struggling in Indiana, underperforming in Houston, and rarely touching the court in Miami.

If he wanted to sign a one-year, make-good contract to show he still has ‘it’, then Denver is the winningest team out there with the largest role to offer. He’d have to take a lot less money than what he’d imagined last year after turning down an extension from the Pacers starting at $25 million per season.

Whichever way Denver goes, they need a replacement at this spot in the rotation and they don’t have many tools at their disposal to get it done. They can offer a minimum contract and plenty of minutes for a winning franchise, who wants it?

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