Denver Nuggets offseason lessons: Who’s the primary guard defender?
Giving up Gary Harris in the Aaron Gordon trade both helps and hurts the team. Yes, they got Gordon who helped them on both sides, but Gordon is best guarding big wings and forwards while Harris was better on smaller guards.
This was exposed in the entire playoff run with both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum getting whatever they wanted for most of the six games and then Chris Paul toying with the Nuggets defenders in the second round.
In Game 2 of the second round, CP3 had 17 points, 15 assists, and no turnovers. He wasn’t afraid of Denver’s defenders and licked his lips every time a big tried to switch onto him.
Denver was hedging hard on Devin Booker’s pick-and-roll action which was smart considering how hot he was in their first-round matchup against the LA Lakers but it didn’t go great this series. Each time Jokic neutered Booker’s possible shot, he had to sprint back to the rolling Deandre Ayton who had a clear pathway to the rim.
Why did he have such a clear pathway to the rim? Well, the other big defender, usually Aaron Gordon, was too worried about Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, or Jae Crowder shooting in the corner, so he couldn’t help too hard.
If the Denver Nuggets are aiming to win an NBA championship, there will be plenty more skilled guards out there and it’s easier to ask a solid defender to stick to their man than rotate the defense hard on the very first action.
Luckily for Denver, they’re already in the market for a guard to replace Jamal Murray. I love the fit of Avery Bradley here. He has a $5.9 million Team Option for next season with the Houston Rockets so it’s up to Houston as to whether he becomes a free agent, but even as a trade target, AB has no role in the Rockets’ future.
By no means is Bradley one of the best guard defenders out there but for the market Denver will be in, he’s an incredible fit and could be a starting guard on opening night and play behind or next to Jamal when he returns.
If Avery gets around the initial Ayton screen and bothers Booker from behind, Jokic can continue to sit at the free throw line, tag Ayton rolling, and watch the guard matchup from afar.
At age-30, Bradley probably isn’t the long-term solution but the following offseason, Will Barton’s $14.9 million will be off the books (assuming he picks up his Player Option this offseason) and then Denver can look for an established 3-and-D wing in free agency.
I’ve also broken down how free agent wing Kelly Oubre Jr would fit with this Denver Nuggets team but that’s more than a simple signing and requires parting ways with Barton.