As the NBA offseason comes to the end and with training camp just around the corner, it is likely the Denver Nuggets are done making any significant changes to the roster.
This offseason for Denver was filled with change and excitement that really makes the Denver Nuggets true title contenders going into next season. But when it comes to the Nuggets’ offseason moves so far, there has been some real willingness to put this team in the best spot possible to win big, as this is possibly the best roster the Nuggets have had during the Nikola Jokic era.
To give a little bit of a recap of what Denver did this offseason, they added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown, and DeAndre Jordon via free agency or trades. As well as Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Ismael Kamagate through the 2022 NBA Draft.
Here is a look at some key areas that the Nuggets needed to fill this offseason.
1) Perimiter Defense
Probably the biggest need for Denver going into this offseason was finding some way to make their perimeter defense better. When the Nuggets acquired KCP, they added a really good compliment to the rest of the starting lineup, as KCP is a great two-way player.
Former head coach, Frank Vogel, had high praise for KCP during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021, when the lakers had the top-ranked defense in the NBA.
Of course, there was more than just KCP that helped out with that, as current Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso had gotten a lot of praise for being one of the best perimeter defensive guards in all of the NBA. Nevertheless, this is what Vogel had to say about KCP.
"“KCP deserves the very same consideration that Alex does for the All-Defensive team,” Vogel said. “Those two guys have been stellar on the defensive end. Both of them helped us win a championship last year but have been consistent and steady throughout. When you look at the team that has the No. 1 defensive ranking, perimeter defenders like those two guys are a big reason for it, so I think they both deserve consideration”."
That is pretty good recognition coming from Vogel as he is well respected as one of the best defensive coaches in the entire NBA. As a result, Nuggets head coach, Mike Malone, should also love KCP in what he brings to the table, as Malone has preached defense since arriving in Denver back in 2013.
Although, Nuggets GM Calvin Booth didn’t just stop there because a few days into free agency the Denver Nuggets had agreed to a 2-year $13 million deal with former Nets’ swingman, Bruce Brown.
With Brown, the Nuggets didn’t just get a solid perimeter defender but also an extremely versatile guy. Despite being just 6’4″ in height, Brown has a massive 6’9″ wingspan that allows him to guard other players one through four in just about any lineup.
Brown is also coming off of a career year with the Brooklyn Nets, in which he scored a career-high nine points per game and shot over 40 percent from the three-point line. Brown is an especially efficient shooter from the corner, so, look for Nikola Jokic to dish the ball out to Brown when he’s drifting towards the baseline.
It was reported that Brown took less money to come to Denver, which is probably true because he likely would have gotten more money elsewhere. In fact, Brown probably could have gotten close to what Gary Payton ll got from the Portland Trail Blazers, which was a 3-year $26 million deal with an annual salary of $8.3 million.
Either way, Denver more than likely got Brown on a bit of a discount because of wanting to play with Jokic. Some of the members of the media got a chance to catch up with brown at the NBA Summer League and this is what he had to say on playing with Jokic:
"“I literally can’t wait,” Brown said about joining forces with Jokic and the Nuggets. “He’s just one of the guys I hate playing against, me being a defender, because you can’t turn your head. You got to keep your eye on the ball at all times, which is tough. He makes the perfect play every time”."
The Denver Nuggets did exactly what they needed to do this offseason by getting two-way players like KCP and Bruce Brown. Both will play a big role in what Denver does defensively and they certainly take a lot of pressure off of Aaron Gordon on that end of the floor as well.
Another strong addition that Denver made this offseason was taking rookie Christian Braun with the 21st pick overall in the 2022 NBA draft. Who is certainly a player that we can see play some sort of a role off of the bench with this team in the near future.
Braun is going to be a plug-and-play guy for the Nuggets along with his toughness and his ability to be a really solid permitter defender. He’s also a career 38 percent three-point shooter during his three seasons at Kansas.
Braun has a real solid floor in the NBA and can be the perfect role player for what the Nuggets need out of him. It is hard to expect Braun will get a lot of playing time right away with the Nuggets re-signing Devon Reed, but it isn’t hard to imagine Braun being considered a solid role player for head coach Mike Malone throughout the season if other players struggle.
2) Backup Center
As soon as NBA free agency opened up, news came out that the Nuggets signed center, DeAndre Jordan, to a minimum contract. Who spent time with the Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers over this past season.
Jordan has certainly lost a little bit of his elite athleticism and ability to be a plus rim protector. As Jordan didn’t play too well after immediately stepping into the starting center role when Joel Embiid went down with his concussion and Orbital fracture in the playoffs. And was then almost completely shut down upon Embiid’s return.
Although, I think that it’s safe to say the Denver Nuggets probably didn’t sign Jordan to play every night anyway. I suspect that the Nuggets will roll out Zeke Nnaji as the back-up center on most nights, with Jordan playing a few minutes here and there.
However, what can’t be understated is the importance of having a player like DeAndre Jordan in the locker room. Who’s a noted glue guy and somebody other players will fight hard for.
In all likelihood, the Nuggets think that DeAndre can bring some sort of veteran presence to the locker room along with some spot minutes of rim protection and rebounding.
Some fans probably ask why the Denver Nuggets specifically went out and signed DeAndre Jordan when there were other viable options still on the table. Although, Denver didn’t have much flexibility coming into the offseason, specifically in free agency.
For example, JaVale McGee and Andre Drummond both got big deals this summer, at least more than their projected worth. While the Denver Nuggets had nothing more than a tax-payer mid-level exception to work with, which was eventually used on Bruce Brown.
Being that very few centers around the league seemed willing to take a minimum deal and that using the tax-payer mid-level exception on Jordan would’ve resulted in the team not getting Bruce Brown. The DeAndre Jordan deal feels like a low-risk, high-reward type play for the Nuggets. Since they can waive him at any time and it wouldn’t cost them much at all.
It’s also worth mentioning that rookie center Ismael Kamagate won’t be on the opening day roster and instead will likely play overseas for a little while. But could still join the Nuggets towards the end of the season if DeAndre Jordan doesn’t work out and the team decides to waive him.
When the offseason first started, the Nuggets needed to find ways to be active and creative to make Denver better on the defensive side of the ball. And the Nuggets did just that by adding perimeter defense and a little bit of rim protection as well.
It’s clear that improving the defense was at the top of the list for Nuggets GM Calvin Booth, who certainly accomplished what he needed to this offseason. As a general manager with limited assets, Booth was very creative in how he was able to pull off some of these deals.
Booth had no ties to this Nuggets roster going into this offseason, and being the new guy in charge, he and the entire front office put a plan together to improve this team.
Of course, injuries played a big role in why the Denver Nuggets didn’t make a deep playoff run last season but there was some clear weakness on the roster from last season. So, for the most part, the front office did what it needed to do to improve this franchise moving forward. Adding pieces to improve this team now with KCP, Brown, and Braun while also taking chances on guys with high upside, especially on the defensive side in Peyton Watson and Ismael Kamagate.
All the moves the Nuggets made matter but they don’t truly matter until we see results. We can grade Denver’s offseason but it would be irresponsible to until we see this team in action.
The moves that the Denver Nuggets made this offseason improved their chances of being a true title contender not only for this season but for the next three or four years to come. The pieces are now in place for this Denver team to win their first NBA title in franchise history.