The Denver Nuggets are a contender right now. They are first in the Western Conference by a full five games, have the two-time defending MVP en route to a third trophy, and the core of the team around him is locked up for multiple seasons. This team will be good for years to come.
After a Trade Deadline that yielded short-term help, what the Nuggets do need to focus on this offseason is rebuilding the back half of the rotation. A number of bench players will be free agents this summer, and Denver will need to decide who to bring back and when to look at outside players.
They will be well over the cap and almost certainly into the luxury tax. That means the most they will have to offer will be the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, currently estimated to start at $6.8 million. Which pending free agents could be options at that price point? Let’s look at five options the Nuggets could sign this summer.
Nuggets target No. 1: Nerlens Noel, C
After an injury-riddled start to his career, Nerlens Noel established himself as one of the league’s better interior defenders through the heart of his career. Unfortunately for him, he found himself the victim of a salary dump this past offseason and spent the year stuck behind young bigs on a rebuilding team – never the recipe for playing time in the NBA.
The Detroit Pistons have a team option for $9.7 million on Noel’s contract next year, and it’s very likely they will let him hit free agency. if so, Noel will be an unrestricted free agent, and he will be 29 years old and a solid option for a team that needs to upgrade its rim protection.
That’s something the Nuggets don’t really have this season outside of Aaron Gordon, and bringing in a player like Noel would give them a different look when Nikola Jokic sits and a situational rim protector to deploy. He played just 14 games this season but averaged 3.1 steals and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes, suggesting he still has a lot to offer.