It looks like the Denver Nuggets will be entering their 2023-24 campaign a bit shorthanded at the wing spot. Last week, rotation forward Vlatko Cancar tore his left ACL while playing in a FIBA World Cup preliminary game for Slovenia. The injury will likely keep him sidelined for a large chunk of the season — possibly the entire year.
The 26-year-old was set to take on a more substantial role off of the bench with the Nuggets this season after both Jeff Green and Bruce Brown skipped town in free agency. Throughout the course of Denver’s 2023 NBA championship run, Cancar played just two minutes per game in the postseason, with Green and Brown filling the majority of the bench opportunities.
He appeared in 60 regular-season games for the Nuggets last season, playing about 14.8 minutes each time. During the short minutes, Cancar averaged 5.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game while shooting 47.6% from the field and 37.4% from beyond the arc.
With him, Brown, and Green all out of the picture, Denver is going to have to find someone to eat up the backup wing minutes.
The first and most obvious candidate to do so is Christian Braun. Braun took on a small role in the playoffs last spring. He logged about 13.0 minutes per game and averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in the short minutes. The former Jayhawk proved to be able to hang when the lights were bright and could be ready for more responsibility this season.
Another option could be Zeke Nnaji, a fourth-year forward out of Arizona. Much like Cancar, Nnaji spent most of the postseason watching from the bench. However, he did have a small role during the regular season, playing about 13.7 minutes per game in 53 appearances. He tallied 5.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game while knocking down 56.1% of his attempts overall and 26.2% of those from deep. Though his three-point percentage was rough last year, it was the first season where he shot below 40% from long range, albeit on limited attempts. He could benefit from some extra opportunity at just 22 years old.
What if neither player is able to make an impact off of the bench? How will the Nuggets fill the void? Well, they could look to pursue a Cancar replacement via trade.