On Friday, the Denver Nuggets shared an update on the status of injured forward Vlatko Cancar.
“Nuggets forward Vlatko Čančar underwent surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament of the left knee,” the team announced in a statement. “The procedure was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. He is out indefinitely and additional updates will be provided as necessary.”
Earlier this month, Cancar tore his left ACL while playing in a FIBA World Cup preliminary game for Slovenia.
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.
Cancar’s injury comes at a less-than-ideal time for Denver, who lost a pair of rotation wings — Bruce Brown and Jeff Green — in free agency this summer. There was going to be a fair amount of opportunity for the sharpshooting forward to fill a bit of a larger role for the team this season.
How will the Denver Nuggets fill the void left by Vlatko Cancar?
Well, they do have a few young options who could step up, especially earlier in the season.
The most obvious candidate to earn extra minutes is Christian Braun. Braun took on a small role for the Nuggets during their playoff run last spring. He played about 13.0 minutes per game and averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in those short minutes. The former Kansas Jayhawk proved to be able to hang when the lights were bright, lighting up the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Another player poised for this opportunity could be Zeke Nnaji, a fourth-year forward out of Arizona. Nnaji took on a small role during Denver’s regular-season last year, playing about 13.7 minutes per game in 53 appearances. He scored 5.2 points, grabbed 2.6 rebounds, and even dished 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 a bit low, it was a bit of an outlier. Besides last year, Nnaji has never shot below 40% from long range.
If neither player is able to step up, then the Nuggets may have to turn to the trade market. For a few hypothetical ideas, check this out: