Could Eric Gordon decide to chase a ring with the Nuggets?

Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Denver Nuggets have a serious issue with their roster that stuck out like a sore thumb in their recent postseason exit. Their bench is far too weak.

Senior NBA insider Shams Charania recently reported that veteran shooting guard Eric Gordon declined his $3.4 million player option with the Phoenix Suns to enter free agency. The 35-year-old can still shoot and score the rock in a backup role for a contender. He averaged 11.0 points last season on 37.8% shooting from three.

Due to the financial limitations of the CBA, the Nuggets can only sign free agents to minimum contracts this offseason (if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signs with another team the Nuggets will have access to the taxpayers midlevel exception as well - roughly $5.2 million). At this stage in his career, Gordon may very well want to ring chase on a contending team and settle for a veteran minimum deal. The Nuggets could benefit from adding an experienced vet like Gordon to the mix.

With Bruce Brown and Jeff Green leaving town after their championship run with Denver, the 2023-24 Nuggets’ bench rotation included recently traded Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Justin Holiday. While all four of these players won a ring in 2023, they still could not make up for the loss of Brown and Green.

Braun and Watson have fantastic defensive intangibles, but neither player has developed into a double-digit scorer yet. In the playoffs, Denver’s second-year duo combined for only 6.9 points per game.

In Game 7 of their second-round loss, the Nuggets bench finished the season on a very low note with just five total points among three reserves. Jackson and Holiday each put up goose eggs while Braun added five points in 20 minutes on 1-for-3 shooting. Watson didn’t even see the floor.

Eric Gordon could help the Nuggets with his experience and sharpshooting

The Nuggets gained a lot from Uncle Jeff’s experience and basketball IQ while the veteran big man played for the Mile High City. The youthful exuberance of Watson and the 3-and-D efforts of Holiday could not fully make up for what Denver lost in Green. Gordon could bring some of that missing wisdom and experience to the Nuggets’ locker room.

Gordon would also become the only player on Denver’s bench with a double-digit scoring average during the prior season. The Nuggets bench was one of only six benches in the league to average fewer than 30 points per game. Jackson did not live up to his billing as a bucket-getter, and Gordon has never logged a single-digit scoring campaign in his 16-year career. He could give the Nuggets bench a shot-creating boost they desperately needed in the playoffs.

Gordon will also get phenomenal reps this summer as he represents the Bahamas at the Paris 2024 Olympics. He will join Deandre Ayton and Buddy Hield as the team’s main NBA representatives. Gordon grew up in the Bahamas, and his mom was born there.

Even in the twilight of his career, Gordon can still shoot the lights out. He has logged multiple seasons of shooting 40% or better from beyond the arc, and he nailed 2.2 threes a game last season.

Given his age, Gordon does not play particularly strong defense. However, Denver’s bench mainly needs work on the offensive side of the ball. The Nuggets struggled with spacing in the second unit as the reserves just shot 33.5% from three during the regular season. 

The Nuggets’ bench struggles were magnified in the playoffs

Denver’s bench struggles only worsened in the playoffs. Shooting a collective 30.0% from three, the Nuggets reserves averaged an abysmal 14.8 points. The Denver second unit also played the fewest minutes of any team’s backups this postseason.

Outside of an injured Jamal Murray, every Nuggets starter saw their minutes increase from last year’s title run. For the first time in his playoff career, Nikola Jokic averaged over 40 minutes of play.

Without the proper depth to support their core players, the Nuggets had to play every starter at least 35 minutes a night. Murray and Michael Porter Jr. especially showed signs of fatigue against the Minnesota Timberwolves, shooting a combined 39.2% from the field across all seven games. MPJ averaged a measly 10.7 points on 37.1% shooting with almost twice as many turnovers as assists.

After trading Jackson to the Charlotte Hornets for three second-round picks, the Nuggets opened up an additional roster spot to help retool their bench with minimum deals or potential trades. This is the perfect time for Denver to pursue free agents who may want to sign a minimum contract with a contender. 

Given that he opted out of his player option, Gordon seems like a strong candidate to come and chase a ring with the Nuggets.