Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leaving Nuggets for Orlando: Full terms and instant reaction

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Seven
Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Seven / C. Morgan Engel/GettyImages

The writing has been on the wall for weeks, but now it’s official. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope intends to leave the Nuggets as a free agent and sign a three-year, $66 million contract with the Orlando Magic (the third year is a player option). 

The Magic were one of the main teams rumored to be interested in acquiring KCP (along with the Sixers and Mavericks) and he’ll be an excellent fit for an up-and-coming contender in the Eastern Conference.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leaving Nuggets for Magic

KCP should bring excellent veteran leadership and two-way perimeter play to the Magic, who are built around young players like Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Jalen Suggs. He opted out of his $15.4 million player option in Denver, seeking a longer deal for more money and he quickly got it, barely over an hour into free agency.

Nuggets GM Calvin Booth all but tipped his hand in his post-draft press conference, indicating that the team was ready to move on and wouldn’t get into a bidding war. The team would have been hard-pressed financially speaking and well above the league’s second apron, but they did have KCP’s Bird Rights and technically could have paid to keep him if they wanted to.

But the team obviously chose not to pay him, to save some money and flexibility, and to move on without one of their key starters. This is a huge loss for the Nuggets, as they’ve now lost their best perimeter defender and one of their best shooters for nothing.

Nuggets need to add talent to the roster to compete

The move gets the Nuggets under the first apron of the luxury tax, so they’ll now have access to the $5.2 million taxpayer midlevel exception to sign free agents and they have the ability to use some other mechanisms, such as aggregating contracts in trades and making sign and trades.

Booth all but promised Christian Braun would step into the starting lineup for KCP and the Nuggets, so now the mission is to bolster the bench and build some depth. This is a brutal, brutal loss; there is absolutely no way to sugarcoat it. The Nuggets got a lot worse today, and as the team currently stands, it’s hard to argue they are a true contender.

They need to go out and make some moves to strengthen the bench because as it stands the team appears content to squander the prime of Jokic’s career and that is unacceptable.