Key Nuggets starter likely to decline option and become free agent this offseason

Jun 15, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth speaks
Jun 15, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth speaks / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t exactly a secret, but in the NBA, when teams win the players end up getting paid more. With more players wanting more money, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep championship rosters together.

This is nothing new, and it’s not unique to the Denver Nuggets, but it is a reality the team has faced and will face again. Last summer we saw it with Bruce Brown becoming the first major casualty. 

Bruce Brown was the first domino

Brown played amazingly as a super sub for the Nuggets and played a huge part in their title run. That resulted in a massive payday for Brown, and while it was great to see him rewarded for his work, it was a bummer to see the Nuggets lose him.

Losing Brown was a tough blow, but it’s impossible to pay big money for bench players while keeping a championship-caliber core together, and the new CBA has only made it harder. The Nuggets will face an even stiffer test this summer as they will likely need to pony up if they want to retain starting guard and defensive lynchpin, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Could Kentavious Caldwell-Pope be next?

KCP has been an incredible addition to the Nuggets since coming over via trade two summers ago, offering a stabilizing veteran presence on offense, while putting together an all-defensive type of resume on the other end.

This has been great for Denver, but it also means the price tag is going up. Bennett Durando of the Denver Post reported on Friday that Caldwell-Pope is “likely” to decline his player option for next season which would pay him $15.4 million.

While that’s a solid chunk of change, KCP has probably outplayed the current salary and could hit the open market as one of the most attractive free agents this offseason. The free agent class is fairly weak, and a proven winner who’s reliable on both ends would be appealing to any contender with money to spend.

The Nuggets would love to retain KCP and will likely do their best, but they have to be realistic about what they can afford as they’ll have to pay big money for Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon in the near future as well.

Potential KCP suitor in the East

One team that was mentioned by Durando was the Philadelphia 76ers. Philly projects to have lots of cap space this summer and will want to make a big splash. If they miss out on big stars KCP could make a lot of sense for them. 

He’d be a perfect backcourt mate for Tyrese Maxey and would get to team up with another superstar big man in Joel Embiid. While Nuggets fans don’t want to hear this, it would make a lot of sense from a basketball and financial perspective for all parties involved. Let’s worry about this after another championship run.