Crucial Nuggets offseason starts with NBA Draft, picks up with Free Agency

KUSA - They have all the assets and all the resources, and pretty soon it will be time for the Nuggets to do ALL the convincing they can--all in the hope of bringing some big names to the Mile High City. 

The Nuggets are getting set for what could be one of the more important offseasons in recent team history. 

It starts with the NBA Draft on Thursday--as the Nuggets own the 13th pick in the first round, as well as two second-round selections.

Typically, that's where teams look to fill holes or weaknesses on their roster. The problem, which is actually a good problem to have, is that the Nuggets have so much depth that there aren't exactly "holes" that need immediate filling. 

"There's no gaping holes positionally," Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said. "It allows us some flexibility."

What the team needs with that flexibility is a veteran, star-caliber player that can lead the young team and be a go-to scorer in crunch time. 

That kind of player likely won't come with a 13th pick in the Draft, but he could come either in a trade, or when NBA Free Agency kicks off July 1.

Now more than ever, the team has the weapons to finally break the "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" label that many critics have tried to attach to the organization. 

But, just how aggressive will the Nuggets be in trying to acquire an All-Star?

"We have a lot of financial flexibility potentially, and we have a lot of young guys in their prime," Connelly said. "When you have all those things at your disposal, it's ripe for deal-making."

So often, the Nuggets have pursued top level players, and have even been reported as possible destinations for the likes of All-Star talents like Dwyane Wade in free agency and Paul George in a trade in the past. 

They're the team that's often mentioned as a potential landing spot for a star player, but rarely does that potential turn into a reality. 

Here's why 2017 might be different: 

1) Money

The Nuggets are in a rare position this offseason in that they might very well have the cap space to offer a star free agent a max deal. 

Some big names will be floating in the open market this offseason, including Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward and even Chris Paul. 

All those players will likely earn a max contract--a salary starting at either $30.6 million or $35.7 million, depending on how long the player has been in the league. 

If Denver lets Danilo Gallinari and Mason Plumlee walk in free agency, and then sheds the salary of veteran Mike Miller, the Nuggets will have over $40 million to spend this offseason--more than enough to offer one star a max contract. 

So, depending on where money falls on their list of priorities, one of these players might chase the cash to come play in Denver.

2) Nikola Jokic

For perhaps the first time since Carmelo Anthony ditched town for New York, the Nuggets have a guy who many argue has the skills to become one of the best players in franchise history. 

Finally, Denver has a young star in Nikola Jokic that other top players in the league might actually be interested in teaming up with. 

2016-17 was a breakout year for the 6'10" Power Forward, as he averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. 

His SIX triple doubles were the fourth-highest total in the season last year--trailing only MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and the greatest player in the league, Lebron James. 

Widely considered one of the best passing big men in the NBA, Jokic is an unselfish player who can not only score, but make his teammates better. 

Pair Jokic with someone like Chris Paul--who can also score and facilitate better than 99 percent of the league--and the Nuggets have one of the better one-two punches in all of basketball. 

3) A team on the Rise

For the first time since making the playoffs in 2012-13, the Nuggets aren't just a team in the cellar. They were fighting for the playoffs all year, missing out on the Western Conference's final playoff spot by just one game. 

Not only that, but the roster is full of young talent--Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, Juan Hernangomez, etc.--that will only continue to improve every year. 

Put an All-Star on the roster to lead that group, and the Nuggets actually might have the talent and depth to make some noise in the playoffs for the next 5-10 years. 

For the free agents like Hayward, Griffin, Lowry and Paul, the historical resume might not be that attractive when looking at the Nuggets organization. But, the future is. And, that's more important. 

4) Chance to be "The Guy"

Let's be honest for a second. Unless your name is Lebron James or the Golden State Warriors, you probably don't have a great shot of winning an NBA title anytime soon. 

But what Denver does provide is an opportunity for a star player to come in, and be the leading force for the team's rejuvenation to new heights in the playoffs. 

If one of those previously mentioned star free agents chooses the Nuggets, they'd immediately be the team's biggest impact player. They'd get the touches they want. They'd get to take the shots they want, and they'd get to put up numbers that make them even more valuable in the league down the road. 

As much as players don't like to admit it, being "the guy" on a team is an attractive pitch, and gives them the freedoms they want on the court to play at their highest level. 

Besides, Jokic' style of play would make him best served as a sidekick anyway, and an absolutely incredible one at that. He would only make things easier on whatever star wants to come to Denver. 

5) Live in Denver

And finally, this is probably the thing that goes under the radar more than any other reason. As much as stars like to live in the bright lights of New York, LA, Boston, etc., statistics show that Colorado is a place that more and more people are wanting to live in. 

"Who doesn't want to come to Denver right now? We're one of the best cities in the country," Connelly said. "Housing markets are off the charts. I know Denver's become a pretty popular destination among league circles."

Not only is it becoming a great place to live outside of basketball, but there's no question that Denver is a great sports town. 

 

All this being said, the only certainty is that these next few months will be full of rumors and a whole lot of hype. 

But, this much can be expected: The Nuggets will do whatever they can to be aggressive this summer. And, they might have a better chance of landing a star player than you think. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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