The Denver Nuggets added four players to their roster on Thursday through the draft, and as such, move on to the next phase of the NBA offseason.
With Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, and Petr Cornelie having been selected by the Nuggets, the Nuggets were able to address their lack of perimeter shooting while adding talent that they can stash overseas until they are ready to come over and help the team.
But the league continues to roll on, time waits for no man, woman, or child. The 2016-17 season officially begins on July 1, when players can negotiate with other teams, but have to wait until July 8 to officially sign a contract. With that in mind, here's a breakdown of where the Nuggets are on June 24, 2016.
Signing draft picks
Here are the maximum amounts the Nuggets can pay their first-round draft picks, under the standard rookie contract in the CBA.
The CBA doesn't have standard contracts for second-round picks, so I can't predict what will happen with Petr Cornelie's contract. The asterisk for Hernangomez is there in the case that Hernangomez will continue to play in Spain - if he doesn't come over this season, he won't be in the same guidelines as Murray and Beasley.
Including those salaries, as well as a $1.258 million contract for Cornelie (about what Nikola Jokic was getting paid), means that with all the contracts on their roster combined, the Nuggets are on the hook for $69,045,578 for the 2016-17 season. That leaves them with between $24.95-$31.46 million for the Nuggets to play with in free agency, but for one or two roster spots.
Arthur should be able to sign for whatever dollar amount he'd like - a two-year contract for about $10 million per year would be great, filling a power forward spot until Cornelie is able to come over. If the Nuggets lose Arthur, they'd have enough cap space to offer some of the top free agents a maximum contract.
Trimming the roster to 15
The figure above is for 18 players (hi Nick Johnson!), 17 of which could potentially play for the Nuggets next season. Once the regular season begins, the Nuggets can only have 15 players on their roster - 12 active, three inactive.
|PG||Emmanuel Mudiay||Jamal Murray||Jameer Nelson|
|SG||Gary Harris||Will Barton||Malik Beasley|
|SF||Danilo Gallinari||Wilson Chandler||JaKarr Sampson||Axel Toupane|
|PF||Kenneth Faried||Darrell Arthur||Juancho Hernangomez||Petr Cornelie|
|C||Nikola Jokic||Jusuf Nurkic||Joffrey Lauvergne|
Darrell Arthur still needs to announce his decision on his player option - I'm including him on the roster because I feel confident that he is returning to Denver even if he opts out of his contract. UPDATE - Arthur opted out.
Lauvergne, Sampson, and Toupane have non-guaranteed contracts for the 2016-17 season. This means the Nuggets can release them without financial ramifications, or trade them to another team and they can release them without financial ramifications.
I think that Tim Connelly will have to make a decision between those three players, and will most definitely have to release one of them. Hernangomez and Cornelie likely won't count against the maximum for the roster, but including Arthur means the Nuggets roster is set for the upcoming season.
If Connelly can find a free agent that fits with the organization, he can release one of those three players to create an open spot. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of Sampson or Toupane return, depending on which player has a better Summer League performance or is more impressive in training camp, and Lauvergne will return. The Nuggets can use Lauvergne's size as a fifth big that can play both post positions, while Sampson or Toupane provides insurance when Gallinari or Chandler are forced to miss time due to an injury.
D.J. Augustin has been vocal in his desire to return to Denver, but I can say confidently that he will not be with the team next season. Jamal Murray and Jameer Nelson will be the backup guards behind Emmanuel Mudiay.
A buffet of two-guards
Gary Harris is the starter for the Nuggets next season - this is something Michael Malone and Tim Connelly have repeated since the draft. In the press conference after the draft, Connelly mentioned that Harris has been "living in the gym," which sounds like a great way to save money on rent in downtown Denver, and that he is up to 220 pounds.
Harris showed an ability to initiate offense while at Michigan State, and will likely have more opportunities to do that next season. Harris, Mudiay, and Murray should all be able to play together, and Nelson should be able to contribute in smaller lineups off the bench as well.
Beasley likely won't play a lot of minutes for the Nuggets this season, especially with Will Barton on the roster. Fans will have to be patient and trust that the coaches are making the best decision for the team. Barton can play both the shooting guard and small forward position, and should be counted on to play in between both positions throughout the season.
Which players get the bulk of the minutes in the backcourt is something I'm looking forward to next season. Murray was moved off-ball at Kentucky as Tyler Ulis improved, but has repeatedly said since being selected that he is a point guard. Jameer Nelson should be healthy at the beginning of the season, and is under contract for two more seasons. He can be valuable as a backup point guard, a veteran, steady hand to run the offense and not turn the ball over.
There's only 96 minutes to share between the two guard positions - splitting them up is why Malone and his staff are paid the big bucks.
Summer League is going to be, as the youths say, lit
The Nuggets have signed Jimmer Fredette to their Summer League team, which means that the Nuggets can roll into Las Vegas with a starting lineup of Mudiay, Murray, Beasley, Sampson, and (possibly?) Nurkic. Nikola Jokic will be playing with the Serbia national team, and will not be playing with the Summer League team.
Fredette, Harris, Murray, and Beasley can all really shoot the basketball, and should have a green light on 3-pointers. The only other freshman to make more 3-pointers in a season than Murray is Steph Curry, so expect buckets. The Nuggets will add a few more players to fill out their SL roster, and hopefully they'll be just as much fun to watch as they were last season. Beasley may not play in Summer League due to an injury.
The Summer League schedule has already been announced, with the first game July 8 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.