The Denver Nuggets were unsuccessful in luring Dwyane Wade to the Mile High City, they couldn't even get a meeting with Kevin Durant. A few other names got linked to the Nuggets, but by and large Denver has been relatively quiet on the free agent front. They re-signed Darrell Arthur, and there's a good chance they bring back the ageless wonder that is Mike Miller. Currently the Nuggets have twelve guaranteed contracts, three non-guaranteed contracts and one decision to make on whether or not Juan Hernangomez will come to the NBA this season or return to Europe for another year. Signing Miller would mean Hernangomez is not coming over for 2016-2017 or one of the three players on non-guaranteed deals (Jakarr Sampson, Axel Toupane and Joffrey Lauvergne) is getting cut.
Signing Miller and sending Hernangomez back to Europe would be effectively maintaining the status quo, relying on development, health and the addition of rookies Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley to improve the team's overall record from a year ago. It's not exactly the most exciting approach to building the roster but also not neccesarily an incorrect one either. After all, at this point, there is a relative dearth of talent in the free agent pool and certainly there is no one left that would "move the needle." However, that's also not to say standing pat is the best way to go or that there isn't still value to be found on the open market. Here's five players the Nuggets could target who could help the team win games, even if it's in a relatively small way.
Jordan Hill - F/C
Hill is a guy many Nuggets fans might remember from his days as a Los Angeles Laker where, for whatever reason, he morphed into Bill Russell anytime he was in Denver. After his production fell off in Tinseltown, he had a relatively successful year as a member of the Indiana Pacers where he found a meaningful role in the rotation. Never to be confused as an asset on offense, Hill has in the past shown the ability to be a solid defender/rim protector. His numbers started to bounce back last season after dipping in his final year with LA, but in all honesty, whose numbers didn't dip on that twenty-one win Laker team.
The Nuggets find themselves in a somewhat precarious position at the center. While Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic certainly have the rotation on lock down at the moment, it would benefit Denver to have a legitimate third center on the roster. If last season was any lesson, even a small injury to either big (but especially Nurkic) will leave Denver woefully undermanned at the center position and make the team an even bigger defensive sieve than they already are at full strength. While a guy like Hill isn't going to get many minutes, if any, on a healthy Nuggets team, he can provide the team with the insurance and veteran presence on the bench who can contribute if needed. Something the Nuggets lacked last year at the five (no....J.J. Hickson doesn't count).
Quincy Acy - F
Acy is the typical yeoman of the NBA. He's all grit and grind and no flash whatsoever. At 6'9" he's a bit undersized for a power forward, but has enough bulk to defend and score in the post and enough athleticism to defend at the perimeter as well. Defense has always been his calling card in the NBA and after a brutal season with the New York Knicks in 2014-2015, he started getting back to his plus-defender ways with the Sacramento Kings last season. He also has started to expand his offensive game. The sample size is small, but Acy was able to convert three point shots at an above average rate last season, something he's never come close to before. Think of him as a really really really really poor man's Draymond Green.
Acy slots in nicely when it comes to filling needs that can be realistically filled via free agency at this point for Denver. He'd shore up the power forward position which, like center, is precariously thin should either of the regular rotation players become injured (unless of course Hernangomez does come over this season) and also serves to bolster the defense at that position. Though Arthur is a solid defender, Acy is arguably the better of the two and is also light years ahead of what Kenneth Faried can produce on that end of the court. Like Hill (and lets face it everyone on this list) there's probably not a lot of playing time if everyone is healthy, but unlike with Hill, the Nuggets could trade away their starting power forward without getting one in return and still be in pretty good shape at that position.
Terrence Jones - F/C
Admittedly, there's a theme to this list. The Nuggets are pretty loaded in the backcourt. It's the forward positions that needs shoring up the most, particularly the power forward position and particularly on defense. Jones is the poster child of a guy who needs a fresh start. He had a breakout sophomore season with the Houston Rockets in 2013-2014 when he averaged over twelve points and just under seven rebounds a game in twenty-seven minutes of action per. Since then health has been an issue but Jones had a terrible season last year statistically as well. Take it with a grain of salt, the Rockets were one of the biggest disappointments last season and an early coaching change led to a down year for virtually everyone on the roster. With a new beginning it's possible Jones get's back to his productive ways. He could end up being a steal in the free agent market.
Maurice Harkless - F
After a couple of promising seasons with the Orlando Magic (and one mired by injury), Harkless took his talents to Portland where he was a bit player in the rotation until the end of the year. After the All-Star break, Harkless really picked his game up and was rewarded with minutes which he didn't let go to waste. Like everyone on this list, He is is a plus defender. He has the length and quickness to be an effective perimeter defender and at just twenty-three years of age he has plenty of room to improve as well. An area he most needs to improve: shooting. For as good of a defender as he is, Harkless isn't about to be confused as anyone who would stretch the floor, shooting sub 30% from three despite taking over three attempts per game.
The Nuggets currently have Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler maintaining the small forward position but neither has been able to stay healthy. Harkless would give some injury insurance while being an upgrade over either Sampson or Toupane who currently fill that role. He's also imminently gettable from the Nuggets position. With Denver still well under the salary cap floor and the Portland Trail Blazers pushing right up against the tax line it makes sense in this situation for Denver to slightly over pay for a guy if they want to. Anything past the $5-$6 million range (chump change in today's NBA) is probably going to make Portland really take a hard look at matching an offer to retain Harkless' services but would barely be a blip on the radar for Denver's cap.
Kevin Seraphin - C
Yet another player who saw his numbers fall off after he went to the Knicks, Seraphin is a young center who has learned to be a solid defender as his career has progressed. Up until last season he also looked to be a competent player on the offensive side of the ball as well, but as has been the case with so many bigs before, he simply was not a fit or did not have the requisite skill set to be successful in the triangle offense. Now once again a free agent, Seraphin would be a similar signing to Hill, a solid defensive presence down low who would serve as the third center on the roster but is good enough to give the team some comfort in the event of an injury to one of the Balkan towers. If nothing else, he has shown that he has no problems bulldozing small children who get in his way.
The free agency pool is indeed pretty shallow at this point and it may be in the best interest of the Nuggets to simply bide their time and wait until the trade deadline before making any roster additions or changes. Still, its hard to imagine that there is no one out there that would be an improvement on Sampson or Toupane, in fact, whether its because of talent or fit, all five of these guys would be an improvement over either of Denver's non-guaranteed wings. While they might not be earth shaking signings, any one of these guys would represent a low risk, heady move that subtly improves the team.