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Report: Denver Nuggets to sign Richard Jefferson to one-year deal, rumored to be waiving Jameer Nelson

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Signing RJ is a bit of surprise, waiving Jameer would be a BIG surprise

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Denver Nuggets Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Denver Nuggets are close to signing Richard Jefferson to a one-year, $2.3 million deal and waive Jameer Nelson

Jefferson was traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Atlanta Hawks two days ago and was immediately released. The 37 year old was a key part of the Cavaliers’ 2016 championship team and provided versatility, experience, and defense on the wing. Jefferson is a solid cutter and career 37.7% three-point shooter although he had a bit of a down year in 2016-17, shooting just 33.3% from behind the arc. Jefferson and Denver Nuggets Governor Josh Kroenke have a relationship that dates back over a decade. The two discussed their friendship on a recent episode of Jefferson’s Road Trippin Podcast.

Jefferson isn’t just a veteran for the locker room and a buddy of the Governor, he also fills a large hole on the Nuggets roster: wing depth. Wilson Chandler was the only traditional small forward on the roster and the Nuggets like to also use him at the power forward position. While Jefferson may not be a rotation player right away, or even at all, he provides much needed insurance in case Chandler gets hurt at any point in the season. The report also comes just hours after Denver media members witnessed Will Barton go down with what appeared to be an ankle or foot injury after the team’s practice on Monday. Barton has been one of the team’s multi-tool type players off of the bench. If Barton is expected to miss significant time, the Nuggets will lack wing players off of the bench.

However, they also now may be very thin on ball handlers. Barton has played a large number of minutes as the primary ball handler on offense this preseason. Additionally, signing Jefferson means that the Nuggets would have 16 guaranteed contracts on the books and would need to either waive or trade at least one player before signing Jefferson. Wojnarowski is reporting that that player will likely be Nelson. Barton’s injury paired with Nelson’s rumored release would leave Denver with just two ball handlers, Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay.

The rumor that Nelson will be released is fairly surprising. By many accounts, Jameer had the best preseason of any of the three point guards and looked primed to be the back up point guard in the rotation, if not the starter. If Nelson is released, it’s a clear sign that the Nuggets are all in on Mudiay and Murray. Coach Malone said today his starter will be a player whose last name starts with “m” and ends with “y” so it is still not clear which one of the two young guards will be given starters minutes, but it’s a fair bet that both will be getting 20-25 minutes a game.

Jefferson’s addition ultimately is a good move for Denver. He fills a need both in the locker room and on the floor. While Nelson looked as capable as anyone on the roster at filling a rotation spot at the one, releasing him would be a clear indication of Denver’s plan at point guard. It also is a clear indication that the Nuggets are going to ride it out with their youth this season, rather than sacrifice development in favor of perhaps a few more wins. While the benefits of that strategy are debatable, the benefits of Denver’s two young point guards now knowing their roles is not.