A week has now passed since the 2017 NBA draft and while the Denver Nuggets fell short of obtaining their goals on draft night, all is not lost for the upcoming season. Today marks the official end of the 2016-2017 NBA calendar year, which means that come midnight 2017-2018 will begin and the Nuggets will have more opportunities to finish what they started a week ago.
The next step in the process is free agency, and if its going to be anything like the draft was around the NBA, things are going to get a little crazy. With that in mind, let’s go over some of the basics of NBA free agency and what’s in store for Denver.
Q: When does free agency officially begin?
Free agency begins when the clock strikes 12:00 AM EST (10:00 MST) on July 1, or midnight tonight. At 12:01, players and agents can officially speak with interested teams and reach verbal agreements. The July Moratorium also begins at this time.
Q: What is the July Moratorium?
The July Moratorium is a “dead” period that lasts about a week right as the new season officially begins. The league office uses this period of time to complete its audit, which establishes figures like the salary cap, luxury tax threshold and average salary. Free agents are allowed to negotiate with clubs during the moratorium, and they can agree to terms on new contracts, but they are unable to officially sign new deals until the moratorium ends.
This summer, the July Moratorium will end on July 6 at 12:00 pm EST. Starting then, players can sign official contracts.
Q: What will be the 2017-2018 NBA salary cap?
About a week ago the NBA announced that the 2017-18 salary cap will be set at $99 million, an increase from the 2016-17 season but a decrease from expected projections. The luxury tax threshold will be set at $119 million
Q: What does the Denver Nuggets cap situation look like heading into free agency?
The Nuggets are projected to have upwards of about $43.2 million in cap space, per Basketball Insiders. Following the addition of Trey Lyles in the draft, Denver has 12 guaranteed players next season but also on the books are cap holds for free agent forward Danilo Gallinari ($22,575,000), Mason Plumlee ($5,821,325) and Roy Hibbert ($6,000,000). In addition, new draft pick Tyler Lydon has a hold for $1,579,440 and veteran Mike Miller also has non-guaranteed salary on the books totaling $3,500,000. The projected cap space of nearly $43.2 million would come should these holds come off the books.
In short, the Nuggets will likely have a lot of cash to spend and will hopefully look to make the most of it.
Q: Who are the pending free agents from the Nuggets?
There are three pending free agents on the Nuggets - Danilo Gallinari, Mason Plumlee and Roy Hibbert. Gallo will be an unrestricted free agent after he opts out of his contract via a player option and will be free to sign with any team he so chooses. Whether he will re-sign in Denver or not is a different story, as he is being targeted by suitors like the Los Angeles Clippers. Denver can theoretically offer him the most money in the form of a five-year max contract, but due to his injury history it might be best for the Nuggets to move on.
Mason Plumlee is a restricted free agent after Denver tendered a qualifying offer to the center last week, meaning that the Nuggets have the right to match any offer extended to him by a different team.
Roy Hibbert is an unrestricted free agent. Chances are he will not be back.
Mike Miller is not a free agent, but his contract is not guaranteed until July 12. If the Nuggets decide to waive him before then, he will become an unrestricted free agent. If not, Miller will be owed $3.5 million and will take up a roster spot.
Q: What do the Nuggets hope to accomplish during free agency?
Interestingly, for the Nuggets to be effective in free agency (and in this offseason in general), they need to simply trade and consolidate the roster and especially clear the logjam at power forward. As currently constructed, the roster is a mess and chock full of forwards and extra guards. Just to put forth a reasonable rotation will require some wheeling and dealing.
In actual free agency the priorities for Denver should be to upgrade the defense and fill holes in the roster, particularly at the forward position on the likely chance that Gallinari signs elsewhere. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the Nuggets “have made upgrading at power forward one of their offseason priorities,” a claim that could reflect on the choice of free agents Denver comes in contact with. The Nuggets have also shown quite a bit of interest in upgrading the point guard spot.
Ultimately, it is becoming more clear that the Nuggets hope to bolster its young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris with veteran talents who can bring playoff relevancy back to Pepsi Center sooner rather than later. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen.
Q: Who are some of the players the Nuggets might be targeting in free agency?
The Nuggets have already been linked to a few players such as Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin and Jrue Holiday and could receive meetings with these players once the period begins, though it’s certainly not guaranteed. Denver had been rumored to be a potential destination for Chris Paul, but of course the Houston Rockets orchestrated a beautiful sign and trade to land the superstar point guard just days ago, crushing the dreams of Nuggets fans everywhere.
Other players Denver could potentially be interested in (and this is pure speculation, nothing more) include Kyle Lowry from Toronto, Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles and George Hill from Utah, restricted free agents Otto Porter from Washington and Andre Roberson from Oklahoma City, P.J. Tucker from Toronto, or James Johnson from Miami.
Also, don’t rule out that a trade might still happen. As stated prior, the Nuggets have a desperate need to clear roster space.
Q: Will this be the year Denver finally lands a relevant free agent?
Be sure to check back with Denver Stiffs for the latest free agency updates and rumors!
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