The Denver Nuggets are playing great basketball lately, and they’re looking to improve the roster going into this year’s NBA Trade Deadline.
According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the Nuggets are focused on clearing their salary cap sheet and adding a backup point guard:
Sam Amick of USA Today reported last week that Denver has discussed Darren Collison deals with the Pacers. (Collison will miss the next few weeks after undergoing knee surgery, the Pacers announced Monday.) Marc Stein of The New York Times reported Monday that Denver has looked into Smart. They’ve also kicked the tires on Cory Joseph, league sources say, but Joseph has a $7.9 million player option for next season. Only $2 million of Collison’s deal is guaranteed. Unless they know Joseph will decline that option -- hard to tell -- the salary difference matters to Denver.
Darren Collison and Cory Joseph both play for the Indiana Pacers, and both have been successful as primary guards next to Victor Oladipo. As Lowe mentions, Collison’s deal only has $2 million guaranteed in 2018-19, a major bonus if the Nuggets are able to recruit a star in the offseason or to simply cut costs. Joseph has a $7.9 million player option, which he would likely opt in and collect. Collison is averaging 12.8 points, 5.3 assists, and just 1.3 turnovers in 30.3 minutes per game as a starter. Joseph is averaging 7.8 points and 3.1 assists in 25.8 minutes per game as a backup.
As was mentioned in a piece earlier on Denver Stiffs, the Nuggets are interested in Marcus Smart as well. Smart is a restricted free agent next season and would likely command in between $10 million and $14 million annually. Still, his defense is invaluable, as Smart has the ability to defend different positions and handle the basketball off the bench.
It will be interesting to see what the Nuggets end up doing. Salary is a big deal, and the Nuggets aren’t going to simply shed their first round pick for a deal like this if they can help it. If the deal is worth it, they will include it.
If I were ranking these players in terms of value to the Nuggets personally, it would be Collison, then Joseph, then Smart. Each of the Pacers’ guards plays mistake free basketball, which pairs well with Denver’s free flowing style and as a complement to Jamal Murray’s explosiveness. Smart, while an excellent defender, becomes pricy very quickly and might change the culture in a negative way if he feels like he deserves to start.
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Which backup point guard candidate makes the most sense for the Nuggets?
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None of the above