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Stiffs Roundtable: The Denver Nuggets summer to-do list

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Three Stiffs writers tackle three pressing questions at the start of the Nuggets offseason.

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Stiffs Roundtable

The Denver Stiffs are launching a bi-weekly roundtable. Twice a week, three Stiffs will tackle three questions surrounding your Denver Nuggets. In this offseason edition, Brendan Vogt, Adam Mares and Jeremy Poley take a look at Denver’s to-do list this summer.

The guys discuss what should be Denver’s top priority, the possibility of Will Barton as a starter and what they’d like to see the Nuggets do with their draft pick.

Behold the inaugural Stiffs roundtable!

Besides re-signing Nikola Jokic, what should be Denver’s biggest priority this offseason?

Vogt: The Nuggets failed to move on from Kenneth Faried and/or Darrell Arthur at the trade deadline and now unloading those contracts has to be a top priority for Denver this offseason. Not only is that essential to retaining Jokic, but it provides the Nuggets with some relative flexibility. If moving one of those contracts can be paired with either Chandler choosing to opt out, or Denver moving him as well, then that’s the ideal start to the Summer in my opinion. If the Nuggets are to re-sign Barton and explore the back up point guard market, then the old money has to go.

Mares: I’d say re-signing Will Barton but I’ll leave that for the next question. The Nuggets need to clean up their cap sheet and maintain as much flexibility going forward as possible. One of the challenges facing the team this summer is the presence of three big, mostly unnecessary contracts on their roster that limit the team’s ability to add the pieces that they need. So finding someone to take on Kenneth Faried’s contract, Darrell Arthur’s contract, and possibly Wilson Chandler’s contract are high priorities.

Poley: The way I see it, Tim Connelly has been trying to build a young core while at the same time turn Denver into a free-agent destination. They have at most two seasons to finish their “pitch” for an all-star caliber free agent. That means that they HAVE to reach the playoffs to truly offer a top free agent a solid vision of championship contention.

To get us there we need an improved bench unit. Putting “pieces that fit” higher in priority than “pieces with potential”, like the majority of our currently constructed roster, is necessary to field a competitive second unit. I don’t believe that we need to adjust things too much or ditch some of our lingering big contracts this off-season to accomplish that. We have some good shooters. So, it all starts with playing a reliable point guard that makes the most of them.

If Will Barton returns, would you be comfortable with him as a starter?

Mares: I would. I actually think he is a very good fit in the starting lineup and his presence alongside Jamal Murray and Gary Harris would greatly increase the likelihood of the Nuggets regaining their “Jokic-ball” identity on offense. My only concern would be that it’d deplete the bench. Michael Malone would have to be careful with his rotations to ensure that bench units have enough scoring but as far as starting lineups go, Barton would fit like a glove.

Poley: I would be. Just consider, if Barton returns, that has to mean that Chandler is gone. So first of all, there’s a hole at the 3. Second of all, it would be symbolic of accepting the team’s current form as an offensive juggernaut. The turbo-offense, paper-thin-defense version of the Nuggets should be good enough to get us to the playoffs even if it’s ultimately our reason for not making it beyond the first round or two. Also, if Barton is re-signed it’s most likely going to be at least a 3 year deal (I would guess 2 years with a 3rd player option).

By throwing him in the starting lineup he would actually be building value as an asset, making himself easier to move in a year or two when we’ll most likely be attempting our big free agent splash. But let me be clear, signing Barton means taking the risk that you can move him later. He would be one injury away from being the next Chandler/Faried/Arthur immovable object at a critical time when the roster needs liquidity.

Vogt: Although the contrarian in me would love to offer the other perspective here, I think Will Barton would fit into the starting unit quite nicely. He’s improved his three point shooting in each of the least three years and it’s unlocked the ability serve as an off-ball threat—something that Denver lacked on the wing with Wilson Chandler in the lineup. In a very limited sample size, the starting unit—with Barton swapped in for Chandler—put up a scorching hot offensive rating and an eye popping net rating. It wouldn’t help the defense any, but man, that group would score a lot of points.

What would you like to see Denver do with their first round draft pick?

Poley:

  1. Move Up: Package the pick and move up to grab Mikal Bridges.
  2. Stay Put 1: Draft Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to be the playmaking two-way PG that can fit with a bench unit of shooters and possibly grow into a very dangerous three-guard lineup alongside Murray and Garris.
  3. Stay Put 2: Draft Robert Williams and hope he develops into a defensive version of Faried.
  4. Move back: Take a flyer on Jontay Porter or Mitchell Robinson as Jokic’s backup of the future, meanwhile increasing (albeit only a little) our assets for the next two offseasons or offloading one of our big contracts to make room for a well-fitting free agent for our bench.

Vogt: I’m of the belief that Denver will need that pick in order to move off of that old money we discussed earlier. The Atlanta Hawks are a potential candidate for a trade partner that might be looking to move into a late-lottery position. Perhaps Denver’s pick can entice them into taking on Faried’s contract. Atlanta won’t be using their cap space to compete for a low playoff seed next season and teams like the Brooklyn Nets have had success taking on money in exchange for assets. A trade like this could be in Denver’s future.

Mares: It’s only the first week of May so I haven’t talked myself into, out of, and back into every prospect in the draft quite yet. That being said, I’m not sure Denver should use their draft pick this season. Since salary cap relief is such a high priority, I wouldn’t mind seeing Denver trade out of this year’s draft to shed Faried’s salary, especially if they can net a future first rounder in the deal.