According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, the Denver Nuggets will decline Nikola Jokic’s team option and plan to offer him a max contract.
Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic will have his team option declined for next season to become RFA, and sides plan to reach agreement on a five-year, $146.5M maximum contract, league sources told Yahoo.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 25, 2018
The move is to be expected as it’s the best path forward for the team long term and today was the day Denver had to decide on Jokic’s option. Accepting Nikola’s team option would have left him severely underpaid in the upcoming 2018-2019 season and also would have made him an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with whomever he pleases, next offseason. By declining Nikola’s option the Nuggets make him a restricted free agent this summer, though according to Shams it doesn’t appear that the Nuggets plan to let it even get to that point, opting instead to work on giving Jokic the 5 year, $146.5 million max offer that only the Nuggets can extend.
This is the best case scenario for Denver and their fans. The worst case was obviously letting Nikola hit the free market next offseason, but even making him go out and get a max contract offer from someone else in restricted free agency that the Nuggets wind up matching isn’t a great route. No doubt the Nuggets saw how that strategy didn’t pay off in the long run for division rival the Utah Jazz and their now former star player Gordon Hayward. However, the Nuggets have now completed step three in what I’m referring to as a “one year salary cap apocalypse.”
Step one was Darrell Arthur and Wilson Chandler opting in to their player options, step two was not moving any salary on draft night. If the Nuggets re-sign Will Barton (step 4) then there will be an immense amount of pressure put on Tim Connelly and Arturas Karnisovas to unload some of their expiring contacts (Arthur, Chandler, Kenneth Faried) to dodge paying in excess of $200 million for salaries and luxury tax penalties. Many expected the Nuggets to use their 14th pick on last Thursday’s draft night to shed salary but they elected to go with picking Michael Porter Jr instead. Now Denver will likely have to use other packages that involve either future picks or current young prospects to move salary. Ultimately, if locking down the franchise star means having to move off of one of the players Denver still has on a rookie contract not named Jamal Murray, then I think that’s something Nuggets fans will be willing to stomach. All in all, a good day for Nuggets Nation.
UPDATE: Nuggets officially decline Nikola Jokic’s team option
The Denver Nuggets filed paperwork to decline the team option on star Nikola Jokic’s contract late Monday night, clearing the way to sign him to what likely will be a 5-year, approximately $147 million maximum contract in July, league sources told ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 26, 2018
Step one and step two were in the books. Step three is now in the books as well. The Nuggets really want Jokic around for a long time. Who can blame them?