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Stein: Nuggets expected to pursue Andre Iguodala if he hits free agency

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Could the Nuggets and Iguodala put the past behind them?

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Denver Nuggets are expected to court Andre Iguodala in free agency if he ever separates himself from the Memphis Grizzlies.

“The Nuggets expect to introduce the promising Michael Porter Jr. this season after winning the West’s regular-season title — and are said to be interested in making an ambitious play to bring Iguodala back to Denver if Iguodala can extricate himself from Memphis.”

After a trade this offseason in a salary dump by the Golden State Warriors, Iguodala is currently on an expiring contract worth approximately $17.2 million during the 2019-20 season. The Warriors were forced to clear up salary cap space to sign point guard D’Angelo Russell to a max contract in a double sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets, who acquired Kevin Durant.

After averaging 5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game during the regular season, Iguodala raised those averages to 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game in the playoffs while shooting 35% from three-point range. Even at 35 years old, Iguodala remains a capable offensive player and one of the best wing defenders in the NBA. Though he deferred often to the younger superstars and stars on the Warriors, Iguodala’s presence on the floor was consistently impactful. In 2018-19, the small forward ranked 41st in the entire NBA in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus metric at +2.51, which would have ranked third on the Nuggets behind Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap.

As it currently stands, the Nuggets have some decisions to make at small forward this year. The best player is probably Will Barton, though Barton never truly recovered from his injuries last year. Torrey Craig, though an excellent role player, is limited in his own right. Michael Porter Jr. is definitely the most talented but likely the least reliable of the bunch given his injury issues and rookie status. Adding a veteran like Iguodala to the mix makes some sense, especially given the need for his skill set in a playoff environment.

Of course, the name Iguodala will ring hard in the ears of some Nuggets fans. After the Nuggets traded for Iguodala prior to the 2012-13 season, the small forward, probably Denver’s best player at the time, had a hasty departure to the Warriors, the team that had just defeated the Nuggets in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. That began Denver’s spiral for a few years until the most recent edition of the Nuggets finally broke into the playoff picture again.

However, a lot of time has passed, and both Iguodala and the Nuggets are at drastically different phases since the last time they broke up. This time, the Nuggets are the upstart young team with all the talent in the world. They just need a capable small forward to bind it all together.

There will be a number of teams that make a pitch to Iguodala to be part of their squad. Both Los Angeles teams, the Lakers and the Clippers, are sure to use their cap space on somebody to round out the roster, especially if Kawhi Leonard goes back to Toronto. Other contenders will be sure to offer Iguodala a contract as well. The Nuggets can make a solid pitch though. They have the talent and pieces to insulate Iguodala during the regular season and give him the load management he needs. They also have the full mid-level exception, which amounts to a $9.2 million contract. The team that gets Kawhi won’t be able to offer that amount of money, and neither the Lakers or Clippers can offer the roster insulation Iguodala will be seeking at this stage in his career. He doesn’t need to play a ton in the regular season, and the Nuggets would need him for the playoffs anyway.

The idea of bringing Iguodala back intrigues me, and Nuggets fans would be wise to check their ego at the door in the name of adding a veteran piece with the skill set and championship experience to offer major impact during the 2019-20 season.