Following the 2019-20 season, the Denver Nuggets had a new level of expectations set for them after their run to the Western Conference Finals last year in the bubble in Orlando. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray had moved up multiple tiers to join the top stars in the sport while Michael Porter Jr. flashed his scoring prowess. The team’s other top player in the playoffs was Jerami Grant. Grant was offered a 3-year/$60 million deal in the offseason to remain with Denver, but he opted to sign with the Detroit Pistons for the exact same amount of money but a bigger role. So, how do you replace a 3-and-D wing that was your attempt at answering LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs? You sign JaMychal Green.
Green wasn’t quite the athlete or offensive threat that Denver had with Grant, but he gave Denver a player that could alleviate the minutes requirement for Paul Millsap, who would be turning 36 in February, while also leaving plenty of minutes for Porter to take the next step in his path of development. When Denver signed Green, they needed him to put in effort on defense while knocking down the occasional open 3-pointer when he was on the floor.
Green has a player option for next season that he has until July 26th to decide whether or not he’s going to opt into it. There’s a realistic possibility that he could return while being the first forward off of the bench if Millsap and the Nuggets part ways. With Gordon and Porter, he won’t be in the starting lineup, but he was serviceable enough this year that he would still be a solid rotation player if he were to return next year.
To start the season, Green was coming off of the bench in relief of Millsap as Denver’s starting lineup was Murray, Gary Harris, Porter, Millsap and Jokic. He had a few different opportunities to start with all of Denver’s injuries, but, for the most part, he was putting in about 20 minutes per night with the expectation he could provide some defense and somewhere between 6-10 points.
Green’s defense left a lot to be desired unfortunately this year. Among rotation players, Green was last on the team in Defensive Box Plus/Minus, and the dropoff from Millsap to Green was a substantial one. He made up for it on the offensive end to a certain extent. While he lacked consistency from game-to-game at times, he brought enough of a threat from outside to give penetrators room to create with the occasional bit of production down on the block.
Season Grade: C+
If you had taken this grade at the end of the regular season, there is a strong chance Green likely comes in with a grade around a B. Unfortunately for Green, the playoffs count, and Green just couldn’t get things rolling the same way in the playoffs especially on the defensive end of the floor where his defensive rating was a 124.
On the offensive end, he shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range in the regular season on 3.4 attempts per game, but, during the playoffs, he completely fell off. He was averaging 2.0 attempts per game while shooting 30 percent from 3-point range which was allowing defenders to sag off of him to send attention to the team’s other offensive threats, namely Jokic. Even if he was shooting just 35 percent from outside, that could have been a huge bump to a Nuggets’ bench unit that was struggling massively to score.
Season Highlight: Game against the Atlanta Hawks
This one was an easy call. Green scored a season-high 20 points to lead the Nuggets in scoring while shooting 7-of-12 from the floor. Green only scored 20 or more points once all season, and he did it in the way Denver needed him to. Denver won the game by 24 points, and it was never particularly close after they won the second quarter by 14. However, seeing Green flow in the offense showed them that he fully belonged in the team’s rotation moving forward.
What’s next for JaMychal Green
Green’s offseason is going to be a very interesting one. He might be able to get $7 million per in the open market, but he could just as easily opt-in to his player option for next season. He just turned 31 on Monday, and he could be looking for one last multi-year payday in free agency. There are some teams with some money available this offseason that could tempt him to look elsewhere.
Denver drafted Zeke Nnaji last year to fill out their forward rotation, and he showed the potential as a rookie to be a viable rotation player next year. The status of Millsap will also likely affect Green’s decision. Millsap is a free agent this offseason, and the Nuggets are unlikely to retain their cap hold on him of $19 million just due to other cap commitments. If they let Millsap walk, they may be locked into bringing Green back even if he goes into free agency.
Wherever Green is playing next season, he’s going to be playing essentially the same role we’ve seen from him since he entered the league. He’s a reasonable big off of the bench that can knock down 3-pointers at a decent rate while putting in some effort on defense. A month from now, we’ll know the full status of Green. Until then, we’re just in a holding pattern to see if Denver is heading into another offseason searching for help in the frontcourt.