Nearly every Friday for the last two and a half years, I’ve released a Film Friday column that has been Denver Nuggets’ related in some way or another. This week, we’re giving that column a little break because the NBA free agency period has officially kicked off, and there have been a flurry of moves around the league. The Nuggets were able to sign superstar center Nikola Jokic to a deal that will keep him in Denver until the 2027-28 season for $246 million over the course of the deal.
After that major deal was announced, the Nuggets also announced that they had signed center DeAndre Jordan to a one-year deal at the veteran minimum along with signing Davon Reed to a two-year deal worth $4 million, which was a well-deserved raise for the wing that showed some promise for Denver last season. Now, the Nuggets, who already didn’t have a ton of money to spend, are going to be even more limited in the amount of spending they can do in the remainder of free agency.
As things currently stand, they have one open roster spot, and they have the Tax-Payer Mid-Level Exception available for $6.479 million that they can use to fill that spot. Assuming Jordan is going to be their backup center for the upcoming season, the question then becomes what other spot needs addressed the most. With Jamal Murray and Bones Hyland as the primary point guards, with possibly Ish Smith as the third-string man, along with a decent amount of depth at forward, the likely shopping spot is on the wing. The team brought in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in a trade deal, and they have a couple of rookies that could take minutes there. However, they could stand to find at least one more veteran wing player that can help them on both ends of the floor. The question becomes, are there any of those guys out there that they can afford?
Bruce Brown Jr.
Before I joined Denver Stiffs, I was covering the Detroit Pistons for Hoops Habit, and, while I was on that beat, the team had brought in Bruce Brown Jr. with a second-round pick out of the University of Miami. He never really caught on in Detroit as a scoring guard, and it became clear that he was going to be a role-playing defender that could occasionally knock down a jumper and set up teammates. After bouncing back and forth between Detroit and their G-League affiliate, he was part of a big trade deal involving several players that sent him to the Brooklyn Nets, and he immediately fit in on a team loaded with star talent.
The stats will never tell the full story for Brown, although he did average a career-high 40.4 percent from 3-point range on 1.3 attempts per game. However, it was everything else that he brought to the table that made the difference. Brown averaged 23.4 minutes per game in Brooklyn while guarding point guards up to some small power forwards, similar to the role Marcus Smart plays with the Boston Celtics, but it came without the offensive output.
On a team that was 19th in Defensive Rating, Brown was one of just two players with a Defensive Box Plus/Minus that was above a 1.0 as he had a 1.1. The only player on the team above him was DeAndre Bembry with a 1.6, although Bembry played around 800 fewer minutes than Brown, who was actually third on the Nets in minutes last season. Brown doesn’t bring nearly as much on the offensive end as you would hope, but, as a role player off of the bench or occasionally in the starting lineup, you could do much worse.
Ultimately, the question will come down to how much money Brown is looking for. With the turmoil going on in Brooklyn, he could be looking to join another contender as soon as possible, and there should be a wide variety of suitors. At the very least, Denver should approach him to see if he’s interested in joining them. He’d be getting a slight raise from his time in Brooklyn, and he’d still be playing a key role on a team contending for a title.
This is one that Denver likely won’t be able to afford, but it remains to be seen what the market is going to be. Former first-round pick Donte DiVincenzo, who rode a hot streak of shooting in the NCAA tournament, has yet to reclaim that magic in the NBA, and he now finds himself heading into unrestricted free agency after being traded during his fourth season.
DiVincenzo shot a career-best 37.9 percent from 3-point range during the 2020-21 season after becoming the team’s starter at shooting guard. In the 2021-22 season though, he lost that starting spot, and he never gained it back after struggling with injuries prior to the trade. His lone start of the year came in one game for the Sacramento Kings. DiVincenzo will likely be looking to gain some value for himself on a one-year prove-it deal, and Denver is a pretty good spot for him to do that.
While he’s not nearly the defensive player that Brown is, he does bring more on the offensive end, and he’s still serviceable on the defensive end of the floor. DiVincenzo’s offensive upside will likely price him out of Denver’s market unless he’s willing to take less to join a contender where he fits in well. He would likely have more space to work than he’s ever seen before, and he’d be working with one of the best passing bigs the NBA has ever had.
Derrick Jones Jr.
One last guy that we’re going to talk about today is Derrick Jones Jr., who spent this past season with the Chicago Bulls. Jones has bounced around the league, as he’s been on four teams over the course of six seasons, but he still brings value to whatever team he’s on, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Jones has registered a positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus in each of the past four seasons, and he was fourth among Bulls rotation players last season.
Jones brings something a little different from the other two we’ve looked at so far. He’s a solid defensive player without a ton of shooting on offense, but he’s a great off-ball cutter, which is one way he would fit in perfectly alongside Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. While they spread the floor, he would have room to go to the rim where he could rise up for big dunks, as he’s done at every stop of his career thus far.
Jones is also the first guy that would be taking a pay cut to come to Denver. He made just over $9.7 million last season, and Denver would only be able to offer that TPMLE to him, which would require a $3 million cut. Would he be willing to sacrifice that much money to likely be coming off of the bench, or is he looking to make as much money as possible, even if that’s for a team that isn’t contending for a title?