Two years ago when DeAndre Jordan first signed with the Denver Nuggets it left many fans puzzled. Obviously the name was very familiar, Jordan was arguably the best center in the league in the early 2010s, but those days were long gone and the now aging veteran was bouncing from team to team, rarely seeing a second year in the same uniform. He didn’t seem to be a player who was going to make an impact on the court for Denver whatsoever…and that very well may have been Denver’s plan. However, time and again Jordan found his way into spot duty in Denver’s rotation due to injuries, lack of depth and/or lack of size and more than once he showed there was still some gas left in the tank. His veteran presence in the locker room also not only fit Denver’s culture to a tee but also enhanced it as he became a vocal leader for the team. That led to return tour with the Nuggets this season and once again Jordan filled his role perfectly. At age 36 though, and with the Nuggets facing some tough roster decisions, it remains to be seen if Jordan will do something he’s yet to accomplish since leaving the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018: play a third year in a row for the same team.

2023/2024 Season Stats

11 3.9 4.4 0.7 0.4 62.40% N/A 0 -1.7

Season Story

When Jordan re-upped in the Summer it was a far more welcome signing the second time around. He proved his value to the Nuggets during their championship season and every team needs vets in the locker room. With Bruce Brown, Jeff Green and Ish Smith not returning while the Nuggets brought in three rookies, the need for experience and wisdom among the players was even greater this past year. Throughout the year DeAndre filled that role as well as anyone. He continued to be a vocal leader, often times talking up his teammates on the bench or working the refs in a calm manner (particularly when Nikola Jokic or Michael Malone were…less calm). He continued to fill in admirably on spot duty as well.

His most iconic moment was no doubt his and Reggie Jackon’s throwback night against DeAndre’s old team, the Clippers. With a depleted lineup that night, Jordan and Jackson were inserted in the starting lineup where they brought back Lob City in L.A. for one night only. Jordan’s size also once again came into play this season. When Denver’s bench started to struggle, particularly on the defensive glass, Jordan provided them with the missing element of size and strength down low. By the end of November he saw fairly regular minutes off the bench and continued to be right on the fringes of Malone’s rotation all the way into the All-Star break. After that though Malone started gearing up for the playoffs which meant shortening the rotation and eliminating the backup center role. Jordan played in just seven more games and he saw more than ten minutes of action in only three of them.

’24/’25 outlook with the Nuggets

DeAndre has not made any sort of indication that he intends to retire, but at age thirty-six it will be a consistent option he’ll have to consider each Summer until he does decide to hang them up. It’s certainly a possibility that he could choose to call it a career this Summer and if that’s a case he’ll finish his career with a slew of accomplishments, a championship ring and a justifiable Hall of Fame resume. Don’t anticipate any announcement soon though. He will be an unrestricted free agent this Summer so if there’s any desire at all to keep playing it makes the most sense for Jordan to do his due diligence and see what offers, if any, are out there. Including potentially returning to the Nuggets for a third year.

From Denver’s viewpoint if Jordan wants to come back there’s plenty of reason to welcome that. He can still provide them with the veteran leadership that they continue to need with a roster almost split down the middle between players in their prime and players on rookie contracts. However it also became apparent last season that relying on the combo of Zeke Nnaji and Jordan to fill the minutes when Jokic is off the court was a less than ideal scenario. Denver cannot continue to rely on DeAndre to fill rotation minutes for them at this point in his career. With Nnaji locked into four more years with his contract extension, Jordan is the far easier player to move on from, at least from a contractual standpoint.

In terms of compensation, it’s not likely that DeAndre receives anything more than the veterans minimum at this point. That’s been his salary three years running. Which means the Nuggets should not have an issue retaining him if there is mutual interest in doing that. So it’s also way too early to rule out a return to Denver for DeAndre. Despite him being another year older, the Nuggets’ limited options and his familiarity with the team could very well make it a fit. The plot diagram of Denver’s individual player salaries is basically a W with their rookies being paid very little and their prime players being paid quite a bit. The middle of the W is Zeke with his $8 million salary. That’s important when discussing a Jordan return because, from a trade perspective, Nnaji’s salary is one of the most workable in a deal which could open up a spot for Jordan in itself. Denver could also elect to carry three bigs on their bench. That’s what they did last season although one of those three was a two-way contract player (Jay Huff).

My prediction is DeAndre will not be back with the Nuggets next season. If he is then it won’t be the worst move to make, far from it, but I think the Nuggets are going to look hard at improving their center depth and using one of those two to three spots with a veteran who you don’t intend to play very much is not the most prudent way to go. Even if the Nuggets were to decide to carry three guaranteed contracts for reserve bigs they could go the route of adding a rotation big with their MLE (if they have it) and shoring up the depth with a young player they want to develop, perhaps acquiring that player with their first round pick in the upcoming draft. However, if things don’t pan out in those markets then perhaps a Jordan return will happen. Either way, DeAndre is a fantastic Nugget and one who has made this franchise better.