According to Bennett Durando of the Denver Post, the Denver Nuggets are declining the team option for fifth year forward Vlatko Cancar.

Durando is referring to a quirk of the salary cap when he states this is a mutually beneficial move. With five years of service, Cancar can expect to make just over $2.4 million on a veteran minimum salary in 2024 or about $100k more than what he would have made if the Nuggets picked up his team option. From the Nuggets end, the NBA reimburses a team the difference between the veteran minimum salary of a multi year vet and the veteran minimum salary of a player with two years of service. The amount the team pays is all that counts against the cap. So, in the case of Cancar, by declining his option and then signing him to a one year veteran minimum the Nuggets would only have to pay, and have count against their cap, the veteran minimum salary of a player with two years of service, not a five, which is about $2.1 million.

Another thing working in both the Nuggets and Cancar’s favor on this move is this offseason teams are allowed to negotiate with their own free agents prior to the beginning of free agency which is June 30th. So even though Cancar is now an unrestricted free agent, Denver still has a week to finalize a deal with him before any other team can begin to speak with him. After missing the entire season due to an ACL injury and never finding significant playing time despite five years in the league, it’s hard to imagine any team paying Cancar more than a minimum so this seems like merely a procedural move and in no way an indication that Cancar will not be on the Nuggets next year.

If Vlatko is back he should be right in the mix to try and gain a spot in the rotation as a backup big. It remains to be seen how effective he can be coming off of a major injury like an ACL injury however. The Nuggets and their fans might get a preview of Vlatko’s ability post injury this Summer. He is currently listed on Slovenia’s extended 17 man roster for the Olympic qualifiers which will take place in the beginning of July. There’s been no confirmation as to whether or not Vlatko will make the pared down 12 man roster that ultimately competes for a spot in the Olympics but he has been a mainstay on Slovenia’s roster for a few years now.

If for some reason Vlatko was not back in Denver next season (with the NBA draft just three days away things can certainly change in less than a week) it will open up a roster spot. Right now Denver currently has ten players under full NBA contracts for next season with two more, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope & Reggie Jackson, currently with a player option for next season. Caldwell-Pope is unlikely to pick up his player option but Jackson very well may which put Denver’s roster at eleven and unless they make a trade they’ll add the twelfth guaranteed contract to their roster on Wednesday with their first round pick. Signing Vlatko on top of Jackson and a draft pick would leave Denver with just two full roster spots available. If the Nuggets found three players in free agency, or potentially with additional picks in the draft, that they prefer over Vlatko then they might find themselves between a rock and a hard place with their fifth year forward.