The Denver Nuggets came out as the clear winners in day two of NBA free agency by reportedly signing Paul Millsap for $90 million over three years. The contract gives Denver future financial flexibility, with a team option, reportedly in year three, to retain their young core and allows the Nuggets a chance to compete in what is turning out to be an absolutely stacked Western Conference and Northwest Division.
Acquiring Millsap is arguably the biggest free agent signing over the past two decades in Denver. The 32-year-old fits perfectly into the workman culture that head coach Michael Malone has been cultivating over the past two seasons and is the remedy for most ailments that plagued the Nuggets last season. The gravity of signing Millsap to such a team-friendly contract cannot be overstated.
With that being said, bringing Millsap into a crowded frontcourt rotation that is already overwhelmed with repetitive skill-sets presents another set of problems.
Denver, after signing Millsap, now has a whopping six players who play power forward: Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur, Juan Hernangomez, Trey Lyles, and Denver’s first-round draft pick Tyler Lydon. There are simply not enough minutes to go around and Denver will likely have to move on from at least one, if not multiple, of their power forwards.
Here are a few deals that could be looked into for Denver to consolidate their roster and potentially bring helpful assets.
Revisiting a trade for Eric Bledsoe
Denver sends – Tyler Lydon, Wilson Chandler, Emmanuel Mudiay, rights to Golden State’s 2018 second round pick
Phoenix sends – Eric Bledsoe
This is the trade with the most star power involved. Denver was reportedly interested in trading for Bledsoe on draft night and reportedly put together a package of Mudiay and the 13th pick to get him. The Nuggets have been interested in high-level point guards for the majority of the offseason and Bledsoe fits that bill.
The Suns have reportedly been open to taking on salary and players to obtain future assets which make them a perfect trading partner for Denver to consolidate their roster. The only issue is that for Denver to consolidate, they will likely have to overpay to do so.
Adding Chandler and a second round pick to the originally reported deal of Mudiay and Lydon for Bledsoe gives Phoenix two more young players to develop and a hyper-versatile forward in Chandler that can start or come off of the bench, plus another draft pick.
Denver then immediately improves by adding Bledsoe, who averaged 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in 33 minutes per game, to the current core of Millsap, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray, who would then slide into a bench role to continue developing without the extra pressure of starting.
Sign-and-trade with the Clippers
Los Angeles sends – Patrick Beverley
Now that Denver is paying Paul Millsap $30 million a year, it most likely eliminates them from re-signing Gallinari. The Clippers, without enough cap space to sign the Italian forward, would benefit from sign-and-trading for Gallinari so that they can bring him in without having to make additional moves to shed salary.
This gives the Nuggets a unique opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Sending Denver’s first round selection, Lydon, and Jameer Nelson, along with Gallinari and his new contract, to the Clippers for Patrick Beverley is quite advantageous for both teams.
The Clippers get Gallinari, who they highly covet, as well as a young player in Lydon that they can look to develop or use as a trade chip down the line. Nelson also fits alongside recently re-signed Blake Griffin because he can play on or off of the ball and act as a secondary facilitator when needed.
Denver improves their roster by upgrading the point guard position defensively thanks to Beverley’s ability to defend both guard positions, shed a power forward and young player that the team just does not have time to develop and get something for Gallinari, who is virtually out the door.
Emmanuel Mudiay to the Knicks
Denver sends – Darrell Arthur, Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Lyles
New York sends – Courtney Lee
This is a desperation player dump essentially. Courtney Lee has been rumored to be on the trading block so New York can open up money to pursue a point guard. Denver needs to shed multiple players, especially at power forward.
The Knicks get off a player they’ve been trying to move and still take back two young and somewhat promising young players in Mudiay and Lyles. Both have struggled in their first two seasons but also still have substantial upside. To get both and only send out Lee should be plenty to convince the Knicks to take back Arthur’s contract in the deal. If that is not enough to entice the Knicks into a deal then Denver could also add either of their future second-round picks to spice things up.
There is no clear role or situation for Lee in Denver but the Nuggets do clear two power forwards off of their roster and clear up minutes at point guard for Murray. It is not the prettiest deal but it could be effective for Denver.
Regardless of how it happens Denver needs to consolidate before the start of the season and that starts at the power forward position. Somehow, the Nuggets have to finally consolidate their roster and they need to do so quickly before teams begin to fill out their rotations.
It seems that signing Millsap is just the first domino to fall for Denver this offseason.