Five players the Nuggets should target in free agency
Jun 28, 2023, 4:46 PM
The Denver Nuggets may have just won a title, but they’re trying to get even better this summer in hopes of a repeat.
The Nuggets are over the salary cup, into the luxury tax and are heavily limited in ways they can add to their roster. Still, there are a few things Denver could do on June 30 when free agency opens up to make their team better.
In Denver Sports’ full off-season break down we covered what the Nuggets need, a backup guard, big, and some bench scoring. Denver has already added some bench scoring and backcourt depth as well as some on the wings, with their three draft picks last week. The big question around the Nuggets core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope—which all returns—is will sixth man Bruce Brown come back? Brown played backup point guard and was a 3-and-d wing with good cutting skills. But Brown would have to take a discount in order to run it back with the Nuggets. The Nuggets may be replacing Brown and be needing to remake some of their bench. Even if Brown comes back, and though he proved he can run the point in spurts, Denver may want a true backup point for the regular season. With or without Brown, this is the list the Nuggets should consider, keep in mind they will only have one taxpayer mid-level exception (worth $5 million) and minimum contracts.
Here are five NBA free agents the Denver Nuggets should target:
SG, 6-6, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Minnesota
One of Murray’s Team Canada’s backcourt mates and a longtime friend of the Blue Arrow, NAW was one of the players tasked with cooling Murray in the playoffs. Alexander-Walker, the cousin of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft but has struggled to catch on, getting traded four times already in his four-year NBA career. Over his 217 games, he shoots 34% from deep, scoring 8.4 points and throwing 2.1 assists per game.
In this year’s playoffs, the hot-as-the-sun Murray only shot 36% from the field in the series when guarded by Alexander-Walker, according to matchup data on NBA.com. In the play-in game that got the Wolves to the Nuggets, his cousin and Thunder All-NBA player SGA was held to 2-for-14 shooting in their matchups. NAW has a 6-9 wingspan and seems to have finally just found a role that suits him in the NBA. He’s a restricted free agent but the Twin Cities could have a lot of movement on their roster with how expensive it is despite much success. If NAW leaves, could he take a pay cut from about $7 million to follow in Brown’s path at $5 million and look great next to Jokic?
SG, 6-5, Shake Milton, Philadelphia
Milton has spent all five of his NBA seasons with the 76ers as a solid backcourt option. Milton’s distribution numbers are solid showing he’s an undervalued passer. He’s also a career 36.5% three-point shooter, thrice making more than 50 from deep in a season. He’s also played in 43 postseason games, mostly falling out of Philly’s postseason rotation this past season but the 26-year-old has been solid in playoffs past. Milton seems like a guy who has a lot of different talents but needs a change of scenery to blossom. Milton is an unrestricted free agent and could earn as much with the Nuggets this season ($5 million) as he has in his career.
SG, 6-5, Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago
Dosunmu is also a restricted free and may slip through the cracks for a Bulls team in flux. A high second-round pick in 2021, the Chicago native who went to Illinois would be a perfect Nugget. He hustles, plays defense, plays off his teammates, and has flashed a nice shot at times. With the serious injury to Lonzo Ball, he’s more or less been the Bulls starting point guard for two seasons, albeit he plays off-ball quite a bit with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine doing much of the production. The injury to Ball also explains some of why Dosunmu’s three-point shooting went from 38% in his rookie season to 31% last year. All but one of his 129 career three-point makes have come off an assist and taking away Chicago’s best playmaker certainly would’ve hurt a young player. The Bulls issued a $5 million qualifying offer to Dosunmu, which is around what the Nuggets could offer. The Bulls could match whatever Denver offered but they also have their other three guards, plus Colby White and Alex Caruso to worry about.
G, 6-3, Dennis Schröder, Lakers
A veteran with an up-and-down few years, heck make it his whole career. A bulldog point guard and shooting guard who hustles on defense and has some scoring abilities Schroder spent last season with the Lakers. He was primarily a starter and went for seven points, three rebounds and three helpers a game in Los Angeles’ four-game loss to the Nuggets. he was a big part of a Hawks team nearly a decade ago where he scored 25 points per game in a playoff series but for the most part, he’s around 13 points per game on 34% shooting from deep while adding nearly five artists per game. While his offensive game has trailed off a bit as he’s changed roles with age, his defense is still at the top level.
Wing, 6-5, Josh Richardson, New Orleans
Richardson has played for six teams and the former second-rounder has a lot of skill but just hasn’t found the right home or position on the floor. Could the oddball Nuggets make good with a flyer on Richardson and his career 37% three-point shot, known defense and some playmaking abilities?
Other names to watch: Patrick Beverley, Joe Ingles, Donte DiVincenzo, Gabe Vincent, Jevon Carter, Kyle Lowry, Mason Plumlee
One more note: The Nuggets have a $9 million trade exception that expires a few days into July, created from dealing Monte Morris last summer. These players would fit the Nuggets and fit into that slot of money. Jae’Sean Tate, Delon Wright, KJ Martin, Alex Caruso, Saddiq Bey, Cole Anthony