NUGGETS

Nuggets bench piece Vlatko Cancar one step closer to return

Jun 5, 2024, 1:55 PM

The Denver Nuggets were without their Swiss army knife off the bench this past season, losing forward Vlatko Cancar in an international exhibition game last summer to a torn ACL. Now the 27-year-old is set to make his return to the hardwood and do it again internationally for his home country of Slovenia.

Cancar was announced by the Slovenia Basketball Federation as one of the 16 players for their Olympic qualification tournament in Piraeus. That event is set for early July in Greece where Cancar, Luka Doncic and Slovenia will have to win the tournament in order to make the 2024 Olympics in Paris later in July. Also in the qualifier are Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Greece, Karl-Anthony Towns’ Dominican Republic, Bojan Bogdanovic’s Croatia as well as New Zealand and Egypt.

The winner of the qualifying tournament will face Canada to start the Olympics tournament on July 27.

Cancar is one of two NBA players for Slovenia with the other being NBA MVP candidate Doncic, who led the Mavs to the NBA Finals. Cancar will be the fresher of the two since he didn’t play this summer, recovering from knee surgery. But because of that, he’ll be rusty.

From the Nuggets perspective, they expected Vlatko to play for Slovenia this summer and it’s great to see him on the court. Unfortunately, the date of the games will come after the June 23 decision date Denver has on a team option for Cancar. Even if they decline it, the Nuggets are expected to bring back Cancar for another season.

In his last NBA season where the Nuggets ended up as champions, Cancar played in 60 games, scoring five points a game on 37% shooting from deep with a few big-time dunks to add to an ability to connect many plays together. The Nuggets clearly missed the 6-8 player in their repeat bid. While he’s primarily played power forward, he’s played the two, three and five in the NBA too. In 2023-24, Cancar would’ve likely been the backup power forward and taken Jeff Green’s role from the year before. Without Cancar, Denver got a nice year from rookie Peyton Watson, but the team shortened their bench earlier into the season, which may have contributed to just how tired the team was in the playoffs.

Cancar would be a very nice addition to the Nuggets roster and he’s a player Michael Malone and Nikola Jokic trust. The forward’s recovery over the next several weeks is something the Nuggets will be watching closely.

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