NUGGETS

Report: Nuggets finally get in on free agency, add Jokic backup

Jul 6, 2024, 5:15 PM

The Denver Nuggets are again trying to address their depth behind Nikola Jokic, signing Dario Saric on Saturday to a two year, $10.6 million deal, according to ESPN.

Saric averaged eight points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game for the Golden State Warriors last season. He’s also played in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Minnesota and Oklahoma City in a career that stared in the 2016 season. Saric is listed at 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds.

Denver GM Calvin Booth hadn’t made a move yet in free agency, until now. It was causing panic in Nuggets Nation, as contracts have been dished out around the NBA for nearly a week. The team lost champion Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Orlando and shipped Reggie Jackson to Charlotte. This is the first free agent Booth’s added this summer.

The Nuggets have already done a lot of work to address the role behind Jokic, trading up to draft Dayton’s DaRon Holmes II and re-signing DeAndre Jordan, while seeing Zeke Nnaji’s extension kick in. But Saric should see significant minutes in the regular season and playoffs.

Nnaji was once viewed as the long-term solution as a backup in the frontcourt but his struggles have kept him out of the playoff rotation the past two seasons. Still, there’s reason to believe Nnaji might work out one day, as there was a 30-game stretch in the 2022-23 regular season where he balled, and that’s why he has a four-year deal.

But his 2023-24 follow-up was a disaster playing fewer minutes a night and losing the trust of Michael Malone. All of Nnaji’s numbers went down and his early career three-point shooting has nearly completely disappeared as too did the ferocious glasswork that made him the Pac-12’s best rebounder at one point.

Meanwhile, Jordan is basically a coach who can play at this point, stepping in only for short stints during the last two postseasons and playing just 50 games mostly as a backup over since singing in Denver ahead of the 2023-24 season. Jordan re-signed in Denver last week. His presence in the locker room is key and nobody has much of an issue with “DJ” being on the roster despite only showing rare flashes of the All-NBA player he was a decade ago.

And then there’s Holmes whose hopes are high for. Though the Nuggets see him more as a future starting power forward the team does view him as a big who can play with or without Jokic—a quality Denver has long sought out of this role. The 6-foot-10 Arizona native exits Dayton after his junior season in the A-10 where he averaged a 30th-best in the country 20.4 points with 8.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.1 blocks per game. He hit a three-a-game on much-improved 39% shooting.

After signing Saric the Nuggets are expected to have one roster spot to play with which could be occupied by a player they acquire with a minimum contract.

Denver could also add a more expensive player using minimal assets by taking advantage of league mechanisms—that player could be Russell Westbrook. At that point, the Nuggets offseason would basically be complete.

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