MERILATT MONDAY

KCP leaving town is a bummer, but it’s no reason to panic

Jul 1, 2024, 4:00 AM | Updated: 2:44 pm

Last year, it was Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. This time around, it’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Members of the Nuggets championship team are leaving for greener pastures. For KCP, it was three years and $66 million worth of green.

Such is the plight of a title winner. Other teams inevitably raid the roster, hoping to tap into the championship mojo.

It’s bound to happen. It’s impossible to avoid.

But fans will freak out. They hate to see players who had big moments during the franchise’s signature run leave town. They have an emotional tie to their basketball heroes.

Thats understandable. It’s natural to want to keep the band together, to keep running it back with the same cast.

It’s just not realistic. At all.

The Nuggets can’t afford to keep everyone. And even if they could, they shouldn’t bother doing it. Not at inflated prices.

Two years and $45 million for Brown? Nope. That’s too much for a backup who has averaged 8.9 points per game during his career.

Two years and $16 million for Green? Heck no. He will turn 38 this summer and has played for one-third of the teams in the NBA.

Three years and $66 million for Caldwell-Pope? It’s laughable. He scored less than 10 points in eight of the Nuggets 12 playoff games this season.

Let other teams overpay. They’ll eventually regret it.

The Pacers already shipped Brown to the Raptors. KCP probably won’t last three seasons in Orlando.

Why? Because they aren’t difference makers.

They’re good players. They aren’t great.

They shined because they played alongside amazing players. Their value was elevated because they were on the court with a three-time MVP.

Nikola Jokic raises all boats. He makes teammates better. He allows players to shine, drawing the attention of the other team and then deferring to those around him.

But he’s not in Houston, Indiana or Orlando. And it’ll show.

They aren’t the same players when they’re the focal point. They’re made to be the fifth, sixth or seventh guy in the rotation.

That’s no disrespect to any of those three players. And it’s not being ungrateful for their contributions to a winner.

They were vital. They made a lasting impression.

But other players can fill their roles. Younger Nuggets can step up and fill the void. It’s not that difficult.

Jokic is irreplaceable. Jamal Murray is a cornerstone. Michael Porter Jr. has star potential. And Aaron Gordon is the straw that stirs the drink.

Losing any of those four would be reason to panic. Breaking up the core would be worrisome.

Watching supporting characters leave is a bummer, but it’s no reason to worry. The Nuggets will be fine.

Christian Braun will play a bigger role. So will Peyton Watson. Maybe Julian Strawther or Zeke Nnaji will blossom. Perhaps DaRon Holmes will see the court as a rookie.

Whoever. Whatever. It doesn’t matter.

It’s all about the core four. They have to be great for the Nuggets to win. They have to live up to their contracts for Denver to be a contender. That’s the bottom line.

The Nuggets can’t pay everyone. They had to make a choice.

They paid Jokic, Murray, MPJ and AG. As they should’ve.

That’s the prudent move. That’s what they had to do.

But that comes with consequences. And that means role players are going to leave. It’s inevitable.

Don’t worry about KCP. Thank him on his way out the door.

The Nuggets championship window is still open. That hasn’t changed a bit.

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