Wilson Chandler also opted-in to his contract for the 2018-19 season in Denver. As much as that salary hurts Denver’s options for this season, there isn’t a better option at the small forward available to the Nuggets. As presently constituted, Denver is $30 million over the salary cap. There’s a want to move any combination of Faried, Arthur, Chandler, possibly Plumlee and future picks to clear cap space and to add depth to a roster that often saw 7-man rotations last year.
Chandler is a mystery. There is the famous performance in Denver’s season-ending loss at Minnesota. In that game, Chandler logged 48 minutes with zero points, nine rebounds and two assists. Chandler was second to only Nikola Jokic in plus/minus for that game, though and along with Jokic, the only players with positive plus/minus stats. Chandler’s contribution isn’t limited to scoring so while he may have had a statistically down season, he still contributed. Let’s not forget that he settled in and produced very well for Denver after the trade deadline, the final game aside. Chandler, like Millsap has a specific role. With the bulk of the scoring handled by The Core, Wilson uses his other skills to be the puzzle piece Denver needs him to be. Ill Will has immeasurable value for this season, allowing MPJ any needed recovery or rehabilitation time.
There’s also the mystery of Juancho Hernangomez. After an incredibly promising rookie campaign, he was felled by mononucleosis in his sophomore season. I haven’t looked it up, I’m not a doctor but I’ve known a few people that were afflicted with mono and it was a year before they were right again. If mono was truly Juancho’s only problem in 2017, the Nuggets could be in for a pleasant surprise at the three and have further insurance for MPJ’s back.
As of this writing, which is before the free-agent signing period, the Nuggets have neither secured nor lost Will Barton. While Thrill is a shooting guard, he can effectively play the three spot as well. The acquisition of MPJ should allow Denver to utilize Barton as a sixth-man at either the shooting guard or small forward position while still maintaining MPJ and Malik Beasley as backups.
The Nuggets have never secured the top pick in the NBA draft. The best they’ve done is third, three times (2003, 1998, 1990). Those picks turned into a mixed-bag for Denver. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a generational talent but Tourette’s Syndrome and Anthem protests cut his career short. Raef LaFrentz showed promise but knee injuries hobbled the Kansas big-man before he could establish a career. Carmelo Anthony’s time in Denver is well-documented.
Michael Porter, Jr. falling into Denver’s lap at 14 was akin to securing a top-pick. He may be the most physically gifted, complete player from the draft. He has a back issue. It required surgery. There have been everything from holistic gurus to spinal experts weigh in on the severity of the injury. What I can gather is that it’s not the injury that’s an issue, he seems to be healed and Porter professes to feel fine, it’s the prospect of that injury becoming chronic. There’s always a chance that happens. Fortunately, the Nuggets will really be in no worse shape than they are now even if Porter’s back takes him out. They will be shed a ton of salary after next season, the cap will go up and the Free Agent class could be one of the best, ever. The MPJ pick really does not have a downside.
Torrey Craig has been tendered a qualifying offer by the Nuggets and is a restricted free agent. If nobody tries to overpay for the young man, we’d sure love to see him back in a Nuggets uniform.