The Nuggets Get Swept – But in Their Defense…
The Denver Nuggets season came to an abrupt end following Sunday’s 125 -118 loss to Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns. The Suns swept the series in four games as Devin Booker, Paul, and a cast full of others dominated the undermanned Nuggets from start to finish.
Paul finished with 37 points on 14 of 19 shooting as he continued to dominate the Denver guard trio of Monte Morris, Austin Rivers, and 5’10 Facundo Campazzo. Booker added 34 points and 11 rebounds as he took advantage of the absent and injured Jamal Murray. And a frustrated Nikola Jokic was ejected in the third quarter after a flagrant foul.
But in defense of the Nuggets…
Denver was playing without their second-best player in Murray, who averaged more than 26 ppg in last year’s playoff run. Will Barton was just coming back from a hamstring injury that had him sidelined since April. PJ Dozier was out with an adductor strain, Michael Porter Jr. was nursing a bad back, Austin Rivers was only picked up in the beginning of May after no one wanted him, and a bench that included Shaquille Harrison, Vlatko Cancar, and the 5’9 Campazzo was simply not good enough to compete for a title.
In defense of the Nuggets…
Before the season was over, Jeremi Grant spurned a $20 million dollar offer to join the Detroit Pistons. Mason Plumlee went with him. Torrey Craig left the team for Phoenix. And Gary Harris was sent to Orlando.
In defense of the Nuggets…
Those four players were the only Nuggets that played DEFENSE!
But let’s not panic. The Nuggets still ended up winning 47 games, Michael Porter Jr. had a breakout year, and Jokic is an MVP. Jamal Murray will be back, Will Barton should be healthy, and Aaron Gordon had his moments.
But with Austin Rivers and 5’8 Facundo Campazzo as your starting backcourt in the playoffs, it is obvious that the team could use a little depth, some experience, and plenty of defense.
A look at some free agent possibilities for next year’s Nuggets.
- PJ Tucker (6’5/PF) – With an $8 million asking price, Tucker would slide right into the current salary that Paul Millsap will
leave behind next season upon his exit. Tucker is listed as a power forward but can defend all positions on the court while adding toughness, experience, and the occasional corner three. There will be plenty of shots for Jokic, Murray, and Porter Jr. with Tucker in the lineup as he rarely shoots. But Tucker guards the other team’s best player on a nightly basis while doing all the dirty work.
- Nicolas Batum (6’8/SF) – Batum is another great free agent to add for a playoff run. Once a $20 million-a-year player, the 12-year veteran can be had for under $3 million. The addition of Batum would weaken Denver’s rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, while adding a defender with long arms and a veteran presence.
- TJ McConnell (6’1/PG) – The lack of depth at the guard position was exposed when Jamal Murray went down. McConnell is a great passer, pesky defender, and adds energy to any second unit. Basically, he’s a taller version of the 5’7 Campazzo, and with a current salary of $3.5 million, borderline affordable.
- Torrey Craig (6’7/SG) – Denver made a big mistake when they let Craig leave to Phoenix for less than $1.7 million. While the Nuggets’ best guard defender is actually Aaron Gordon, a 6’9 power forward. It would be great if the Nuggets could defend the other team’s guard with a guard. Call Torrey, apologize, offer a little more, and get him back to specialize.
- Alex Caruso (6’4/PG) – Caruso is the perfect free agent pick up for the Nuggets. Smart, active, and a 40% shooter from the arch. Caruso can start, come off the bench, and at an athletic 6’4 matches up better on defense than the 5’6 Campazzo. With a Championship ring and a Lakers reputation, the asking price of $3 million-a-year may go up. But still affordable.
- Duncan Robinson (6’7/SG) – Robinson is not quite the defensive stopper that the Nuggets are looking for. But at 6’7 and a 43% lifetime shooter from three, Robinson would make a great addition for the Nuggets. Miami only paid Robinson $1 million-per-year, which is insulting. And even as a subpar defender, his 6’7 frame would have to give a 6’5 Devin Booker or a 6’2 Chris Paul more trouble than the 5’5, 30-year-old Argentinian. Fucundo Campazzo.
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