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Nuggets Free Agency Preview 2019: Centers

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Given that the Nuggets roster currently boasts the center who just earned first-team All-NBA honors, spending big in free agency to upgrade that position won’t be a path Denver goes down once July 1 rolls around. Nikola Jokic is entrenched as the starter, and he’ll earn $27.5 million in 2019-20, so center clearly isn’t a position of need or one that Tim Connelly can afford to invest significantly more money into.

That said, other roster moves could change the plan. If the Nuggets decide not to pick up the $30 million option for power forward Paul Millsap next season, that will have a domino effect on the rest of the roster.

At times this past season, Denver went with two bigs on the floor together, when Mason Plumlee would join Jokic in the front court. If Millsap doesn’t return, and Connelly doesn’t replace him with a big-money power forward, the Jokic-Plumlee pairing could become the norm; that combo was used extensively when Millsap was sidelined with an injury last season.

If that occurs, the Nuggets would need to add a backup center, providing the quality minutes off the bench that Plumlee did in 2018-19. In short, Denver would be looking for someone who can play 20 minutes per night, chip in 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and play solid defense.

Who could fill that role? Well, plenty of options are out there, available via free agency.


Top Five Available

1. Nikola Vucevic | Orlando Magic – After averaging 20.8 points and 12.0 rebounds last season, Vucevic is going to cash in once free agency hits. He’ll be way too expensive for the Nuggets to consider, but the “twin towers” concept is an intriguing one.

2. Brook Lopez | Milwaukee Bucks – Lopez was a bargain last season, earning just $3.3 million in Milwaukee. He’ll get a significant raise, but his unique set of skills as both an inside and outside big man would make him a nice fit in Denver.

3. Marc Gasol | Toronto Raptors – His veteran presence has been a huge help in Toronto, something that would be equally beneficial for the Nuggets to add. But at 34 years old, he’s not the defender or low-post presence that Denver needs.

4. DeMarcus Cousins | Golden State Warriors – His history with Michael Malone makes Denver a viable option, but Cousins is still a starter who will make big money. Could he play the five, while Jokic would move to the four? It might be tempting.

5. DeAndre Jordan | New York Knicks – In a lost season split between Dallas and the Big Apple, Jordan still proved he’s a premier rebounder, averaging 13.1 per game. He’s not much of a scorer, but will do the dirty work around the basket.


Realistic Options

1. Ed Davis | Brooklyn Nets – The veteran put up Plumlee-like numbers off the bench in Brooklyn, scoring 5.8 points and hauling in 8.6 rebounds per game in 18 minutes of action. That’d make him a great backup in Denver.

2. JaVale McGee | Los Angeles Lakers – He’s quirky, as everyone in Denver discovered during McGee’s stint with the Nuggets (2011-15), but he can get up and down the court, plays good defense and doesn’t need the offense to run through him.

3. Enes Kanter | Portland Trail Blazers – He got under the skin of the Nuggets during the playoffs, which is why he’d be a great addition. Denver needs some more scrappiness, which Kanter would provide. A little nasty in the paint would be a good thing.


Next Week: Power Forwards – Depending on what Tim Connelly decides to do with Paul Millsap, this could be the Nuggets biggest position of need during the offseason.