The Denver Nuggets found themselves in a serious hole in this year’s playoffs. They had been tipped to make light work of an undermanned Utah Jazz team but found themselves down 3 – 1. However, that was the start of a miraculous playoff run. The Nuggets won three straight to move on to the second round. They again found themselves facing a 3 – 1 deficit, this time against title favorite, the LA Clippers. Yet again, they came back in the series. Despite losing by double digits in all three games to start, Denver won them all and advanced to the Western Conference Finals. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers were too much for them, unfortunately. Five games were all it took for Denver to get eliminated by the Lakers.
Since losing a game for the eighth seed to Minnesota in 2018, they have progressed steadily to the Conference Finals. The only question now is whether they can take just two extra steps and give the franchise its first championship. Here are some moves they could make this offseason, which could take them to the promised land.
1. Trade for Bradley Beal
The Trade: Gary Harris, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr, and a 2021 First Round Pick for Bradley Beal and Isaac Bonga
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic put the team on their backs despite the remarkable playoff run. Murray averaged 26.5 per game, while Jokic had almost 24.5. A reliable third scorer was missing for the Nuggets. Michael Porter has the ability to be that player, but his defense means he often isn’t playing in clutch situations. Gary Harris has been great defensively, but shooting under 38% from the field in the playoffs does not cut it. Will Barton has been great for Denver. But being undersized and limited defensively makes him expendable.
Bradley Beal would create a scary offensive big three in Denver. Beal averaged more than 30 points per game last season and would take a lot of pressure off Murray and Jokic. At 27, Beal cannot afford to waste more time on the struggling Wizards. The most important part of this trade is that it gives the Nuggets more offensive options down the stretch. They almost always went with a Murray and Jokic pick and roll this past year. Beal would create another opportunity for defenses to play honest. With the right pieces around them, this trio will be tough to stop.
2. Bring Back Key Free Agents
Denver has several free agents this year, and it is essential to bring some of them back. Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, PJ Dozier, and Mason Plumlee should all be re-signed. All four of these players were vital in the playoff run, and there is no reason that they should be allowed to leave.
The versatility of Jerami Grant makes him one of the Nuggets’ best defenders. The same applies to Torrey Craig, although he does not shoot the ball as well as Grant. Millsap was unbelievable against the Clippers, and his scoring in game 5 allowed them to win that game. He also stretches the floor as a power forward. PJ Dozier is a lesser-known name but did play some critical minutes in the playoffs. He is an ideal backup guard.
3. Sign Maurice Harkless
The offseason’s final move should be to target a three and D small forward in free agency. That is given that Harris, Barton, and Porter Jr were all traded to Washington. Jae Crowder would have been ideal, but it is unlikely given his run with Miami. Maurice Harkless could be a great alternative. Harkless was solid in a Clippers starting role last season, with splits of 51.5% from the field and 37% from three. That was until he got traded to the Knicks at the deadline, playing just 12 games. He will not be asked to play heavy minutes on the Nuggets. When he does play, he needs to play solid defense and knock down open threes.
That would complete a 10 man rotation for the Nuggets.
Guards: Jamal Murray, Bradley Beal, Monte Morris, PJ Dozier
Forwards: Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Maurice Harkless, Paul Millsap
Centers: Nikola Jokic, Mason Plumlee
The above team, on paper, is better than their current roster. With only two new additions in Beal and Harkless, chemistry and figuring out how to play together should not be too much of an issue. Denver has a roster with serious firepower and would have a great chance of winning a championship in the next few years.