Sometimes order the perception of colors.
When free agency opened Thursday afternoon, within moments Denver’s two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had verbally agreed to a five-year supermax extension worth more than $264 million. . The biggest contract in NBA history will keep Jokic in Denver until at least the 2027-2028 season.
This news, securing a competitive future for years to come, brought comfort to Nuggets fans, even though it was expected. Jokic almost broke the news himself following Denver’s first-round playoff ouster to Golden State.
Shortly after, the Nuggets struck another deal with a center that drew derision from all corners of the internet. Veteran center DeAndre Jordan has agreed to a minimum one-year veteran contract, according to a league source, with the 33-year-old tasked with supporting Jokic.
Could the Nuggets have done better than signing Jordan, whose final season with the Lakers and 76ers was disappointing? Maybe. Would Jordan have been available for a day or two in free agency as the market settled? Maybe. But the Nuggets agreed to a deal with Jordan shortly after the opening bell. It was an unenthusiastic start to free agency and wouldn’t have been so sweet if general manager Calvin Booth hadn’t been successful with his later moves.
The Nuggets have done their homework on Jordan. They verified his engagement, made the necessary phone calls and felt comfortable bringing him into their locker room. They had learned enough about former center DeMarcus Cousins that they were unwilling to make the same commitment. For the past two seasons, Jordan has played for the Nets, Lakers and Sixers. Neither situation has helped his cause, and if the Nuggets can stay drama-free, it’s believed he’ll be a positive addition while playing limited minutes.
Beyond Jordan, who will address an ongoing issue at the backup center, Booth had a clear agenda. It’s the same schedule he’s had since taking on top decision-making responsibilities on the Nuggets when Tim Connelly left for Minnesota recently. He saw how Golden State and Boston used many players back and forth in the NBA Finals and designed to do so in Denver.
It was the main impetus to drop Will Barton and Monte Morris in exchange for Washington’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith last week, then further bolster the defense in free agency. In Caldwell-Pope, the Nuggets believe they have a defensive stopper capable of sharing some of the burden placed on Aaron Gordon last season. In the playoffs, he will prove indispensable.
Next, Booth moved on to Davon Reed, who agreed to a two-year contract to return to Denver, sources said. Reed hit it off with Nuggets coach Michael Malone in minutes last season and will help fortify the second unit.
At the end of the first day of free agency, the Nuggets’ big additions amounted to their own former two-way player (Reed) and Jordan. But Friday morning gave the play that galvanized the class.
When the Nuggets agreed to a two-year, $13 million deal with former Nets winger Bruce Brown, it crystallized Booth’s vision for revamping the roster with long, defensive-minded players. Brown already has a fan in Malone.
In the two first-round picks of Caldwell-Pope, Brown, Reed and Denver, Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, Booth targeted players who could switch on defense, disrupt passing lanes, play bigger than their size and stay on the floor in the playoffs. In Booth’s team building, it was almost a term.
The responsibility, and the bet for that matter, is that Bones Hyland is able to lead the second unit at point guard. The Nuggets are banking on the sneaky second-year guard being able to take on primary point guard responsibilities, which isn’t a strength of Brown or Reed. Brown and Reed, however, will serve as insurance in the second unit in case Braun is slow to become a contributing player. Smith offers similar cover if Hyland isn’t ready to take on a bigger point guard role.
And with a healthy Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray available, Malone can still stagger those offensive firehoses and infuse scoring into a defense-focused lineup.
Around Jokic, Murray and Porter, Denver’s offense will soar. It was on the other end of the floor where the Nuggets couldn’t stop dribble penetration or adequately protect the rim last season. Will Booth’s free agent bet work? Check the rankings in January.