Another highly sought-after offseason target for the Denver Nuggets is now off the market. Point guard Chris Paul, who two weeks ago had reportedly agreed to meet with the Nuggets as a free agent, has been traded to the Houston Rockets after signing an opt-in contract with the Clippers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Paul is now the fourth (possibly fifth) big-name target the Nuggets have missed on in the past week. After failing to make a draft-night trade for Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler or Eric Bledsoe, the Nuggets are nearing the zero hour for the start of free agency (July 1) to make a big move.

The market is thinning out with Paul off the board, and one of Denver’s top remaining targets, Paul Millsap, will reportedly receive a max contract offer from a team that bested Denver on draft night and is only getting stronger. The Minnesota Timberwolves shocked the NBA world shortly before the draft on Thursday by swooping in and making a deal with the Bulls to land Butler in a trade.

The move pairs one of the game’s elite defenders and scorers, Butler, with one of the most dynamic young big men, Karl-Anthony Towns. That pairing, along with Andrew Wiggins and makes Minnesota immediate playoff contenders. If choosing between Denver and Minnesota on similar contracts, Millsap, 32, ought to take the fastest path to the playoffs.

Other marquee free agents remain – names like Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward. However, Griffin has been a mixed bag (and injury prone) his entire career, and Utah can offer Hayward both more money and a fifth year. Denver went after Griffin in 2016 via trade, just as they did with Millsap.

With Paul’s move to Houston and the writing on the wall with other marquee free agents, it appears the Nuggets will open Saturday’s free agency period with a realistic chance of second-tier options. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.

Denver is still building its roster with young talent around Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. Thinking that a single star would make enough of a difference to get them out of the first round of the playoffs seems like a stretch.

Denver was on the precipice of being the No. 8 seed last year. They figure to be in that same spot this year.

Targeting younger free agents with a long-term upside might be their best move in the long run, anyway.

As Will Petersen pointed out in today’s column, Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, Patty Mills, J.J. Redick, Otto Porter (RFA), Rudy Gay, Andre Roberson (RFA), Joe Ingles (RFA) and Serge Ibaka will all be available for talks on July 1.

Any one of those players could help put Denver over the hump to make the playoffs in 2017-18, while setting them up for a better long-term future than Paul or Millsap or Griffin would have.