A common theme that arose in Thursday’s post-drat press conference with Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and general manager Arturas Karnisovas was the idea of thinning out the roster.
“We’d love to make our roster a little cleaner,” Connelly said.
The best way for Connelly and Karnisovas to clean things up is to focus on Denver’s youth.
The Nuggets have four players 30 years old or older on their roster: Jameer Nelson (35), Mike Miller (37), Wilson Chandler (30), and Roy Hibbert (30). Of those players, only Jameer Nelson and Wilson Chandler had any real impact on Denver’s season last year.
Even with that impact, Chandler has expressed desire to be out of Denver, and Nelson just didn’t have enough in the tank for the Nuggets to ride him to a playoff berth. Miller only saw the floor in spot minutes, and while his role is more of a “coach in uniform,” he’s not an adequate backup behind Chandler at this point in his career.
Second-year combo guard Jamal Murray is making Nelson more expendable at the point guard position, and Emmanuel Mudiay will need more minutes in his third season to prove that he’s capable of directing the floor at the NBA level. Denver drafted a true point guard in Monte Morris, who will get a long look during Summer League.
Denver stacks up two players deep at center behind Nikola Jokic after making Mason Plumlee an offer ahead of the draft. Hibbert is likely the odd man out. His game is growing obsolete in the NBA as a big who can’t switch screens or defend the perimeter.
It seems pretty clear how the Nuggets can clear up some space on the roster for recent draft picks and big money free agent targets.
Moving on from those veterans not only makes space for draft picks Tyler Lydon and Morris on the roster, it also clears out more than $24 million in cap space for the Nuggets to go after a big-time free agent such as Paul Millsap. That figure doesn’t even include the money that will be freed up when Danilo Gallinari opts out to become a free agent, as he is expected to do in the coming days. That scenario gives Denver another $15 million to play with.
With the Warriors dominating the West for the foreseeable future, it makes sense for a fringe playoff team like the Nuggets with a cramped roster to go young and give their new guys a chance to develop in meaningful games.