The Nuggets’ offseason of awkward decisions has arrived

Welcome to the summer of awkward decisions.

The past two seasons, the Nuggets had done everything right only to be bitten by snakes for devastating injuries. But with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. on the mend, and Denver facing the “lowest season” of Michael Malone’s tenure, the decisions made on the doorstep of the Nuggets’ front office will be some of the most grueling of their rise. to the championship. .

There are fancy tax implications, with the Nuggets set to break the $149 million tax line for the first time in more than a decade. The high-stakes game of chasing the championship is about to get extremely costly for the Kroenkes. How skittish will they be with their swollen bill?

Outside of the money, how does tying $113 million into just four players sound? – There are baffling decisions to be made on the roster. While Nikola Jokic has made great strides defensively and is not the target he used to be, and there is cautious optimism in Murray, once he fully recovers from his torn ACL, he can reestablish himself as a superior defender, at Nuggets are missing the defensive end of the floor. Porter, for all his basketball gifts, isn’t going to be a hindrance there either, once he returns.

Aaron Gordon was Denver’s “fire extinguisher,” as Malone referred to him, but even he seemed worn out as last season and the first-round series wore on.

Among the starters, that leaves Will Barton, whose eight seasons in Denver make him the longest-serving Nugget, even preceding Malone in the locker room. With a $14 million contract due next season, Barton could be an integral trade piece if the Nuggets wanted to improve defense in their backcourt. One, that it would help isolate Murray as he becomes more comfortable with his repaired knee, and two, that it would ease Gordon’s late-night stress.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly has had a strong relationship with Barton for years, stemming from their shared roots in Baltimore. Any transaction would inevitably hurt and remove one of the longstanding pillars in the Denver locker room.

That could be the cost of getting into championship contention. If it’s not him, it could be someone else.

It would be hard to find a more beloved member of the organization than Monte Morris, one of the most notable success stories of Denver’s recent rise. The 51st overall pick in 2017 worked his way up the G League, established himself as an NBA player and then took over the starting job in Murray’s absence. The 26-year-old also stood his ground. With two years and $18 million remaining on his contract, few players are as attractive to outside teams as Morris.

Could the Nuggets tolerate trading Morris, whose confident demeanor is a hallmark of his consistent game? In the name of getting ever closer to a championship, shouldn’t all options be considered?

The conversation changed with the rise of Bones Hyland, who established himself as a game-and-scoring threat in his first NBA season. When Murray returns, who will be the main backup point guard? And how would a Morris and Hyland backcourt hold up defensively?

In terms of trade chips, JaMychal Green’s $8.2 million salary (if he opts in this summer) is another one that could be used on a bigger deal. Green could become more expendable if the Nuggets are confident Zeke Nnaji can stay healthy throughout the season.

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