After some significant in-season shuffling, the Nuggets came into this offseason having more or less locked themselves into a core of Murray/Joker/AG and then threw Michael Porter Jr. into the nucleus as well with a five-year, $172M max deal. As such, they didn’t have much of a hand to play in this summer’s free agency and the roster changes here are minimal. Jeff Green inked a two-year deal worth $9M and is tasked with picking up the big man minutes left behind by Paul Millsap, now in Brooklyn, and three-time NBA Champion JaVale McGee, who is wearing a shirt that says ‘Phoenix’ on it this year. Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland was Denver’s selection at pick 26 in this summer’s draft, and he showed out in their first preseason game. As long as Jamal Murray is on the shelf, there is definitely a need for good guard play, cracking open the door for Bones.
In: Jeff Green, Nah’shon Hyland
|PG||Monte Morris||Facundo Campazzo||Nah’Shon Hyland||Jamal Murray (INJURED)|
|SG||Will Barton||Austin Rivers||Markus Howard|
|SF||Michael Porter Jr.||PJ Dozier|
|PF||Aaron Gordon||JaMychal Green||Zeke Nnaji||Vlatko Cancar|
|C||Nikola Jokic||Jeff Green||Bol Bol|
When Jamal Murray tore his left ACL in April, it didn’t necessarily close the title window in Denver, but it did put a screen on it for a bit. Murray is rehabbing and presently without a timeline to return. When at his best, Murray is a top 30-ish player in fantasy. He leaves behind a massive void (25% usage rate), and the options available to Mike Malone are vaguely intriguing and unproven.
First dibs on PG1 appear to be headed to Monte Morris, a fourth-year pro who has been a serviceable if unspectacular backup for his entire career. Last year he gave a little bit of all your typical PG stats — 10.1 PTS, 2 REB, 3.2 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.3 BLK, 1.1 3PM — on nice percentages (48/38/79) and almost no turnovers (0.7). A coach’s dream, Morris is not a guy who will beat you by being sloppy with the rock (top 4 in AST/TO ratio with min. 20+ games play) or veering too far outside of his lane. It’s usually a layup or a three from Morris, and with positive shooting figures from both spots, he offers better percentages than you might expect. Never a super high usage player, there might be a bit of ceiling on Monte’s potential point and assist totals because of who he’ll be sharing the court with.
It stands to reason that with Murray on the sidelines, Nikola Jokic will have an even bigger role orchestrating the offense and Michael “I can hit this shot” Porter Jr. will pick up the scoring slack. More time on the floor will lead to higher counting stat totals no doubt, but I would temper expectations for a real breakthrough. In 13 starts last year, the uptick from Morris the reserve was a modest one: 10.5 PTS, 2.2 REB, 3.8 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.5 BLK, 0.8 3PM. Knowing that this is his job and what his team needs from him coming into the year should help, and if he’s playing with more confidence and embracing the role, I could see improvements for the 26-year-old. He could be a last-round guy on draft day for standard leagues and should be on watch lists where he goes undrafted.
Argentine Facundo Campazzo also played some point for Denver last year, and while the 29-year-old has thrown some pretty passes in his day, his offensive output is too limited to have much appeal in our game. Limited scoring and especially brutal FG% (38.1%) make his assist (3.6) and steal (1.2) numbers inedible. He’s just here to snake value from those of us who invest in Monte Morris. Facu!
According to Basketball Monster, Will Barton has posted three top 80 seasons in the last five years on a per-game basis, which is admittedly much better than I expected. The trouble with him is staying on the court. He’s missed 15 games in both of the last two seasons and doesn’t really do any one thing especially well. The threes (1.8) are alright, ditto the rebounds (4.0), assists (3.2), and steals (0.9). Taken together, it’s a slightly underwhelming but okay-ish package. Given the injury history, limited upside, and Father Time’s winning record (The People’s Champ turns 31 this year), I feel like if Barton made it onto my roster, he would always be the first cut candidate when considering a hot add. Save yourself the headache.
Austin Rivers is currently slated behind Barton, and despite giving Denver some important minutes last year when the backcourt was especially shorthanded, there isn’t a whole lot here. Threes, I guess? The last time he cracked the top 150 on a per-game basis he was playing for his dad in Los Angeles.
If there’s intrigue to be found in Denver (outside of “what is going to happen if MPJ doesn’t take the vaccine?”) it is in rookie Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland. Bones blossomed as a sophomore at VCU last year, averaging just under 20 points per while handing out nearly five dimes a game and shooting 37% from deep on nearly eight attempts. When he dropped 17 in his first preseason game against the Clippers, he accomplished it not by banging away trips, but by getting to the glass off the bounce. Given the need for a scoring punch, this definitely could be something.
Forwards and Wings
Michael Porter Jr. is someone I write about often. I am intensely in on him as a player and if you want to know why here’s 700 words on the subject. However, as the NBA season has drawn nearer, conversations about what will happen with unvaccinated players have picked up. At the time of writing, Porter is unvaccinated and has said that he would feel uncomfortable getting the shot. MPJ’s reluctance to get vaccinated would be a bigger deal if he lived in a city that had more restrictive Covid procedures in place like the ones in San Francisco or New York, but it’s impossible to see the future or know what changes could unfold once we get into the season. Maybe being unvaccinated will impact his gear, maybe it won’t. Maybe he’ll catch Covid again, maybe he won’t. On top of whatever injury risk he was carrying, MPJ’s vaccination status could impact his availability and is something to be considered.
It’s wild to me that Aaron Gordon just turned 26. He’s been in the league for seven years. I guess it was only two years ago that he was a top-100 player, but a lot of that value was derived from his meatier scoring and rebounding years in Orlando. The rebounding figures have taken a tumble, and everything else is flat or trending the wrong direction — plus the D stats were light to begin with. The free throw shooting is bad. Beware the falling knife.
The first significant minutes of PJ Dozier’s career were bestowed upon him last year (21.8 MPG), and given the lack of depth on the wing, it’s reasonable to think there could be more coming his way. Unfortunately, the added burn didn’t help all that much. An inefficient scorer without a specialty, I’m going to have to see it before I’m buying a big jump here.
All JaMychal Green needed to do last year to secure enough time to take advantage of his three-point skills was beat out 35-year-old Paul Millsap. He couldn’t do it and played behind the veteran instead. The path for PT this year goes through Jeff Green (no relation, I think), who was a more effective player last year in Brooklyn than Millsap. If you’re going to get a Green nugget, I wouldn’t recommend either of these. Not very potent at all. Of the two, Jeff will probably see more time, so I’d start there, but only in deeper leagues.
Nikola Jokic is the reigning NBA MVP and consensus number one pick in fantasy basketball. You’re not making a mistake by taking him at 1.1, and if you’re able to draft him after that you absolutely should.
Bol Bol is tall and agile and quite a spectacle, I admit, but unless something terrible happens to Jokic, you can gawk at him without having to consider rostering him.