How Millsap Will Impact the Nuggets
For as beautiful as the city of Denver can be, big name free-agents have avoided playing basketball in the Rocky Mountains as much as you or I avoid going to the dentist. The Nuggets made progress in reversing that trend last week, as power forward Paul Millsap, agreed to terms on a 3-year, 90-million-dollar contract that has a club option on the third year. It marks a change in the philosophy of the Denver front office that recently has seen them try to develop a homegrown nucleus built around the draft. In Millsap, the Nuggets have made their first foray into acquiring high-profile talent through free-agency in order to improve the team.
For the Nuggets, who finished just out of the playoff picture last season, the move is designed to make a statement to the rest of the Western Conference,that Denver is set to make the transition from up-and-coming team to playoff contender.
Here are three areas the Millsap signing will impact the Nuggets.
After never getting a chance to land a marquee player like Blake Griffin, the Nuggets desperately needed to land a premier frontcourt player at the start of the free agent period. So how does the addition of Millsap help Tim Connelly and the rest of the Denver Nuggets’ front office? It’s fairly simple, after whiffing on bringing in a recognizable free-agent over the past couple of seasons, the Nuggets brain trust finally did enough to convince a free-agent to ply his trade in the Mile High City.
After pulling out all the stops in their courtship of Millsap, including inviting current Denver Broncos like Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall to try to woo the forward to Denver. The tactics were successful as the Nuggets got their man. What this means going ahead, is that with an improved roster leading to more wins, more free-agents will want to put on the powder blue and gold theoretically. While Denver may never have the glitz of a bigger market, it was vital for Connelly and company to get a big name to put pen to paper with the team on also protecting themselves with the club option on the third year of the contract. With emerging center, Nikola Jokic, as well as talented guards in Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, the Nuggets have the makings of a starting five that will be in the hunt for a playoff spot.
At 32, Millsap will be one of the older statesmen on the Nuggets roster joining other players like Wilson Chandler and Darrell Arthur. It’s has been absolutely necessary to build the roster through the draft, but that also means that Denver doesn’t have many established veterans that can still play at a high level, that will also cajole the younger players on the merits of playing hard every night, something head coach Mike Malone has made mention of over the course of last season. With the addition of Millsap, it gives Denver a legitimate, front court player to deal with the likes of Western Conference forwards like Anthony Davis and LaMarcus Aldridge
With all due respect to Mike Miller and Arthur, your veterans can’t be role players or guys at the end of the bench who only see minutes during mop-up duty. In Millsap, the Nuggets have a player who is a four-time All-Star and has been in the playoffs on a number of occasions with the Atlanta Hawks. Millsap was voted to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team, proving to be a welcome bulwark addition to a Nuggets team who could score points with the best in the league but struggled to protect its own rim, allowing 111.2 points per game, good for 27th in league overall.
It hasn’t been said enough; Jokic is bona-fide star-in-the-making. Arguably the best passing big man in the league, Jokic became more of a rebounder and scorer late in the year, leading the team in rebounds at 9.8 per game and finishing second on the team in scoring at 16.7 point and assists with 4.9. At the age of just 22 and going into his third NBA season, Jokic is the star Denver has been looking for since the days of Carmelo Anthony suiting up for the Nuggets.
Millsap automatically gives the Denver front-court two legit rebounding options and helps move power forward Kenneth Faried back to the bench, where his energy and hustle are a better fit, rather than with the starting five. Millsap also replaces the scoring of since-departed Danilo Gallinari but will also give the Nuggets a better inside-outside scoring attack than what was mostly a perimeter-based offense of last season. In the low-post scoring of Millsap and Jokic will give better looks for guards like Murray and Harris on the outside, giving Denver a legitimate, two-pronged attack.
It was a calculated, but necessary, risk for Denver to open up the checkbook in order to bring in more viable talent for the club. It’s been commendable for the front office to have a bevy of youngsters teeming to fully breakout in a NBA landscape that dictates a championship contender needs a superstar. Even if Denver does have that player on the team, it still needs to fill out a roster through free agency and the Millsap signing is a positive step in that direction.