The Denver Nuggets' hopes of a championship challenge this year were dashed when star guard Jamal Murray suffered an ACL injury back in April. Not only did it thwart their playoff ambitions as they endured a 4-0 series loss to the Phoenix Suns in the semi-finals, it has also put their 2021-22 season in jeopardy.
The Western Conference will be stacked once again in the coming campaign. While the Nuggets would love to bolster their roster to continue competing at the top, they will have little flexibility to do so in the offseason.
Should the franchise become an over-the-salary cap team this summer, they will have their mid-level exception to use ($9.5m), provided they don't go over the tax level. However, if Will Barton and JaMychal Green, who both declined their player options recently, leave the franchise, they will have little left to sign players of similar quality.
Instead, the Nuggets could use their traded player exception (TPE), which they got when Jerami Grant left last year. However, it only lasts until the 6th of August and they have just $5.3m left to spend after using some of it to acquire JaVale McGee in March.
The coming weeks will be non-stop for the Denver Nuggets front office, who may have to get crafty in the market this offseason. In this article, we have listed five attainable free agents whom the organization could target this summer.
5 Top targets in free agency for the Denver Nuggets
#5 Derrick Rose | New York Knicks
The Denver Nuggets' first port of call this offseason should be improving their backcourt depth to make up for Jamal Murray's absence. There will be a plethora of point guards on the free agency market this summer but not too many are within the ball club's price range. New York Knicks veteran Derrick Rose could offer the Nuggets a potential option in this area.
Rose was electric for the Knicks in the playoffs and was arguably their best player, averaging over 19 points per game. If he can stay healthy, he can still offer teams a lot coming off the bench on offense and is an experienced head in the locker room. While the Knicks can offer him more money than most this summer, they are not as close to challenging for a championship as the Denver Nuggets are.
Considering his age and injury history, this could play into Rose's thoughts when signing a new contract this year. On the flipside, he will be considering his financial future in any new deal.
If the Knicks bring in a new point guard, though, such as Kyle Lowry or Chris Paul, Rose could see his importance wane after rookie Immanuel Quickeley also impressed this year. A lot of factors have to fall into place and quickly for the Denver Nuggets to make this deal happen, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.
#4 Josh Hart | New Orleans Pelicans
Josh Hart is stuck in a tough backcourt rotation with the New Orleans Pelicans. He's a restricted free agent now, however, and could look to move on while the Pels focus on maintaining Lonzo Ball alongside Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Hart has never been an elite scorer but he will provide flexibility for the Denver Nuggets off the bench, either as a guard or in their frontcourt. He grabbed a career-high eight rebounds per game last season along with nine points and 2.3 assists.
He brings with him the experience of playing for a big-market franchise in LA and would be great value for money at a fraction of the price the Denver Nuggets may end up paying their own free agents this summer.