The Denver Nuggets saved their offseason by bringing back Paul Millsap.
Coming off a Western Conference Finals appearance, the last thing the Denver Nuggets wanted to do this offseason was take a step backward. Nikola Jokic has been a superstar for years, but Jamal Murray’s unforgettable ascension within the NBA bubble signaled this team was ready to start seriously challenging for a title in the coming years.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets’ biggest priority this fall — finding a way to bring back unrestricted free agent Jerami Grant — resulted in failure. A three-year, $60 million offer from the Detroit Pistons was enough to pry him away from the Mile High City — despite the Nuggets making Grant an identical offer — and cast serious doubt on how Denver would respond.
Re-signing Paul Millsap became vitally important, and although several teams were interested in the 35-year-old veteran, the Nuggets were able to bring him back with a one-year, $10 million agreement:
Paul Millsap prevents the Denver Nuggets from taking a big step backward
The Nuggets still may take a step backward next season without Jerami Grant. He was an incredibly versatile depth piece for the Nuggets and viewed as a long-term replacement for Millsap at the 4 thanks to his impressive defense, positional versatility, athleticism and eye-popping improvement over the last two years as a 3-point shooter.
Losing a 26-year-old stretch-4 like Grant who can lock down wings and hang with big men all while shooting 38.9 percent from deep is a blow to Denver’s short-term prospects and long-term outlook.
However, as much as the Nuggets were on the brink of disaster after losing Grant, retaining Millsap prevents them from tumbling over the edge. His numbers dipped to 11.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last year and his defense has noticeably taken a step backward with his diminishing burst, but Millsap is a pro’s pro, a smart player and an efficient floor-spacer at 43.5 percent from downtown last year.
With young teams like the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings hungry for a playoff spot, not to mention the Golden State Warriors returning to relevance, the Nuggets want to keep their standing among the elite teams out West. Losing Grant is still a blow that might keep them out of the same tier as the Los Angeles Lakers or LA Clippers, but bringing Millsap back on a manageable one-year deal keeps them in the hunt while retaining flexibility for next season.