Bye bye Boogie: Who will the Nuggets pick to backup the NBA MVP?
The Denver Nuggets have a starting five, a strong idea of what their rotation will be and roles for just about everyone on their roster.
Having all of this figured out before a preseason game is a luxury most teams would love to have. However, Denver does have a vital role that’s still up for grabs, with a few candidates that could grab it. The Nuggets do not have anyone penned to be their backup center; what they do have is a veteran free agent signing, a journeyman, and an intriguing prospect. On top of that, there’s the potential that none of the three are in that role come playoffs.
The backup five has become an extremely important role for the Nuggets since the emergence of two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. Figuring out a way to survive minutes without Jokic on the floor has led to an interesting question. Do you try to replicate to a lesser degree what Jokic can do, or do you fill the spot with somebody you play entirely differently around? On top of this, earlier in the Serbian’s career, his defense was seen as a struggle, leading Mason Plumlee to come onto the floor to go offense and defense at the end of the games. Plumlee’s departure has led to a revolving door of big men since, with the list being topped by DeMarcus Cousins.
The former All-Star spent the final part of last season on the Nuggets and was a valued contributor in the playoffs. But Boogie and Joker weren’t meant to play together simultaneously. Additionally, Boogie’s propensity to pick and pop is not what Denver was looking for.
Now they’ve brought in DeAndre Jordan, who is more mobile on defense and a roller on offense. Jordan, also a former All-Star, was one of the worst players in the league last year. Still, he struggled to find a real role between the Lakers and 76ers, and the Nuggets hope he can recapture some of his lob-catching, rim-protecting, rebound-snatching Clippers past.
Denver also has veteran Jeff Green, who is undersized for a center and didn’t pan out well in that role in limited action last year. Still, he can offer a small ball option for minutes here and there, especially if the powerful Aaron Gordon and plus-sized Michael Porter Jr. are also on the court.
Most interesting is Zeke Nnaji, a third-year player from Arizona. He’s shot 44% in his NBA career, led the Pac-12 in double-doubles while a freshman in college and has shown an ability to defend all five positions at the NBA level. Interestingly head coach Michael Malone admitted earlier this week that the team should’ve probably not shoehorned him into being a small forward. While Nnaji says he’s a power forward. Still, the Nuggets used him at center last season in over 60% of his minutes on the floor.
If Jordan doesn’t catch the fountain of youth and the oft-injured Nnaji can’t stay healthy, the Nuggets may look around at other teams. This isn’t too surprising, given the team can be somewhat flexible. They have tradeable second-rounders and a sizeable exception they could fit a contract into. They did something similar in trading for JaVale McGee a few years ago, and it’ll be something worth watching as the season progresses.
And in case you’re curious, Boogie is still a free agent.