The Denver Nuggets just won their first-ever NBA title last night. While the parade in downtown Denver is on Thursday, the Nuggets really don’t have much time to relax and celebrate. The NBA draft is a little over a week away, and free agency begins on July 1. Even before those two dates, Bruce Brown has to decide whether to pick up his player option. Brown has until June 21 to exercise his $6.8 million player option. If he does not, Brown will be an unrestricted free agent.
NBA Rumors: Denver Nuggets Have Huge Upcoming Decisions To Make On Two Key Players
Recapping Denver’s Best Season Ever
Denver finished the regular season with the top record in the Western Conference at 53-29. The 53 victories are tied for the third most in the franchise’s NBA history. The Nuggets won 57 contests in 2012-13 and a franchise-best 65 games while a member of the ABA during the 1974-75 campaign. They never won an ABA crown though they did reach the Finals in 1976.
Denver finished the regular season ranked fifth in offensive rating and 15th in defensive rating. The Nuggets were the top shooting team in the league, with a 50.4% field goal percentage, and were fourth in 3-point percentage at 37.9%. The Nuggets also were second in the Association in assists though they struggled from the free throw line. They weren’t great defensively, but they did defend the 3-point line well.
Nikola Jokic, a two-time regular season MVP, had another spectacular campaign. However, the real story was that Jamal Murray remained relatively healthy, and he developed as a lead guard. Murray set a career-high with 6.2 assists. Michael Porter Jr. had an excellent bounce-back season after being injured for much of 2021-22, and Aaron Gordon produced his best season as a Nugget.
Denver really took off in the playoffs. The Nuggets posted a 16-4 record in the playoffs. The Nuggets swept the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Phoenix Suns were the only team to win more than one game. They thoroughly dominated the Miami Heat to win the NBA Finals in five games. Jokic, the 2023 NBA Finals MVP, and Murray were fantastic in the Finals.
What to Do With Brown?
While Brown needs to decide on his player option, the more significant onus is on the Nuggets. Brown is due a multi-year deal after his performance this season. However, Denver will be a tax team for the second consecutive year as their starting five make $150 million. The Nuggets currently owe 10 players $169 million, which includes the $6.8 million for Brown, and they don’t have an easy way of avoiding the prohibitive second tax apron.
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Brown is projected to see his salary double if he declines his $6.8 million player option for next season. Marks added the nugget.
“Because the Nuggets are a tax team and Brown has non-Bird rights, the maximum contract that Denver can offer the guard is $7.8 million. For Brown to receive a greater payday, he would need to sacrifice financially for one season and then become a free agent again in 2024.”
Brown was a top-six player in his first season with the Nuggets. Brown compiled arguably his best season, setting career highs in points and 3-pointers. He was effective, whether coming off the bench or in the starting lineup. However, the 6-4 versatile guard, who produced three double-doubles and one triple-doubles, was much more efficient as a starter.
Brown was also one of the better players for the Nuggets during the playoffs. He averaged 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting 51.1% from the field in 20 games. The 26-year-old scored in double-figures in 15 of 20 games, topping the 20-point mark twice. Brown led all reserves in total points, and Denver was a plus-9.8 per 100 possessions when he was on the court.
Will Brown Opt-Out?
It sounds like Brown will opt out, which is in his best interest.
Marks tweeted that he “expects rival suitors to be willing to offer [Brown] at least the MLE amount of $12.2MM, possibly more than that.” Brown’s teammates also forecast a substantial raise based on his regular and postseason play.
“Bruce has been huge for us all playoffs,” Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. said after Monday’s win. “We’re excited for him because he’s going to get paid. He’s going to get paid. … We just kept telling him be aggressive, even though his first half didn’t go amazing, making shots-wise. He hit that big bucket down the stretch and made those two free throws. He was amazing for us all playoffs. It wasn’t just tonight.”
However, Brown told Mike Singer of The Denver Post that he wouldn’t necessarily accept the biggest offer he gets on the open market.
“I want to stay. … It’s a perfect fit. And money is not everything. The money will come. So I’m not worried about that right now.”
If Brown does depart, the Nuggets already have his replacement in mind with Christian Braun and Peyton Watson. Braun, the Nuggets’ first-round selection in 2022, had a solid rookie campaign shooting the ball. But Braun showed some Moxey in his six regular season starts, averaging 12 points a game, and tossed in 15 points in Game 3 of the Finals.
Also, a 2022 first-rounder, Watson didn’t get as much opportunity as Braun. However, the 6-8 wing shot the ball well as he knocked down 49.2% of his shots and 42.9% from the 3-point line.
Jeff Green Wants To Remain In Denver
Jeff Green, another key rotational piece, is an unrestricted free agent. Green was a solid role player in his 15th campaign, even if he had the worst statistical season of his career. The 36-year-old forward averaged 7.8 points on 48.8% shooting and 2.3 rebounds in 20 minutes over 56 appearances. He scored in double-figures 18 times during the regular season.
Green made $4.5 million this year. But he will likely only receive the veteran minimum. The following is what Marks said about Green’s next deal.
“The Nuggets are less restricted when it comes to Green. The next contract for the forward can range from the veteran minimum exception ($3.2 million), non-Bird rights exception (up to $6 million) or early Bird exception (up to $11.9 million). The early Bird exception has to be for a minimum of two seasons, not including any option years.”
For his part, Green told Chris Tomasson of the Denver Gazette that he wants to play until around 40 and finish his career with the Nuggets.
“I’m finishing my career here, if I can, I want to just play two more years and, if my wife lets me play three, cool. But my goal is to play two more years and be a Nugget for those two years.”