Nuggets

Could Grant be Denver’s Missing Ingredient?

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In an offseason that has seen teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers garner much of the headlines, the Denver Nuggets’ subtle, but brilliant moves have been lost in arguably the most chaotic free agency period in NBA history. The brain trust of Tim Connelly and Arturas Karnisovas have showcased a patient, yet calculated approach– not overspending for stars in an era where that has become the new norm in roster building.

Denver started the summer trading for the draft rights to talented Oregon center Bol Bol, securing another low risk-high reward draft day bargain for the franchise. Then, the Nuggets solidified their core of a team who finished 54-28 last season, exercising veteran forward Paul Millsap’s $30 million team option and signing budding star guard Jamal Murray to a five-year, $170 million extension.

But Connelly and Karnisovas weren’t done there. On Monday, the Nuggets took advantage of the fire sale of assets going on in Oklahoma City currently, sending their 2020 first round pick to the Thunder for forward Jerami Grant. The Nuggets were in much need of a forward that could defend at a high level– something Grant excels at. Denver was tied for 24th in blocks per game (4.4) in 2018-19 and has needed some rim protection for years. Grant should shine immediately in his new role, seeing as he finished 19th in blocks per game last season (100). His defensive effort and versatility will be valued immensely by coach Mike Malone, giving Denver an athletic, lengthy, defensive dynamo who can guard four different positions. The Nuggets now have a trio of wing defenders to deploy in Grant, Torrey Craig and Gary Harris that could rival any assortment in the league.

Seamless Fit

Grant’s offensive skill set shouldn’t be overlooked either. He should fit effortlessly into Denver’s selfless offensive scheme. His athleticism should mesh well with the high-paced Nuggets attack and Grant should be an enormous beneficiary of the Nuggets’ spacing and ball movement. Grant showed tremendous growth as a shooter last season, making 39.2 percent of his career-high 293 three-point attempts. That was with an offense that was mainly centered around isolation situations for Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

Now playing alongside a playmaking maestro like Nikola Jokic, I can only imagine the amount of open looks from beyond the arc Grant could be in store for next season. Only three players last year had 50 made three’s, 100 blocks and 61 steals; MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns and Grant. I’m not sure Denver could’ve hoped to add a potential two-way impact player like Grant, at such a relatively cheap price this summer.

This trade’s value extends off the floor for the Nuggets too, giving them flexibility primarily at the forward spot. At only 25 years old, Grant fits seamlessly with the Nuggets’ young core and supposed “championship window.” With Millsap’s contract expiring next summer and him turning 35 as well next season, Denver also now has an easy transition into replacing him with Grant going forward. Now depending on what Grant does with his $9.3 million player option next summer, his decision can alter the potential extension the Nuggets can offer him and potentially his likelihood of re-signing with the team.

Malone Approves

Given the fit and Malone already gushing over Grant, his long-term future could be in Denver.

All in all, Grant is an amazing addition to one of the best young cores in all of basketball currently and fills a void on the wing that Denver has been missing in multiple facets. It’s not as flashy as the Clippers signing Kawhi and trading for Paul George or the Nets signing Durant and Irving, but Grant joining the Nuggets could be equally as important in the wide open race for the NBA championship this season. Jerami Grant might be the missing ingredient Denver was missing, while concocting their recipe to bringing the city its first NBA title.

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