SEVERAL NUGGETS HAVE DECISIONS TO MAKE IN AN EXPECTED BUSY OFFSEASON
By Christopher Dempsey
Internal decisions, both from players and the organization, are in the spotlight this Nuggets offseason.
Wilson Chandler has a player option. Darrell Arthur option has a player option. Will Barton is an unrestricted free agent. Devin Harris is an unrestricted free agent. Richard Jefferson is an unrestricted free agent. Nikola Jokic is in line to be offered a lucrative multi-year deal this summer.
So, this could be a summer of fairly significant turnover for the Nuggets, who just finished their best season in five years with a 46-36 record. A reshuffling of the depth of the team is a likely circumstance.
But first, Chandler is the starter with a big decision to make. At 30 years old – he’ll be 31 in May – the productive small forward said he hasn’t yet made the choice to stay one more season or test the free agent market.
Chandler told Altitude Sports, “I’ll talk to my agent and to the team,” before deciding whether to pick up the option on the last year of his contract, which would pay him nearly $13 million.
Asked how likely it was he’d opt-in on the final year of his contract, Chandler was coy.
“The way things are going now, I mean everything is looking on the up-and-up,” Chandler said. “So, it’s definitely a possibility.”
Chandler is the longest-tenured Nugget, coming to the team as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011.
“I’ve been through a lot with this team,” Chandler said. “Right now, I think the future is bright. Just name a guy. The young guys on the team, they’re really good. Jamal has come a long way. Gary (Harris), (Nikola) Jokic, Trey (Lyles), Will (Barton). Just name a guy. I think the sky’s the limit for the team. You’ve just got to keep growing together and keep playing for one another.”
Meanwhile, Harris said he is waiting before he gives deep thought about his future.
“I can’t really digest that,” Harris said. “I’ll kind of digest the season, take my time off, let my body heal and then we’ll go through all of that at the necessary time.”
Harris was traded to the Nuggets on Feb. 8, and in 27 games averaged 8.2 points and 2.5 assists. On his time in Denver, Harris said, “I enjoyed it.”
“Coming from the situation that I was in, being able to play meaningful games, playoff atmosphere games, it’s been great for me,” Harris said. “Especially, late in my career. I really enjoyed my time.”
And is returning to the Nuggets on the table?
“Absolutely,” Harris said. “With the young guys that they have, learning to play with these guys. I would like to know what a full season looks like. I would like to continue to help these young guys as well as getting better in the situation myself. That’s definitely on the table.”
And on Thursday, guard Will Barton reiterated what he already told Altitude Sports in March – that he wants to return to the Nuggets. Barton is an unrestricted free agent and is coming off the best year of his career with averages of 15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He shot a career-high 45.2 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from the 3-point line.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone expressed his desire to have Barton come back to the Nuggets on a new deal.
“All I can speak to is my relationship with Will Barton and how much I care about him as a person, first and foremost,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone of Will Barton. “And then you speak to the fact that he wore so many hats this year – starter, off the bench, backup point guard, two-guard, small forward. It doesn’t matter with Will. He’s a basketball player.
“And, to see him step up in the manner in which he did when Gary Harris was out late, that allowed us to go 8-3 in the last 11 games; that allowed us to go 6-1 to close out the season. I thought Will was fantastic. I think he improved this year defensively. … He had a career season. He was a big part of what did this year, and I would love nothing more than to have Will Barton back in a Denver Nugget uniform.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter