Nuggets' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Playoff Loss

Erin WalshContributor IApril 28, 2022

Nuggets' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Playoff Loss

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    The Denver Nuggets were eliminated from the 2022 NBA playoffs after a 102-98 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

    Despite not having Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. available for much of the 2021-22 season, the Nuggets excelled behind the form of MVP candidate Nikola Jokic and a supporting cast that included Aaron Gordon, Monte Morris and Will Barton. 

    Even with Murray and Porter expected to return for the 2022-23 season, Denver will need to do some retooling to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive Western Conference. 

    Let's take a look at the team's free agents and some potential targets in free agency and the NBA draft. 

Projected Free Agents

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    Bryn Forbes (UFA), Facundo Campazzo (RFA), Austin Rivers (UFA), Vlatko Cancar (RFA), DeMarcus Cousins (UFA), Davon Reed (RFA), Markus Howard (RFA)

    The Nuggets would benefit from adding some players outside their organization this offseason, but retaining Facundo Campazzo and Bryn Forbes should be high on their to-do list. 

    Campazzo, 31, joined the Nuggets ahead of the 2020-21 season, and he has been a serviceable player off the bench. He averaged 5.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists during the 2021-22 campaign and was one of the team's best defenders. 

    Retaining the Argentine also shouldn't cost much, as he averaged $3.2 million per year over the last two seasons. 

    Forbes, meanwhile, joined the Nuggets this year in a three-team deal that included the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. The 28-year-old was also serviceable, as he averaged 8.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. 

    JaMychal Green and Jeff Green also have player options for the 2022-23 season, and there's no reason to believe they would decline them to become free agents. 

Potential Free Agents/Trade Targets

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    The Nuggets could use a shooting guard to pair with Jamal Murray, and there are several intriguing options in free agency, including Zach LaVine, Lonnie Walker IV and Bruce Brown.

    LaVine had one of the best seasons of his career in 2021-22 with the Chicago Bulls, averaging 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from deep in 67 games. He would be an incredible addition alongside Murray, Porter and Jokic, but he won't be cheap. 

    The 27-year-old is expected to receive a max deal, so it'll be difficult for Denver to land him. That said, Walker and Brown could still be interesting options for the Nuggets and won't be nearly as expensive. 

    Walker, 23, had the best season of his career in 2021-22, averaging 12.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and 31.4 percent from deep.

    The same can be said for 25-year-old Brown, who averaged 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 50.6 percent from the floor and 40.4 percent from deep in a bench role for the Brooklyn Nets.

Potential Draft Targets

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    The Nuggets have just one pick in the first round of the 2022 NBA draft, so they need to make it count. And Blake Wesley, Kendall Brown and E.J. Liddell represent some interesting potential choices.

    Wesley spent the 2021-22 season with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. As a freshman, he averaged 14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 40.4 percent from the floor and 30.3 percent from deep in 35 games.

    The 19-year-old has great size at 6'5", 185 pounds, is agile and quick, and he has the ability to drain shots in the lane. That said, he would be a welcome addition alongside Murray, who would benefit from a guard with those characteristics.

    Brown spent his freshman season with the Baylor Bears. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 58.4 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from deep in 34 games.

    Like Wesley, Brown is also athletic. However, the 18-year-old is a great defender who could help Jokic hold down the fort for a Denver defense that finished the 2021-22 season with a 111.5 defensive rating and sat in the middle of the league.

    Liddell is a forward, but he would be hard for the Nuggets to pass on if he's available when they're on the clock. The Ohio State junior had a standout 2021-22 season, averaging 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 37.4 percent from deep in 32 games.

    The 21-year-old is strong, smart and versatile, and he's a good low post scorer who could fit well alongside Jokic.