Denver Nuggets pursued Paul George and a future Hall of Fame All-Star, but now may be scrambling in NBA free agency

Denver Nuggets
Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

A year removed from winning the 2023 NBA Finals, the Denver Nuggets are trying to make heavy swings in NBA free agency despite having limited cap space. They’re already over the initial spending limit by $44 million but still sit roughly $3 million below the first apron and $14.2 million below the second apron.

Yet, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope likely set to leave in free agency, the Nuggets have to find a way to replace him while trying to ensure they return to being one of a handful of championship contenders in the Western Conference. Other teams are improving, so how do the Nuggets do the same?

According to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer, the Nuggets pursued a sign-and-trade for Paul George, before he opted out of his contract and entered free agency. Now that George is on the open market, he’s expected to price himself out of the Nuggets’ range, likely signing a max-level contract.

“The Nuggets’ optionality pivoting from the likely loss of Caldwell-Pope connects to all the above. Denver was also a team that weighed how to sneak into the possible opt-in-trade sweepstakes for George. Denver is currently prepared to lose the veteran two-way wing, who was an integral fifth starter for the Nuggets’ 2023 NBA title. Caldwell-Pope is said to have strong interest from both Philadelphia and Orlando, where both teams could give Caldwell-Pope upward of two years and $50 million.”

Jake Fischer on Denver Nuggets’ Paul George pursuit

Another player the Nuggets were hoping to target by using the $5.2 million taxpayer MLE was future NBA Hall of Famer Russell Westbrook. But he’s already opted into his $4 million contract and is expected to remain with the Clippers.

Now with some of their top targets already gone, the Nuggets may have to turn to Plan C or D. According to Fischer, another player the Nuggets have “coveted for some time” is free agent power forward Dario Saric, who can help fill a role as a bench scorer.

Ultimately, the Nuggets don’t have a lot to spend, so general manager Calvin Booth will have to be vigilant in targeting lower-tier free agents who want to pursue an NBA Championship.

Related: 10 NBA free agency predictions for 2024 offseason

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