The Denver Nuggets’ core is about to get really expensive.
They only have one big free agent this year, Danilo Gallianari, who holds a player option. He’ll be a candidate for a short-term max, and that could price him out of Denver. The Nuggets, for their part, can afford to keep him. They’ll be able to carve out ample cap room even with his hold on the books.
But the Nuggets are going to have to invest elsewhere in the coming years, regardless of what they do with Gallo. A few players on below-market deals will reach free agency, while the youngsters will become eligible for contract extensions.
The party will start with Gary Harris. He’s eligible for an extension after wrapping up his third year, and according to Altitude Sports‘ Chris Dempsey, the Nuggets plan to broker one:
If not for Nikola Jokic’s potential award-winning season, the Nuggets player who would be garnering the hottest most-improved spotlight would be shooting guard Gary Harris.
“I still don’t think the league appreciates how good he is and how young he is,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said.
But Connelly and the Nuggets do. That’s why the Nuggets will open discussions on a lucrative contract extension for Harris this summer.
“Gary’s going to be here for a long, long time,” Connelly said.
Harris is similar to Jamal Murray, Denver’s first-round pick last summer, only he’s much more polished. He’s a better defender, and he has mastered the art of working off the ball. Those types of wings are incredibly valuable in today’s happy—three-and-D types who can make some plays off the bounce. If Harris were to reach restricted free agency in 2018, he could suss out near-max, or possibly max, offer sheets.
It makes sense, then, for the Nuggets to try and lock him up now. Extensions usually include slight discounts, if only because players have one less year to prove themselves and can be bent on getting guaranteed money as soon as possible.
But the when here doesn’t matter. Harris is going to get paid. If not this summer, then next summer. And if not by the Nuggets, then someone else. But it’ll probably be by the Nuggets.