Shams Charania reported this morning that the Nuggets intend to decline Nikola Jokic’s team option and sign a five-year, $146.5M max contract.
Jokic is coming off his third NBA season where he averaged 18.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 6.1 APG. Jokic shot about 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 85% from the three-point line. He recorded the fastest triple-double in NBA history and made his impact felt in many other ways despite playing with several different starting lineups due to injuries.
Top five in Real Plus-Minus this season:
1. Chris Paul
2. James Harden
3. Stephen Curry
4. Jimmy Butler
5. Nikola Jokic https://t.co/5raKZv6ZkR
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) June 25, 2018
We all saw this coming and it is unquestionably the correct move. It was especially clear when Jokic’s agent, Misko Raznatovic, issued a warning to the team that it would be in their best interest to sign the playmaking big man to a max contract this summer before he became an unrestricted free agent next summer.
So, that’s what the Nuggets plan to do. By declining Jokic’s team option and making him a restricted free agent this summer the Nuggets are ensuring that they are keeping Jokic’s interests in mind. Which ultimately gives them the best opportunity to keep him in Denver for his entire career.
It’s no secret that making this move now puts the Nuggets into some financial trouble. They’re now a team that will almost surely be in the luxury tax, pending Will Barton’s contract and other trades made to unload salary.
As it stands right now, the Nuggets will have about $133M in guaranteed salary before re-signing Will Barton. The luxury tax line should be around $123M. Even with Jokic’s new contract, Kenneth Faried is still the 4th highest paid player on the Nuggets. With as much depth as the Nuggets have, making this deal probably means the Nuggets need to attach an asset to Faried to move his $13M off the books.
Jokic will be 28 when this contract expires and quite possibly still in the prime of his career for another max contract, along with whatever contracts the rest of Denver’s young core will take in. This could only be the beginning of luxury tax implications for a team that, while competitive in Western Conference, is still trying to reach their goal of making the playoffs.
Going into the draft, I believed if the Nuggets drafted a couple of the right pieces and focused on Jamal Murray’s continued development that the team could contend for a championship. The Nuggets did more than get the right pieces on draft night; they got a potential star as well. While red-shirting Michael Porter’s first season could set the timeline back, the Nuggets still have the right pieces to at least be competitive for a year or two before truly competing for championships. Jokic is the piece that truly sparked this team. Ensuring that he’ll be here for the long haul was an important step in continuing Denver’s process.