The Denver Nuggets, plagued by chronic cold shooting this season, just landed themselves a three-point sharpshooter in veteran guard Bryn Forbes.
In a three-team trade, Denver sent P.J. Dozier and Bol Bol to the Boston Celtics, as well as a lightly-protected 2028 second-round draft pick to the San Antonio Spurs, as the Nuggets received Forbes from San Antonio, who in turn landed former Nuggets forward Juancho Hernangomez from Boston.
For the Nuggets, the two-players-for-one move both bolsters their long-range shooting and opens up a roster spot, while also signaling that despite their array of frustrating injury setbacks this season, they are intent on becoming more competitive for a playoff run as reigning MVP Nikola Jokic continues his dominant play, and hopes have been heightened for the return of both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. before season’s end.
Forbes is making $4.5 million this season, with the salaries of Bol ($2.2 million) and Dozier ($1.9 million) combining for around $4.1 million, which inches the Nuggets about $400,000 closer to the luxury tax limit, while leaving them around $1.1 million below the threshold, according to Spotrac. As Denver continues making additional roster moves, including the anticipated signing of DeMarcus Cousins, they will be seeking to avoid going into the tax so as not to trigger the repeater penalty as their payroll mushrooms from next season when Michael Porter Jr.’s five-year, $172 maximum contract kicks in.
What The Nuggets Lost
Trading away P.J. Dozier, by every account beloved in all corners of the Nuggets organization, was surely a painful decision for Denver to make. At the same time, for a team which still has championship aspirations, the choice was made easier by Dozier’s unfortunate season-ending injury, and the fact that he’ll become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
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Dozier’s departure is also allayed to a large degree by Denver’s addition this season of Davon Reed, who they signed to a two-way contract after first bringing him on board on three consecutive 10-day deals. At six-foot-six with a seven-foot wingspan, Reed is a close physical comparison to Dozier, also six-foot-six with a six-foot-eleven wingspan. Reed has been proving himself to be a capable two-way player in a very similar role as Dozier would have played if healthy, as he is shooting .433 from the arc on 1.8 three-point attempts per game, and is more than holding his own on the defensive end, most notably with a recent breakout performance guarding LeBron James.
Parting ways with their 2019 second-round draft pick Bol was an easier pill to swallow, as Denver had clearly already come to grips with giving up on that experiment. In fact, the Nuggets were somewhat lucky to move him at all, after their recent agreement to trade him to the Detroit Pistons was rescinded based on a failed physical, at it was subsequently announced he’d had foot surgery. As Bol was already a sunk cost for Denver, having the opportunity to clear his roster slot without the cost of a waiver or buyout, while also being able to include his salary as part of a trade for a player who can compete now, comes out as a clear net positive.
As for the 2028 second-round pick, which according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is protected 31 to 33, draft assets in that range are easily enough attainable through minor deals that it’s really not much to give up.
What The Nuggets Gained
Following the Nuggets’ home loss to the Utah Jazz earlier this week, Nikola Jokic lamented Denver’s poor shooting:
“We know that we cannot make shots, and the whole league knows that we cannot make shots.”
It was a pointed statement to be sure, but there is much truth to it.
This season, the Nuggets have slipped to 20th in three-point shooting percentage at 34.7%, falling from 8th at 38.5% last year, according to Cleaning the Glass. This has allowed opponents to fairly effectively deploy a strategy of double- or even triple-teaming Jokic and challenging the rest of his teammates to hit their shots. And when, as has all too often been the case, Denver’s shooters are unable to keep those defenses honest, they easily collapse in the paint and muck up the Nuggets’ offensive works and essentially taking away one of Jokic’s greatest strengths in his playmaking.
This was somewhat to be expected, of course, as Denver lost both their best three-point shooter from last season in Porter (44%) and second-best in Jamal Murray (41%) to extended injury absences.
Even so, it is incumbent upon front offices to keep their top stars happy, and to their credit, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and his operations staff received Jokic’s message loud and clear, bringing on board one of the league’s legitimately most elite (if somewhat underappreciated) three-point shooters in Bryn Forbes just days after Jokic made his concerns public.
The chart below shows the complete list of all NBA players since the start of the 2018-19 season who have made at least 500 three-point shots, ranked by their percentages from the arc.
Bryn Forbes is a career .413 three-point shooter, and as the data here shows, has been even more elite in the past four seasons, ranking second after Joe Harris and above Steph Curry in three-point percentage among this cohort. While not nearly as voluminous as Curry (who is, after all, the best shooter in NBA history by many measures), Forbes is as reliable as it gets in the league when it comes to counting on him to knock down open shots from the arc.
Even more encouragingly, he’s proven that this travels to the postseason as well, as he averaged an even .400 through 27 games in his last two playoff outings with the Spurs in 2018-19 and last season with the Milwaukee Bucks. His three-point explosion in the Bucks’ series against the Miami Heat, in fact, played a key part in their success on their way to the championship.
There are some limitations to Forbes’ overall effectiveness beyond his shooting acumen, as he has mostly been a somewhat one-dimensional specialist in that regard. At six-foot-two, he joins the ranks of Denver’s many small-to-small-ish guards, and does not bring too much to the table defensively. The degree to which he is purely a shooter is also reflected in his less-than-impressive career averages of 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 0.7 steals per 36 minutes.
But for a Nuggets team in desperate need of better shooting, the value of his specialized skill specifically for Denver stands a good chance of outweighing deficiencies in other areas of his game.
And if it might make the MVP happy to have a target who can reliably drill the open shots he creates for him, that can only help as well.
The other big gain for Denver is the opening of an additional roster spot which otherwise would have been taken by a player who could not contribute this season. The Nuggets are still reportedly in negotiations to sign DeMarcus Cousins, and they may also seek to convert Davon Reed from a two-way to a standard contract to make him eligible to play in the playoffs. To do both, further moves may be required to open up yet another slot, but this was a step in the right direction toward the roster flexibility they will need to make the team more competitive ramping up to the postseason.
Source: Forbes – Business