Denver Nuggets roster appears set with Monte Morris signing

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images /

With the signing of Monte Morris, the Denver Nuggets’ roster appears set for 2018-19. A brief examination of where the team stands seems to be in order.

When the Denver Nuggets signed the 41st overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Jarred Vanderbilt, to an NBA contract, they brought the roster to 15 players.

At the time, the move was slightly puzzling. While Denver did not have to make any transactions in the immediate, 15 players is the maximum (not including two two-way contracts) a team can roster in-season, and Denver still had additions to make, particularly at backup point guard.

Shortly thereafter, Denver gambled on former superstar Isaiah Thomas to assume the role of backup floor general. That brought Denver’s roster to 16, legal in the summer, but in need of remedying sooner rather than later.

Sooner came less than half an hour later, when Denver agreed to salary dump Darrell Arthur and Kenneth Faried to the Brooklyn Nets. The trade dropped Denver down to 14 roster spots, and Denver maintained a vacant slot until Wednesday:

Monte Morris spent 2017-18 on a two-way contract with Denver, logging 25 minutes with the big club. Morris was a Summer League standout this year and an analytics darling in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Morris will offer the Nuggets a much-needed backup plan at backup point guard, as risk is a massive component of the Thomas equation. Morris also brings Denver’s roster to 15, meaning this is likely it. These are your 2018-19 Denver Nuggets.

The most immediate implication is Devin Harris. Harris, following a productive half-season in Denver, will be playing elsewhere in 2018-19.

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While Denver’s NBA roster is set, there is also the matter of its two-way roster slots. One belongs to Thomas Welsh, a smooth-shooting center out of UCLA. Look for the Nuggets to fill the second one soon, potentially with combo forward Kenrich Williams out of TCU, who starred on their NBA Summer League team and could offer the wing depth every team needs.

Otherwise, the Nuggets will likely lie dormant until training camp in September. Not to delve too far into the weeds of season previews, but a brief examination of the Nuggets’ roster seems in order.

The core pieces are back, of course. Gary Harris will be in the first year of his four-year extension signed last October. Jamal Murray will look to expand on an eye-opening sophomore campaign. Nikola Jokic is the same Nikola Jokic you know and love — just far richer. Paul Millsap is healthy and ready to perfectly complement the newly-enriched Jokic.

Familiar faces in Arthur, Faried and Wilson Chandler have departed to avoid luxury tax penalties. In their steads are rookies Michael Porter Jr. and Vanderbilt, highly-regarded high school recruits whose freshman seasons were marked by injury. Neither is likely to contribute this year. Thomas, a year removed from All-NBA Second Team honors, will take over for Harris as the team’s backup point guard.

Zooming out, Denver’s roster remains horribly imbalanced. I count eight bigs, which in the year 2018 remains insane. Torrey Craig is probably the closest thing Denver has to a true wing, and he’s a severely limited player. With Chandler gone, Will Barton will absorb the starting wing minutes Chandler left behind. Against the wings of the West, I wish Barton luck — he’s going to need it.

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Denver’s roster, in what appears to be its opening night iteration, is imperfect. The glut of bigs is still ridiculous. Deficiencies on the wing should not be overlooked. The roster is, however, talent-rich and solidified. It’s laden with youth and upside and legitimate star talent. In mid-July, that’s not a bad place to be.