Aaron Gordon was on the last year of his contract, and it looked like the Denver Nuggets didn’t want to take a chance at losing another good wing for nothing, like what happened with Jerami Grant last year.
Now, it’s official, and Gordon will make up to $92 million over four years thanks to his brand new extension from the Nuggets.
Losing Grant for basically nothing hurt a lot, especially considering that the guys they brought in to replace him in Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green were both in their 30s. Millsap is now ring-chasing with the Brooklyn Nets, while Green isn’t a needle-mover.
When they brought in Gordon, fans rejoiced at the thought of the high-flying wing joining an already formidable trio of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. That excitement turned into a bit of trepidation after his production seemed to take a hit, but to be fair he was playing as the third option.
In 50 games last season, split evenly between the Nuggets and the Orlando Magic, Gordon posted up these stats:
- ORLANDO: 14.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 45.7 FG%, 37.5 3P%
- DENVER: 10.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 50.0 FG%, 26.6 3P%
Things got a bit better in the first round of the playoffs, where Gordon posted 12.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 3.6 APG, but that was because he needed to produce more in the absence of Jamal Murray, who went down with the torn ACL late into the regular season. Gordon helped them win that series 4-2 against the Portland Trail Blazers, but when it came time to take on the Phoenix Suns, the Nuggets lost four-straight. Gordon’s numbers dipped again in that series, as he averaged 9 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 1.5 APG.
With such offensive production, one might wonder why Gordon was given such a large contract. Well, first of all, the man plays hard defense, which is something the Nuggets desperately need.
With the Western Conference being so full of talented wings like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, someone with athleticism that can be thrown at those guys is an important asset, especially in the playoffs.
Gordon’s ability to run the floor also gives Denver another option on fast breaks, which is doubly important because teams tend to focus all their attention on Jokic, Murray, or Porter Jr. The caliber of his teammates allows him a lot of openings to get easy baskets in transition, which is something the Nuggets desperately need.
Porter Jr., who saw his numbers climb after Murray’s injury, is also going to be playing the last year of his rookie contract. I think it’s impossible that the Nuggets haven’t started talking to him about an extension yet, but it was surprising to see Gordon’s extension get announced first. Considering that Porter Jr. scored 22.8 PPG and shot 55% from the field (45% from three) after Murray went down, you know the Nuggets will be working toward keeping him for the long-term.
MPJ has shown himself to be an elite-level scorer, and they’re going to need him to make buckets while Murray slowly recovers from his torn ACL. If Murray comes back healthy, and MPJ agrees to an extension that he’s worth, then we could be seeing an interesting Nuggets team in the 2021-22 season and beyond.
For now, though, it does make sense that the Nuggets wanted to lock Gordon up instead of rolling the dice and letting him play it out. He could potentially become a good trade asset in the future, too, as his extension starts at $19.69 million for the 2022-23 season, and climbs up to $24.4 million on the final year of his contract. Jokic and Murray will both be sitting in the middle of or toward the tail end of their primes by then, so that could still trade Gordon to bring some extra help (especially after the current vanguard like LeBron and Kawhi have already retired).
Whether or not it works out in the long-term is a question for another day. We’ll just have to see how the Nuggets do this coming season first. If Murray were healthy, this deal was a no-brainer. Because of their second star’s ACL problems, this deal isn’t clearly good or bad. If they keep their core of Jokic, Murray, Porter Jr. and Gordon, their timetable looks pretty decent as the old guard of the Western Conference will slowly be fading away over the next 3-5 years.