Nuggets take first step toward re-signing the defensive wing
Per league sources: The Denver Nuggets have tendered a qualifying offer to Torrey Craig. Craig will now be a restricted free agent.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) November 18, 2020
Craig, 29, shared backup small forward responsibilities for most of the season with rookie Michael Porter Jr. during the 2019-20 season. With Gary Harris and Will Barton in and out of the starting lineup throughout the year, Craig also served as perimeter starter in the starting lineup while incumbent starters dealt with injuries.
During the regular season, Craig played 58 of a possible 73 games and starting in 27 of them. He averaged 18.5 minutes, 5.4 points, and 3.3 rebounds per contest, exerting most of his energy and focus on the defensive end as the primary matchup on the opposing team’s primary ball handler. Craig also maintained a 46.1 FG% on the strength of his cutting and offensive rebounding, but his perimeter shooting numbers (32.6% from three-point range in 2019-20) were of major concern.
Craig had big moments in the 2018-19 postseason as a replacement starter for Will Barton, who struggled with his effectiveness due to a nagging hip injury. Craig entered the starting lineup and helped stabilize Denver’s perimeter defense against the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers, giving the Nuggets a quality option against DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, Damian Lillard, and CJ McCollum. In the 2019-20 postseason, those moments for Craig were less frequent with Porter and Jerami Grant a frequent part of things, though he did have moments of success against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in each of the Game 7 victories.
The Nuggets have many decisions to make regarding the future of their roster. It appears that Porter and Grant comprise the primary plan for the Nuggets in the frontcourt next to Nikola Jokić. That means if both Harris and Barton are retained, one of them will be asked to come off the bench, likely to play a major role as a sixth man. Monte Morris and PJ Dozier will compete for minutes in the backcourt off the bench. Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee are also unrestricted free agents but could compete for minutes in the frontcourt off the bench. Denver also has Bol Bol to fit in somewhere, the 22nd overall pick in tomorrow’s draft, and the mid-level exception that they could use to add another quality piece to the roster.
Where Craig fits into this roster going forward is unclear. He’s a quality defensive player who has to mentality, strength, and athleticism to be a factor every night, but the shooting concerns have kept him from being a rotation player every single night. The Nuggets would like to bring Craig back, but if the price is too high, or if they find another solution to their defensive problems on the wing, they may decide to go a different direction.
Whatever happens, this was always going to be the first step in the process. Where things go from here are as murky as ever.
In the meantime, check out some of Torrey’s defensive highlights from this season!