Nuggets confident in core, prove it with Jamal Murray’s max extension

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Seven players – Klay Thompson (Warriors), Jimmy Butler (Heat), Kemba Walker (Celtics), Kawhi Leonard (Clippers), Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks), Ben Simmons (76ers) and Jamal Murray (Nuggets) signed max deals this offseason. Another two – Kevin Durant (Nets) and Kyrie Irving (Nets) – signed contracts that can become max deals by incentives.

Of those nine plyers, only one has never been an All-Star:

Murray.

A year before necessary, Denver bet big on its top young guard, giving him five-year max deal that projects to be worth $170 million. I think Murray will be worth it. I’m even more confident he would’ve drawn max offer sheets in restricted free agency next summer. But I’m not convinced the Nuggets should’ve paid him so much before gathering another year of evidence.

Murray (No. 15 on our list of top 50 players in 5 years) is just 22 and highly talented. He scores all over the court. But a lack of foul-drawing limits his efficiency, and his playmaking responsibilities are eased by Nikola Jokic. Murray just hasn’t played like a max player yet.

The big plus to signing Murray early: The Nuggets locked him in for five years rather than risking matching a shorter offer sheet. They’ve improved four straight years and were the youngest team to win a playoff series last season. They want to keep this going.

Denver added to its young core by trading a top-10-protected first-round pick to the Thunder for Jerami Grant. His ability to defend small forwards, among other positions, will be welcome. So will his cutting around Jokic.

For now, Grant will share minutes at power forward with Paul Millsap, whose $30.35 million team option the Nuggets astutely exercised. Both will be free agents next summer. Denver can use both as leverage against each other when determining then how to proceed.

I’m not convince Bol Bol will ever stick in the NBA, but I love the value of trading for the No. 44 pick to get him there. I rated him No. 14 on my board because of his incredible upside. He adds a little more promise to a team that already had plenty.

The good-and-young Nuggets didn’t have a huge offseason. They didn’t need one.

Offseason grade: C+