Aaron Gordon Lands $92M Extension| The Missing Piece To A Denver Championship?

The Denver Nuggets and forward Aaron Gordon reached an agreement on a four-year, $92 million contract extension. Gordon has one year left on his current deal after being traded to the Nuggets at last season’s trade deadline.

His sister/manager Elise Gordon was adamant about getting her brother signed and sealed before the final year of his contract. She was instrumental in his trade request out of Orlando and now his extension to stay in the “Mile High City” beyond the 2021-22 season.

Inking Gordon is a resounding statement about the Nuggets’ desire to capitalize on their talented roster and a potential championship window a little longer.

It was a commitment that almost certainly lands the Nuggets in luxury-tax status if and when Michael Porter Jr. inks what is expected to be a maximum or near-maximum contract prior to Denver’s season opener next month.

Beginning in 2022-23, the Nuggets could have three players making more than $30 million per season — Nikola Jokic ($33.6 million), Jamal Murray ($31.7 million) and Porter Jr. ($34.6 million).

Gordon’s new deal doesn’t ease the financial burden, but at least he stays under $20 mill ($19.7 million). We haven’t even factored in “The Joker’s” potential supermax that he’s qualified for as the league’s MVP.

Jokic’s deal could average a whopping $42.8 million per over five seasons in one of the next two summers. There’s probably going to be a roster overhaul within the next few years.

So Denver will have to gel quickly if this team is going to make any noise and get back to where they were in 2020 when they captivated fans inside the NBA Bubble.

The team’s journey from potential to powerhouse coalesced over the last two seasons.

In March, Denver appeared to harbor legitimate title hopes for one of the very few times in the franchise’s 53 professional NBA and ABA seasons.

The team was getting an otherworldly, season-long performance out of Jokic, a basketball unicorn whose game is unique and impactful. The uber-talented big thoroughly dominated during his 2021 MVP campaign.

Jokic and explosive combo guard Jamal Murray exploded onto the scene and into full-blown stardom in the prior season’s COVID-mandated playoff bubble.

Capitalizing on the chemistry of their two stars at a time when most teams were in disarray, Denver battled the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. It was Denver’s first trip to a WCF since the 2008-09 season.

This past season (2020-21) wunderkind Porter Jr. began to blossom, finally healthy after battling back problems for two years. The lanky 22-year-old earned more minutes and set himself up for a huge bag.

Even with all that, it was clear the Nuggets still needed more.

More Defense

Nuggets defensive stopper Gary Harris isn’t the same defensive stopper after so many injury-plagued seasons.

More Athleticism

The team has a wide variety of skill players but needs more athleticism, something that 35-year-old Paul Millsap could no longer provide. His style fits better on a squad like the Brooklyn Nets, who are loaded with elite scoring and need veterans to fill specific roles.

More Energy

Which is something that youngsters R.J. Hampton and Zeke Nnaji couldn’t bring to the court without making too many rookie mistakes.

In trading for Gordon, general manager Tim Connelly finally struck a deal that had eluded the franchise for years. Connelly, wasted no time in pulling the trigger once it became known that Gordon, a 2014 lottery pick and Slam Dunk Contest champ, wanted out of Orlando.

Upon joining the Nuggets, Gordon displayed a renewed and reinvigorated fervor. He went from a mismatched, ball-dominant underachiever into a whirling dervish of aggressive defending and a high-flying freight train directed by Jokic’s maestro-like command of Denver’s offense.

In the mere nine games in which the Nuggets were able to get their fearsome foursome on the court together (before Murray’s devastating ACL injury), Gordon was super-efficient, shooting better than 70 percent from inside the arc.

The starting five (including Will Barton, signed to a two-year $30 million deal in the offseason) was by far the most effective in the league by almost any metric.

As the Nuggets finally faded away after being swept by the Phoenix Suns in the conference semifinals, Gordon was relegated to a non-factor, averaging only nine points. Denver will need a much better version of “AG” until Murray returns at some point around the All-Star break.

But Connelly didn’t sign Murray for just four months, he’s signed for four years, and when Murray returns, the Nuggets, if healthy, will have an opportunity to do something they’ve never done: get to the NBA Finals.

For a team that has proved it’s willing to spend with the league’s best, it’s exactly the return they’ll expect on this investment.