The defense will be the top priority for the Denver Nuggets heading into the offseason. Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post gave his opinion on which free agents the Nuggets front-office are targeting in his latest mailbag.

Defensive priorities

According to Kosmider, Denver will be putting more emphasis in improving defense, both perimeter and interior. The Nuggets are loaded with offensively-gifted young players such as Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Juan Hernangomez and Nikola Jokic, but lack the defensive chops to contain the opposing team’s offense. The NBA scribe stressed the Nuggets must solve their porous defense this offseason, if they ever desire to move up in the Western Conference power rankings.

The Nuggets ranked in the top-3 in points scored per game (111.7), assists per game (25.3) and rebounds per game (46.4), but their third to the last defense (111.2 points allowed per game) might have caused them a spot in this year’s playoffs.

“Improving defensively is priority No. 1 for the Nuggets this offseason. They simply won’t be good enough to move up the ladder in the Western Conference without making massive strides in that area. As you noted, they need help defensively both on the perimeter and at the rim,” said Kosminer, who cited Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka and Taj Gibson as ideal defensive bigs and restricted free agents Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Thabo Safolosha and Tony Allen as wing defenders.

The Nuggets could also consider using their picks for prospects with high defensive upside in the upcoming draft. According to ESPN NBA insider Chad Ford, Denver might be interested in Indiana’s OG Anunoby, who might miss most of his rookie year with a knee injury but has the potential to become an outstanding two-way player.

Gallinari free agency

The Nuggets will be armed with a starting projected salary of $11.7 million, but their buying-power could balloon all the way up to $34 million, depending on whether or not they retain Danilo Gallinari.

Gallinari already told the Italian media that he plans to opt out of the final year of his contract worth $16.6 million to test this year’s free agency market.

Although he pointed out the Nuggets are still his No.1 choice, general manager Tim Connelly is not expected to commit on re-signing the versatile big unless he has properly scouted the market. The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat are the two teams that could make a run for Gallinari, who averaged a team-high 18.2 points on 44% FG shooting and 39% from 3-point territory.

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