Lakers Have ‘Significant Interest’ in Signing Key Nuggets Champion Wing

Bruce Brown of the Nuggets, a potential Lakers free-agent target

Getty Bruce Brown of the Nuggets, a potential Lakers free-agent target

In a perfect Nuggets world, the team would be able to celebrate its NBA championship with ample financial rewards, especially for those players who chipped in mightily to help get Denver over the hump. Bruce Brown was, no doubt, one of those players.

But it’s not a perfect world for Denver, and under NBA rules, their hold on Brown is tenuous. For teams with cap space—or, perhaps, a full midlevel extension slot available—Brown is role-playing commodity worthy of a free-agent run.

And the Lakers are a potential suitor with a full mid-level exception on hand. As Denver Post reporter Mike Singer tweeted, the Lakers have “significant interest” in Brown this offseason.

That fits with what rival executives see as L.A.’s intentions coming into this offseason—to add experienced (but not old) two-way players who can bolster the team’s depth immediately.

“There are not a lot of guys in their wheelhouse with that (midlevel exception), especially if they are looking at a wing,” one league executive said this week. “And Brown could stay put in Denver if he is willing to give up the money. He could get a crazy offer from a cap-space team but none of those teams are gonna be competitive next year.

“But the Lakers, that situation would keep him in the hunt for a championship and allow him to get big money now instead of later.”

NBA Rules Limit Nuggets in Bruce Brown Contract Offer

Because the Nuggets only had Brown for one season—he signed a taxpayer mid-level exception deal last summer—the team has no Bird rights on him, and can’t exceed the salary cap to pay him as their own player. He could sign a one-year deal, at a maximum of almost $8 million, and be eligible for a contract in the range of four years and $60 million in the summer of 2024.

That comes with risk, though. If Brown is injured next year, or sees his production drop off significantly, or opts to join the circus, the Nuggets are under no obligation to make him a contract offer.

Brown’s production certainly calls for a significant raise. He averaged a career-high 11.5 points last season, and he bumped that up to 12.0 in the playoffs. He was fourth in the NBA postseason in scoring off the bench, just behind Sacramento’s Malik Monk, Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic and the Lakers’ Rui Hachimura.

Brown Could Start for the Lakers

If he were to land with the Lakers, Brown could even be granted a starting spot, with D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves (also free agents this summer) in the backcourt and a frontcourt of LeBron James/Anthony Davis. L.A., or one of the other teams with the full midlevel exception (including the Grizzlies, Kings and Timberwolves, who all have interest in Brown), could give Brown four years and $53 million, without the risk of waiting until next summer.

He would not have to drop out of title contention to do so, either. The Lakers reached the West finals last year, and are among the favorites in the conference entering next season.

If not Brown with the midlevel exception, the Lakers’ options drop off quickly. Good-D-Tough-Shooting Matisse Thybulle is a potential target, as is oft-injured wing Kelly Oubre. Neither has anything close to the resume that Brown has, though.

The Lakers’ priority this offseason remains hanging on to its own free agents, especially Reaves and Hachimura. But tallying a player like Brown would be a major boost toward a Finals appearance.

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