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Denver Nuggets’ offseason storylines

Michael Malone and Tim Connelly echoed the same sentiment. The Nuggets’ coach and president of basketball operations are sick of holding their final media gathering right after the conclusion of the regular season.

“How many times can you be the bridesmaid?” Connelly said Friday, less than two days after the Nuggets lost an overtime heartbreaker at Minnesota in their regular-season finale.

Despite finishing with a 46-36 record, Denver missed the playoffs by one game for the second consecutive season. But there’s reason for optimism, as Connelly stressed “this is the most confident I’ve felt in our core group since I’ve been here.” The Nuggets are building around standout big man Nikola Jokic, steady two-way guard Gary Harris and sharpshooting point guard Jamal Murray. Paul Millsap, Denver’s marquee free agent signing, will also be aiming for a season of full health after missing 44 games following surgery to repair a torn left wrist ligament.

Now, the Nuggets’ goal is to sharpen their roster in the offseason. Here are the prominent story lines facing Denver this summer:

1. Does Nikola Jokic sign a max contract?

Connelly alluded to “some pretty interesting financial decisions” looming for an organization that does not have a lot of money to spend. But signing Jokic to a max deal as soon as possible seems like a no-brainer.

Because Jokic — who averaged 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists and compiled 10 triple-doubles in a spectacular third season —  was a second-round draft pick, his rookie contract has a team option for his fourth season in 2018-19. If Denver declines that option, he becomes a restricted free agent, allowing the Nuggets to match any offer from another team. If Denver exercises that team option, Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2019.

“Nikola’s gonna be here for a long time,” Connelly said. “He’s a guy that’s been tremendous in how quickly he’s developed and a guy that we love. And he loves Denver. The sooner we can get his signature on a long-term contract, the better … whatever keeps him here the longest is best for us and best for the team.”

2. Does Will Barton re-sign with the Nuggets?

Denver’s most prominent unrestricted free agent is Barton, who flashed his versatility as a starter and backup at both guard spots and small forward while putting up career-best numbers (15.7 points, five rebounds, 4.1 assists).

Barton has a strong connection with the Nuggets, the organization that helped him blossom as a significant contributor during its rebuild. But Barton has also expressed his desire to be a full-time starter. That will not happen at shooting guard, as Harris signed a lucrative contract extension prior to last season. But it could happen at small forward.

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