Just a few short hours after the Denver Nuggets traded for Jerami Grant – a 6-foot-9 power forward with unreal leaping abilities and a 39 percent shooter from three last season, acquiring him from the Oklahoma City Thunder – it was announced that Denver had rescinded the qualifying offer extended to former Kentucky forward Trey Lyles.
Sources: Denver is rescinding the qualifying offer on forward Trey Lyles, making him an unrestricted free agent. Move allows Lyles to focus on new home with a better opportunity given the depth of forwards on the Nuggets now.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 8, 2019
Lyles will now become an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any team. But which team will that be?
Money has dried up quick. Teams that were once flush with cap space just seven days ago have exhausted its spending. The Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings are the only current teams with available cap space. Are they the teams that would be looking to add a young prospect like Lyles.
Theoretically, yes. The Hawks have been in asset accumulation mode for a few seasons now but are finally beginning to make a charge towards being competitive. They’re building a team from scratch, centering every move they make around Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, and now De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. From a fit standpoint, Lyles could actually be a perfect option – and one that could start right away next to Collins.
A reminder that Lyles isn’t even 24 yet. He had an excellent season in 2017-18 coming off the bench for a budding Nuggets squad, posting averages of 9.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting over 49 percent from the field. The Nuggets regular starting power forward, Paul Millsap, played only 38 games that year due to injury and Lyles filled in nicely. However, with the return of a healthy Millsap this past season, in addition to the breakout play of Nikola Jokic, Torrey Craig, and Malik Beasley, Denver’s rotation was too deep to give Lyles a chance.
When Lyles did play last season, he rushed everything. Wide open shots that were once automatic the year before turned into inevitable bricks. In 2017-18, Lyles converted on over 41 percent of his shots that were considered “wide-open” (six-plus feet from the closest defender). Not a terrific number, but not a terrible one either. Last season, that number plummeted to 33.1 percent – and that was on a higher frequency of shot attempts, per NBA.com. He shot 25.5 percent from three last season after making over 38 percent the year before.
Heading into next season, the confidence that Lyles would work his back into the rotation isn’t high. Micahel Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt should be healthy(er) going into next season, too, and they’ll surely get some looks early in the schedule. Once the Nuggets decided to trade for Grant early Sunday morning, it began to feel more and more likely that the Nuggets would be moving on from Lyles. And now it looks like they finally will. Lyles minutes had already dipped from 19.1 per game in 2017-18 to 17.5 last season.
Now he can find a team that is looking to give him minutes, not take them away. The Hawks and Kings might be two of his best options if they are willing to bring him along (although the Hawks did just add Jabari Parker on a two-year deal). Lyles isn’t a hot commodity, but he’s one of the best available free agents remaining. He’s young, big, and can shoot the ball. Someone is going to pick him up.