Jalen Pickett had a very strange year for the Denver Nuggets. Drafted 32nd in 2023 as an old rookie (he was a 5th year senior who turned 24 at the start of the season), the expectation for Pickett was to challenge for the emergency point guard role while working his way into the everyday rotation when needed for rest or injury. The Nuggets’ Director of Scouting, Jim Clibanoff, dropped the comparison to Andre Miller when talking about him after the draft. He even played for Andre Miller, the coach for the Grand Rapids Gold, in several G League stints. But Pickett’s playing time for the Nuggets rarely materialized, with Collin Gillespie getting most of the emergency point guard minutes and leaving Jalen’s status and future role with the team as unclear as it was to start the season.

2023-2024 Season stats

1.6 0.5 0.8 0.1 42.90% 36.00% 0 -0.5


Season Story

Jalen Pickett signed a four year, $8.2 million dollar deal as a second rounder, something that would normally signify a lot of belief from the signing team. They wanted him locked up long-term rather than seeing what he looked like on a normal two-year deal for a second rounder or even a partially-guaranteed deal or two-way contract. He had spent his last two college years at Penn State, the alma mater of Calvin Booth, general manager for the Denver Nuggets. Denver has a very unique starting offense built around a center, and Pickett is a very unique back-to-the-basket point guard who can operate in the paint. He had a back-down approach that created offensive rebounding opportunities for himself as well as an inside-out style that ground down the clock with every possession. In college he could hit threes or pass guys open, but relied on himself making tough and late shots quite often. Would Denver be able to mesh that style with either the bench lineup or next to a center-driven offense if he had to play with the starters?

The short answer turned out to be, “No.” When starting point guard Jamal Murray pulled a hamstring, coach Michael Malone went with the player he knew better and who knew the offense better, two-way guard Collin Gillespie. Pickett had a stretch of 5 games in November (4 on the road) where he averaged 12 minutes a game, with a season high of 19 on November 19th, but after that most minutes he ever played in a game was 7. For the most part he was either inactive or did not play, getting some garbage minutes or working on his game in the G League under Miller’s tutelage.

He played fine in the G League – though Gillespie played better, since Collin was racking up triple-doubles and got a call to play in the G League Up Next game at All-Star Weekend. Jalen Pickett’s 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists averages in the G League couldn’t pull him ahead of Denver’s two-way contract guard, and with the rotation tightening down the stretch he only played 15 minutes of regular season NBA minutes after February, with some garbage time minutes during the Minnesota series in the playoffs when the game was out of hand either way.

’24/’25 outlook with the Nuggets

So where does that leave Pickett? First, he has to wait for Denver’s decision on Gillespie. Bringing back Collin on a qualifying offer or even another 2-way deal would definitely put a crimp in any plans to expand Pickett’s playing time. From a roster space perspective, things would need to be dire for Denver to have both Pickett and Gillespie taking up 15-man roster spots considering neither of them is a rotation player yet.

But Denver has a crucial need for a playable third point guard. Jamal Murray is likely to miss several games next year – he hasn’t played more than 65 games in a season in the past 5 years. Reggie Jackson had to shoulder a huge playing time burden and wore down this year also, finishing the year hurt and less effective than Denver needed him to be. That third point guard role is a major one for saving wear and tear on both Denver veterans, and if the Nuggets don’t feel like Pickett can do it they’ll either need to re-sign Gillespie – who himself remains a question mark – or add a veteran point guard that Malone trusts more to handle the various responsibilities of playing next to Jokic and also forming the bench unit into some kind of functional offense. I lean toward Denver going that route, at least so that the third point guard has a longer leash to be able to get his feet under him. Denver’s offense is brutal for point guards, who need to both understand how to play off-ball or in concert with Jokic for some minutes as well as run a completely different offense for the bench in the non-Jokic minutes without the MVP center breaking down defenses. It takes time – and that is time that Pickett may not have.

Pickett will turn 25 at the start of the upcoming season. He was drafted because Booth believed he could both learn fast and provide immediate help to the squad. Him not getting minutes this year is not indicative of a failure yet on either of those fronts – Monte Morris played 8 NBA minutes his rookie year and then played all 82 games the following season for Malone while getting some Sixth Man of the Year votes. But nothing about Pickett’s rookie year indicated that he would be able to help the current structure of Denver’s bench achieve the stability Denver desperately needs from it, so either the plan for the bench needs to change or the floor general does. There are other pieces the Nuggets can add to shore up shooting or rebounding on that unit, but unless Pickett can put out a convincing early start it’s very easy to see a veteran surpassing on a minimum contract surpassing him and Pickett’s minutes being spent in the G League or under the DNP column again.