More Media Reports of Weems and Sharpe Heading to Milwaukee

Gery Woelfel from The Journal Times of Racine, WI is reporting what we thought we already knew up until yesterday.  Sonny Weems and Walter Sharpe will be sent to the Milwaukee Bucks for Malik Allen.  Apparently Denver was unable to acquire Bruce Bowen’s non guaranteed contract as part of the deal.

Update: The Nuggets have officially confirmed the trade.  Until Bowen is waived by the Bucks I guess anything can happen, but the fact the trade has been officially announced leads me to believe Denver will not be able to work anything out that would allow them to acquire Bowen and his non guaranteed deal (although again their interest in doing so was only speculation on my part).

When is a Buck a Nugget?

Last night I decided to get more involved in Twitter (click on the blue ‘t’ under subscribe on the right sidebar to follow me, or I guess just click here).  For the most part I purposely lag behind the latest trends and that has generally served me well.  For example, I have never worn my jeans rolled up and folded tight to my leg for even a single second of my life.

However, my avoidance of what is hip can be detrimental, especially when it comes to new technology.  My college friends still mock me for purchasing tapes long after compact discs were all the rage.  (In my defense I did not have my own CD player so why buy something I could only enjoy when I was at college?  As a result I still have well over 100 tapes jammed into the corner of my closet.  Anyone looking for a copy of Belinda Carlisle’s greatest hits?  OK, this parenthetical section has gone on long enough.)

Little did I know my new found enthusiasm for Twitter would drop a potential story in my lap in less than a day.  When asked in a tweet by reader barchy why a week after being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks he still has not changed his background photo depicting him in a Nuggets uniform Weems tweeted back that he is “Not traded.” Needless to say, that came as a surprise to me.  The trade had been widely reported as a done deal.  After all, I have already put together a film room segment on Malik Allen for heaven’s sake.

Looking for answers I emailed Chris Tomasson, former Rocky Mountain News Nuggets beat writer, to see if he was aware of any snag in the trade.  He checked a source and apparently the trade is still a go, just not official.  It is possible that the transaction has been delayed until the Milwaukee Bucks decide what to do with Bruce Bowen.  His $4 million salary is not fully guaranteed until August 1, which is over 23 hours away.

If that is the case, (caution: pure speculation ahead) perhaps it is possible the two teams are working on an expanded trade that would include Bowen.  If Denver could get Milwaukee to take Steven Hunter for Bowen they could waive Bowen and save nearly $8 million in salary and tax payments.  Of course, with the trade exceptions Denver has, they can work out more complicated deals that would save less money too.  Regardless of what might be in the works, a deal for Bowen that saves money would be a major coup although Denver would certainly have to sacrifice a future first rounder to close the deal.

One way or another we should know in the next couple of days if Sonny Weems can keep his Twitter background photo.

Anthony Carter Contract Update

Chris Tomasson, writing for Pro Basketball news, is reporting that the Denver Nuggets have an offer on the table for Anthony Carter to return to Denver in 2009-10.

The deal is reportedly a one year contract for the ten plus year veteran minimum of $1,306,455.  At this point Carter is hoping to find a team willing to offer him a multi year contract and has yet to agree to return to Denver.  From a cap standpoint, because it is a minimum contract his salary will not count against the $2.1 million remaining from the Nuggets’ mid level exception.

When the Nuggets acquired Ty Lawson on draft night many fans thought that was the end of Carter’s time in Denver.  As good as Lawson is, and he is very good, you never know how a rookie point guard is going to handle the step up from college to the NBA.

One of the primary concerns about Lawson is his ability to defend.  I thought he played very solid man to man defense in Las Vegas during the NBA summer league, but he struggled fighting over screens and I doubt he is ready to chase someone like Jason Terry all over the floor and around screen after screen.

Anthony Carter has proven he can do that and Denver may need him to do it again next season.

I think we all know that the chances of Carter getting a multi year contract offer are only slightly greater than my seven year-old daughter realizing that Hannah Montana is not actually funny.  If he was going to get a two or three year contract, it would have happened last summer.

As much as I would honestly like to see Carter get a nice fat contract from somewhere, it just is not going to happen.  There were rumors that Memphis was interested, but as Tomasson reported in the article linked above, they have decided on Marcus Williams.  I am not sure what other teams have made overtures to Carter, if any, and I honestly do not think it matters.  Carter is a good fit in Denver.  He has a strong advocate on the bench in George Karl and depending on how Lawson adjusts, Carter’s skills may be dearly needed by the Nuggets for at least one more season.

There are few things we can count on in this world, but if you want to bet on something, bet that Carter will return to Denver.  He will have basically the same contract as last season, but heading into camp his role is nowhere near as defined.  The really good news for Nuggets fans is if Lawson plays as well as I expect him to, Carter will be by far the best third string point guard in the NBA.

George Karl Uncensored

Editor’s note: Summer league may be over, but that does not mean we have to let it go. Bret Bearup, Mark Warkentien and George Karl were all interviewed during Denver Nuggets games. I was able to get very low quality recordings of the interviews so crank the volume on your computer and enjoy.

George Karl runs the anchor leg in the third and final segment in our series of summer league interviews. He discusses whether or not he thinks Ty Lawson is a good fit for the Nuggets (I think you can guess where he comes down on that), if he thinks Stan Kroenke is willing to spend extra cash and what he thinks of J.R. Smith all while watching his son dominate the San Antonio Spurs.

Click here to listen.

I thought it was telling that Karl reported that he told Sonny Weems that he “does not need another scorer” yet Weems clearly focused almost entirely on his offense in Vegas and is now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. Coincidence? I found it intriguing to hear Bret Bearup talk about Weems progress from the point of view of a talent evaluator while Karl held a different view of Sonny’s development because he has to evaluate him as a coach. We all know that what a coach wants and what front office personnel think is best for the team can frequently be mutually exclusive, and with Weems in Las Vegas we have a perfect example of that dichotomy.

Looking back at the three interviews we have posted I thought it was enjoyable to listen to how they all talked about how great Dahntay Jones was for them last season, but if you listen between the lines I think each and every one of them were astonished at the money the Indiana Pacers threw at him. They all basically said they never would have given Jones $11 million without actually saying they never would have given him $11 million.

Carmelo Anthony Launches “This is Melo”

Carmelo Anthony has launched a new website called This is Melo that is intended to create a “community of fans and followers” to network together and find out all they could ever want to know about Carmelo.

The press release announcing the launch says that the site will “continue building Carmelo Anthony into a global brand whose passions extend beyond sports and into areas of entertainment, fashion, travel, philanthropy and fatherhood.”

The launch coincides with a marketing campaign that Melo is a part of for the Tag Body Spray Signature Series that Melo is a part of along with rapper Ludacris and pro skater Rob Drydek.

The site has several sections including a members’ only area called “Club Melo” where members can “access exclusive news” that pertains to Anthony.  In a slap to Kobe Bryant’s pay per access subscription site Club Melo appears to be free.  There is also second phase planned that will add merchandising to the endeavor.

I am not sure how becoming a global icon meshes with winning championships all I know is I hope Melo is working on his left hand and getting in the best shape of his career while he globalises himself.

The website looks great so check it out and let me know what you think.

Mark Warkentien – In His Own Words

Editor’s note: Summer league may be over, but that does not mean we have to let it go. Bret Bearup, Mark Warkentien and George Karl were all interviewed during Denver Nuggets games. I was able to get very low quality recordings of the interviews so crank the volume on your computer and enjoy.

After listening to Bret Bearup we are moving on to Mark Warkentien, the front man for the Denver Nuggets management team. I listened to a great many interviews that were part of the summer league game broadcasts and I think Warkentien was the only guest who actually stayed after the end of the quarter and kept talking. He is definitely a gregarious guy and the announcers were clearly impressed with him.

Click here to listen.

I thought Warkentien’s comment that Coby Karl is better on a good team than a bad team was interesting. The Nuggets are clearly a good team. It was also good to hear him say that they have demonstrated that the organization is not afraid to make a big move and they will pull the trigger when the right deal comes along. I also got a kick out of how he insisted that Linas Kleiza when it seems pretty clear that they could have signed him to a modest long term contract by now. He also really talks up Afflalo, and I believe with good reason.

Another very interesting comment Warkentien made was how the Camby trade was an investment in Nene, which we all realized at the time, but also how when Denver passed on Ron Artest two seasons ago, he mentions that it was an investment in J.R.

Of course, the highlight was the dissertation on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Huntsville Flight.

The third and final interview featuring George Karl will post this afternoon.

Bret Bearup Exposed!

Editor’s note: Summer league may be over, but that does not mean we have to let it go. Bret Bearup, Mark Warkentien and George Karl were all interviewed during Denver Nuggets games. I was able to get very low quality recordings of the interviews so crank the volume on your computer and enjoy.

We start our troika of interviews with Bret Bearup, the most mysterious of the Nuggets front office muckety mucks. No one really knows exactly what Bearup’s role is with Denver, but he clearly speaks with authority and claims that he recommended both Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman to Denver. I would think that gives him some serious pull.

During the interview Bearup talks about how he is pleased with the progress that Sonny Weems has made, the chances of Coby Karl making the roster and his opinion of George Karl.

Click here to listen.

Listening to what he says about Coby I would not be surprised to find out that the Weems trade was intended to clear up a spot for Karl the Younger. Regarding Ty Lawson, the way he describes the role they see Lawson playing it sounds a lot like what Anthony Carter has done for Denver in the past. I think the Nuggets brass is expecting Lawson to be the backup point guard for most if not all the season.

I also thought it was interesting to hear that he verifies that the room they budgeted for the Camby trade exception was eaten up by acquiring Chauncey Billups. Bearup verifies that the plan was to acquire a point guard with the exception, but once the Billups trade presented itself it plugged that hole in the budget and on the court. Even if they let the exception expire in November, I think everything has worked out pretty well.

Next up is an interview with Warkentien. Look for that tomorrow morning.

Video Scouting Report Malik Allen

In the aftermath of the Denver Nuggets acquisition of Malik Allen there was widespread disinterest. I decided to take advantage of that disinterest and throw together some actual footage of Allen playing NBA basketball. We are fortunate that Allen played the eighteenth most minutes of the season (for him at least) when Milwaukee came to the Pepsi Center so we have plenty of material to choose from. I have pieced together some of the most relevant clips I could find. If you find them boring, do not blame me, blame Allen.

It is pretty clear that Allen is not exceptionally fleet of foot. Sadly it is a matter of the spirit being willing and the flesh being weak. He certainly knows how to play and you can tell that he cares and tries to do his job. His physical limitations prevent him from getting to spots or rebounding out of his area. He is a sound player and certainly belongs on an NBA roster. However, at this stage of his career I would much rather see the Nuggets bring back Johan Petro over Allen for a cheap emergency big. At worst he is an expiring contract that could be paired with Steven Hunter and perhaps Renaldo Balkman whose rights could be renounced following the season making his contract a de facto expiring deal.

Looking at Allen’s advanced stats, he is an inefficient scorer due to his perimeter based game and his rebound rate is not what you would expect from a power forward/center. After his rookie season when he only played 161 minutes and he posted a somewhat respectable rebound rate of 13.8, he has never produced a rebound rate over 11.5 and he has not cracked 10.7 over the previous three seasons. As a point of reference Carmelo Anthony had rebound rates of 11.0 in 2007-08 and 11.5 in 2008-09.

To wrap things up according to John Hollinger’s player comparison model Allen is most like Peja Drobnjak (no longer appearing in this league).

Denver Nuggets Adding Beijing to Preseason Destinations

You may recall that the Denver Nuggets will be playing the Indiana Pacers in Taipei on October 8.  That will not be their only stop in the Orient.

The NBA has announced that the same two teams will play in Beijing on October 11.  I think everyone expected to have at least one other date added as it would make little sense to fly 35 hours or however long it takes to get over there for only one contest.

The game will be played in Wukesong Arena, formerly the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena, which has been refurbished and holds a capacity of 17,022 spectators.  According to Sun Kanglin, President of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sport, it will be the third time NBA teams play each other in Beijing.  It will also be one of five NBA games played outside the United States this preseason.  In addition to the Nuggets and Pacers playing in Taipei and China the Chicago Bulls will face the Utah Jazz in London, the Jazz will play Real Madrid in Spain and the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers will face off in Monterrey, Mexico.

Hopefully, the Nuggets and Pacers games will be televised on NBATV, but there has been no word yet on any broadcast plans.

Sonny Weems Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks

The Denver Post has confirmed the Denver Nuggets have agreed to send Sonny Weems and the recently acquired Walter Sharpe to the Milwaukee Bucks for Malik Allen. My initial reaction is…why? Allen clearly does not have the upside of Weems, or even Sharpe for that matter. The only real skill Allen has is his ability to hit the open jumper.

Financially this deal will save the Nuggets $172,840 in salary and an equal amount in luxury tax. $345,680 is nothing to sneeze at, trust me I wish I had that much in my bank account right now, but it also is not an amount of money that you would give up a talented player like Sonny Weems for.

Weems has shown that he still has a long ways to go before he fulfills his potential. During the Nuggets fifth summer league game George Karl listed off a bevy of concerns about Weems’ game, plays out of control, does not know a good shot from a bad one, does not commit to defense, but then he also said that Weems and Arron Afflalo would be fighting for the minutes that Dahntay Jones played last season in camp. As a side note, Afflalo is clearly the backup to J.R. Smith now although he always had a big advantage over Weems thanks to his ability to play defense.

Weems did not shoot the ball well in Las Vegas, but he rebounded like a big man and showed some growth on defense even from just a couple of months ago when he played in the D-League finals with the team formerly known as the Colorado 14ers.

Many of us have watched Weems and seen a comparison between him and J.R. Smith. Weems does not have Smith’s range, but he is an explosive athlete, capable of playing good defense and contributing to a good team. So I keep asking myself why.

As I said in my post discussing the original rumor, I do not see Allen getting very many minutes with Denver.  Even if Weems and Sharpe did not appear to be contributors for next season, neither does Allen.

One thing we know is that the Nuggets front office has been highly competent over the previous couple of seasons.  I think we can conclude that this trade is not as much about the personnel as it is building towards something else. What that is I have no idea.

The Nuggets now have 11 players under contract with Linas Kleiza and Anthony Carter still floating around out there. Assuming they resigned Carter and still have their eye on one more player that would put them at the league minimum of 13 players on the roster. Perhaps the Nuggets wanted to be at 13 players instead of 14. However, that makes little sense because as noted above if players 13 and 14 are Weems and Sharpe, they only cost $345,680 more in salary and tax payments than having Allen as your thirteenth man on the roster.

The only rational explanation I can come up with is the Nuggets are working on something that will bring in more than one player. What that is I have no idea, but this trade is certainly a move with the intention of setting up something else. It has to be, because if it isn’t it makes no sense to me at all.

From the Bucks point of view, I think they did this deal to acquire Weems, not to dump salary as the original rumor postulated.  The inclusion of Sharpe in the transaction prevents the Bucks from saving much money by waiving Weems.

In conclusion, for those of you who love reading the Collective Bargaining Agreement you will wonder how Sharpe can be traded with Weems so soon after the Nuggets acquired him. The rule is a player cannot be traded with another player for two months after he is initially acquired via trade or signed off of waivers. The Nuggets and Bucks can get around this by using trade exceptions. Milwaukee apparently has a trade exception of $1.853 million and we all know about the Nuggets trade exceptions. Denver c an easily fit Allen in what remains of the Atkins exception and in return will receive two trade exceptions back from Milwaukee for $736,420, which will both be practically useless.

Denver Nuggets Summer League Report

I finally was able to finish watching the last three summer league games for the Denver Nuggets and I think Nuggets fans should be very pleased. The one player on the summer league team who will be in the 2009-10 rotation played very well.

Even though Ty Lawson did not shoot the ball well in his first two games, highlighted by the numerous rejections he suffered near the rim, I thought he did everything else well. Little did I know that it would only take him two games to adjust to the increased size and athleticism of the summer league.

Lawson continued to control the tempo, make great decisions and play solid defense. He also greatly reduced the number of shots he had blocked by using his body to create contact with a potential shot blocker to get his shot off, using a little floater in the lane and he also became more creative as evidenced by a beautiful reverse layup he made after jumping from the left side of the rim and scoring on the right side. In addition to that he started taking, and making, more jumpers. The result was a combined shooting percentage of 57.1% on two point attempts and 60.0% on threes.

The one thing you hate to see is a quick player who can shoot. If you lay off he will kill you with the jumper, however, if you come out on him, it is even easier for him to drive past you. Lawson accentuated that defensive conundrum by showing off a great pump fake to get his man in the air. He used it several times and it worked every time. The only person who even had a chance to keep Lawson out of the lane was Jerryd Bayless of Portland who did a pretty good job on Lawson in game three. Still Ty posted 26 points on 11-16 from the floor and tallied five assists.

I also loved seeing the accuracy on his passes up the floor. Nuggets players love to launch a three quarter court pass about five feet too high, but Lawson connected perfectly on nearly all of his attempts to get the ball ahead to a teammate.

He also reduced his turnovers from four in the first game to two or fewer over the next four contests.

As I mentioned in my review of games one and two, we cannot draw hard and fast conclusions from five summer league games, but if you combine what we knew about him during his three seasons at Chapel Hill and now in summer league, I think we can be assured that Lawson will be a very good efficient backup point guard. You can see his intelligence and experience in the ways he does little things such as drift to one side of the floor or the other based on where he expects the rebound to come off the rim in order to be in position to receive the outlet pass. His intelligence is off the charts and I love how he was able to adapt to the talent and athleticism of the competition after only two games.

Sonny Weems showed just enough to entice us for what may come in the future. His best shooting performance was a 10-23 (43.4%) night in game five that brought his overall shooting percentage up to 32.6%. He also shot poorly from the three point line dropping onto three of his fifteen attempts (20.0%).

Sonny never made the adjustment to use his talents to set up his teammates when his shot was not falling and he continued to force his offense throughout the five games never attempting fewer than 15 shots. He averaged slightly more than one shot for every two minutes he was on the floor. That is a little too aggressive and as George Karl said when he was interviewed during game five, Weems does not recognize the difference between a good shot and a bad one. He can get his own shot whenever he wants, but settled for a contested midrange jumper far too often.

His defense was very up and down. You could see how good he could be on occasion when he would come out of a time out or a quarter break and really play strong focused defense. Unfortunately that focus came and went. His biggest weakness is getting around picks. Instead of fighting over them he tries to slide around them as if attempting to avoid contact. By the time he would clear a screen and be ready to recover his man was usually already in the lane if not at the rim.

I had hopes that Weems could play the role of providing scoring off the bench, but he is clearly not ready to fill that role. If he is the third option on the floor and the defense is not keying on him, he could be effective and he showed he was much more accurate on catch and shoot opportunities than shooting off the dribble, as most players are.

Even with his shortcomings, he is an intriguing talent and I think he is just a year or two away from being a good NBA player.

The other player I really enjoyed watching was Coby Karl. He is a player who can do everything. He is a very good passer, can handle the ball, knows where to be and when he needs to be there and he can shoot. Karl converted on 61.5% of his shots and made half of his 16 three point attempts. His points per shot is off the charts. He scored 19 points on seven shots in game one, ten points on four shots in game two, 16 points on six shots in game three, 11 points on nine shots in game four and 19 points on 13 shots in game five. Do the math and the result is an astounding 1.92 points per shot. Put him on the floor with players like Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Nene and he will drain open shots all day long.

Defensively he is a little slow laterally, but his understanding of how to play defense somewhat compensates for his lack of speed. Add in the fact that he does not fall asleep on his man or his help responsibilities and he will not kill you defensively.

He plays hard every second he is on the floor and always provides some positive benefit. I do not care what it looks like to have his dad as coach. I want him on the regular season roster.

Looking at the other players, I mentioned C.J. Giles previously as an active shot blocker and athletic defender. I do not think he has NBA talent, but he is right on the borderline. I could see him getting a chance to show what he can do in camp. Ronald Dupree did his best Dahntay Jones impersonation. He is an aggressive defender and showed he can score at the rim. His jumper is creaky and he would provide little help on offense. Still, he plays hard and can play defense. I would not be surprised if the Nuggets brought him into camp. Derrick Byars passes the eyeball test, he is a solid athlete and has good size for a long range sniper. However, he is pretty one dimensional and does not offer much more than long range shooting although he is a decent defender for a shooter. I doubt he will be invited to camp.

The only player I have not mentioned yet that I thought played well was Dontaye Draper. He is small, but plays hounding defense. He also pushed the pace well and shot the ball well (50.0% overall and 40.0% on threes), although he did so on a very small number of attempts. I thought he ran the team well and took his shots in the flow of the offense. His stature will probably keep him out of the NBA, but if the Nuggets do not bring Anthony Carter back, I could see them bringing Draper into camp to provide depth for practices.

With the early progress Lawson displayed, the potential of Weems and the gritty efficiency of Karl I think the Nuggets could have three solid players who are on the regular season roster off this summer league squad. For a team with a solid veteran core, it is important to find players to fill out the roster and I think there is a good chance they have accomplished that in Las Vegas.

Update: Interview with Lawson following the final summer league game on NBA.com.

Sonny Weems to Milwaukee?

There are rumors floating around that the Denver Nuggets are in discussions with the Milwaukee Bucks on a deal that would send Sonny Weems to Milwaukee for Malik Allen.

From Brew Hoop:

Nova Fantasy Sports is reporting that the Bucks are on the verge of trading Malik Allen and his $1.3 million expiring contract to Denver for second-year guard Sonny Weems, who would be owed just $175k if waived immediately.

I hadn’t heard of this site before but a) there’s no reason a sane person would fabricate a Malik Allen trade rumor and b) some reputable posters at RealGM are corroborating that this could very well go down. If it does it would be a no-brainer for the Bucks, as Allen doesn’t provide anything of value at this point and the Bucks would be able to save a little over $1.1 million by converting Allen’s contract into a smaller, partially guaranteed deal.

I’d probably do this deal regardless of the Sessions situation, but it’s worth noting that this move alone would clear enough room to re-sign Sessions for the MLE without going over the 09/10 tax. That begs the question of whether the Bucks really are preparing themselves financially so they can match an MLE deal for Sessions, or whether they’re simply trying to scare other teams off by showing they’ve got the cash to do a deal.  In an ideal world other teams wouldn’t even bother trying to go after Sessions because they figured the Bucks would match anything, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case.

That does not seem like a very good deal for Denver.  If they are providing financial flexibility for Milwaukee they should get at least a second rounder back.  I guess if the Bucks waive Weems the Nuggets cold bring him back, but I do not know how bringing in Allen makes sense.  He only played 11.8 minutes a game on a team that featured such talented bigs as Dan Gadzurich and Francisco Elson (Andrew Bogut was on the roster, but only played 36 games). Allen was not having to compete with players like Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris “Birdman” Andersen for playing time and he still did not even play a quarter of the game.

Regardless, from what I have read this trade is a possibility.  Should the deal, or one like it be agreed to, check back here first for in depth analysis.

Denver Nuggets Summer League Observations After Two Games

The Denver Nuggets summer league team has played in two games and by the time most of you read this that number will be up to three. Even so I want to post some summer league thoughts before I get too far behind. I have been impressed with a few of the players on the team. You can see the up to date stats here.

Ty Lawson – Lawson has not posted overly impressive numbers, but I think he has played very well. He is has been the quickest player on the floor both games and has shown his ability to get into the lane at will. When he penetrates and looks to pass he always makes the right decision and has a unique ability to fit the ball wherever he needs to. So far he has taken very few jumpers so it is difficult to tell how he has adjusted to the NBA three point line, we cannot base anything off his 0-2 performance from behind the arc at this point. He does have a sense for when his team needs a basket, such as early in game one against the Spurs when they only had two points a few minutes into the game. In those situations he has attacked the lane and earned free throws. He has struggled to score and is shooting a microscopic 6.7% from the floor. His primary issue in that area is learning to get his shot off in the lane. It would not surprise me if at least half of his 14 misses have been blocked at the rim. Most importantly his on the ball defense has been very good. Against the Spurs he was matched up against second year point guard George Hill who had a nice rookie season for San Antonio and Hill could not get around him without the help of a screen.

Sonny Weems – Based on the stats it looks like Weems is playing horribly, but he has shown flashes of very goodness. He is doing a great job of rebounding, averaging eight defensive rebounds a game, and pushing the ball back up the floor. In fact, he is doing a little too good of a job as he has pushed the bounds of being out of control. The result has been 4.5 turnovers a game. His athleticism and speed is off the charts and he is absolutely capable of getting his own shot. He has the ability to create space whether it is through contact or his footwork. So far his shot has not been falling, however, it is clear that the Nuggets want to see if he can carry the scoring load. If he proves he can it will make it easier for George Karl to start J.R. Smith knowing he has Weems ability to score available off the bench. Weems really reminds me a lot of a young(er) J.R. He is the best athlete on the floor and it is clear he can make exceptional plays. He does not have the passing ability of J.R., especially on the pick and roll, but he can use his talents to get his teammates easy shots. He also reminds me of J.R. on the defensive end. When he focuses on defense he shows an ability to be disruptive he just lacks consistency.

Coby Karl – If there is a player other than Lawson or Weems who is on an NBA roster in November my money is on Karl. It is easy to look at how hard Karl plays and how intense he is and not notice how skilled he is. He is great with the ball in his hands. He takes care of it, is a very good passer and he can really shoot. It may look bad if Karl gets a shot with the Nuggets, I even made a joke about his presence on the Nuggets summer league team, but he is definitely an NBA caliber player and deserves a spot in the league. It may look bad if he earns that spot in Denver, but you cannot let a good player get away just because of appearances.

Ronald Dupree – I mentioned that Dupree was the most likely player on the roster to be the Dahntay Jones of 2009. He is certainly doing his best. He is playing hard on defense and has been determined to shoot from as close to the rim as possible on offense. He is clearly a limited offensive player, but he has the athleticism and build to be a very good defensive player. I do not think he is going to pull off the same trick Jones did last season, but he is certainly giving it his all.

C.J. Giles – The Nuggets are seemingly always in the market for a big to round out the roster. I was surprised in the past that they did not hang on to a guy like Jelani McCoy. This year it looks like Giles is the big man who will catch my eye only to drift off into the night. He plays with a lot of energy and has done a great job defending the rim. As with Dupree he is not an offensive player, however, his defense is enough to get him noticed. Plus he looks like he has good hands and I like bigs who can block shots, bring energy and catch the ball when it is coming at them.

Richard Hendrix – I really like Hendrix’s ability to score in the paint. He is crafty around the rim and despite being a little undersized he almost always gets a good shot off. I do not think he is going to be in the NBA next season, but he is a very nice player.

Bret Bearup was interviewed during the Nuggets contest with the Wizards and he did not provide much insight to any moves the Nuggets might be working on, but he did say that they want to avoid paying the luxury tax. He also acknowledged that such a feat is probably impossible this season.

Staying with financial I mentioned that it would be interesting to see which trade exception the Nuggets would use to acquire Arron Afflalo. Reader Frontrange pointed out that according to the ESPN Trade Machine the Nuggets used a portion of the Chucky Atkins trade exception on Afflalo and Walter Sharpe, which means they are preserving the exception that was originally created in the Camby trade. I find that intriguing even though it is probably unlikely that they use a big chunk of it before it expires in early November.

There has also been some coaching news over the past couple of days. Chris Tomasson, who is writing for the Rocky Mountain Independent (make sure you check out his Nuggets coverage there) reported first that Jeff Bzdelik was interviewed for the opening in Minnesota. Bzdelik is a perfect coach for a young squad like Minnesota as he will make sure they play hard, play defense and fight from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

Mac Stein is reporting the Los Angeles Clippers are trying to pry Tim Grgurich from Denver. I have a difficult time seeing him leave an organization like the Nuggets for one like the Clippers. Hopefully he will remain in Denver to continue to develop the many young players on the roster.

Video Scouting Report – Walter Sharpe

There were two questions most Denver Nuggets fans probably asked themselves when they heard about the Arron Afflalo trade. What did we give up and who is Walter Sharpe?

So who is Walter Sharpe? He is a 6’9” forward who will be entering his second year out of UAB (Alabama – Birmingham) who was drafted with the thirty-second pick of the 2008 NBA Draft. He did not have an easy route to the NBA, partly through self inflicted injuries (academic issues, being late for things like practices and team flights) and others inflicted by external sources (being shot in the abdomen back in April 2006).

Those issues appear to be behind Sharpe now. I do not recall hearing about any issues during his season in Detroit and after a half hearted scouring of the internet I did not find any record of problems at UAB. Because of that we can focus on what he can do on the court instead of his actions off of it.

I happen to have some vintage footage of a 2008 NBA Summer League game from Las Vegas that featured none other than Walter Sharpe suiting up for the Detroit Pistons. Yes, I actually have several 2008 summer league games on DVD (I say CD on the video below, but do not hold it against me). Let me know if you are hard up for hoops and want a copy of one.

As I point out repeatedly Sharpe played power forward in college, but Detroit was working on transforming him into a small forward. Based on watching him I think it was the correct decision. Even less than a month after he was drafted, he showed the ability to play perimeter defense. His ball handling and passing was also very solid for a guy trying to fit into a new position. Wait until you see him shoot a jumper before you get too excited.

Sharpe will clearly not be contributing to the Nuggets in 2009-10 and honestly, he may never be an NBA rotation player. However, he has shown that he can play one on one perimeter defense. If he can learn to handle pick and roll defense better and iron out his shot, he does have a chance to become a rotation player. Obviously this footage is a year old so it is likely he has made strides in both departments. At this point the Nuggets have not added Sharpe to their summer league roster so we will not get a chance to observe him until training camp in October.

The Denver Nuggets Trade for Arron Afflalo, Walter Sharpe

The Denver Nuggets front office has pulled off another spectacular trade as they have acquired Arron Afflalo and Walter Sharpe for a second round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. That pick is slated to be the lower of the two second rounders the Nuggets currently own in 2011, their own and Portland’s. Unless both of those teams fall apart over the next two seasons that pick should be in the fifties.

When news broke that this trade was a possibility I figured Denver would have to give up the Clippers second round pick they own an option on in the 2010 draft. The fact they took on not only Afflalo’s salary, but Walter Sharpe’s salary too it lowered the price to what will likely be one of the final picks in the 2011 draft plus Detroit threw in $350,000 in cash. Denver was able to land a replacement for Dahntay Jones and a cheap end of the bench prospect in Sharpe for virtually nothing.

Over the previous three summers the Nuggets have acquired J.R. Smith, Renaldo Balkman and now Afflalo and Sharpe for nothing but second round picks, nonguaranteed contracts and/or trade exceptions. Obviously the Smith trade with Chicago was one of the best trades in recent NBA history. Balkman is a very intriguing player who will possibly fill a greater role in 2009-10 and now Afflalo is another rotation player that Denver has brought in at little to no cost. As much attention as the Chauncey Billups trade received it is smaller deals like these that can round out the roster of a contending team.

Afflalo is not a supremely talented player, but he is very solid. He is a very good defender and in his two seasons with the Pistons has adapted to the NBA three point line very well. His rookie season Afflalo only made 20.8% of his 48 attempts. Last season he more than doubled his three point attempts to 107 and despite taking more shots he nearly doubled his percentage as well to an impressive 40.2%.

The difference between the two seasons was Afflalo’s ability to hit the three from the left corner. In his rookie season of 2007-08 Afflalo was 0-9. In 2008-09 he shot 24-44 which equates to 54.5% (you will have to pick the criteria yourself to see his percentages as the URL does not update when you make your selection). Strangely, he only shot 9-31, 29.0%, from the right corner. The two shots are not exact duplicates of each other, but they are close and over time I suspect his percentage from the left corner will drop a bit while his percentage from the right corner will rise. Nevertheless, it is significant that he was able to show such strong improvement between his first and second seasons. If he can continue to improve, he will be a very good offensive weapon.

As we all know there is much more to offense than just shooting open jumpers. So far Afflalo has not shown much more than an ability to catch and shoot. He has not posted very good assist numbers, but I believe that is more due to his role as a catch and shoot player than an inability to pass. He does not have blazing speed, but is a decent drive a kick player. He can dribble with either hand and I believe can answer the call if asked to fill a more significant role on offense. The good news is with players like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Billups and Nene, Denver does not need Afflalo to come in and light up the scoreboard.

Defensively Afflalo is not great, but can certainly fill the role of the defensive oriented shooting guard. In Detroit he guarded point guards, shooting guards and even small forwards from time to time. He works hard and is very focused. He fights over screens well and has shown the ability to chase players around screens. The one thing he needs to work on is his strength at the point of contact as he tends to give up too much space when the offensive player bumps him to get a shot off.

Afflalo will never be a star, but he is the kind of highly competent player that championship teams need. He may never drive Chris Paul as nuts as Dahntay Jones did, but he has the ability to be just as good a defender game after game while providing much more punch on the offensive end.

There has been some great discussion the past couple days as to whether or not J.R. Smith or Afflalo should start. The good news is we do not need to have an answer for that question yet. While there is no doubt the Nuggets were much worse with Jones on the floor than J.R., I do not think that is a fair argument for keeping Afflalo out of the starting lineup. Afflalo is a much better all around player than Jones and I do not think he would be as much of a drop off from J.R. as Jones was. Personally I would start J.R., but it would not surprise me, especially if Denver loses Linas Kleiza, if Karl decides he needs Smith’s offense off the bench and Afflalo takes the court to start each half.

One interesting tidbit that was pointed out by reader Ky Davis is according to John Hollinger the player Afflalo is most like is none other than former Nugget stalwart Bryant Stith.  I think most Nugget fans would gladly take a player of that caliber.

The one man who may be in trouble with the addition of Afflalo is Anthony Carter. Afflalo can provide that end of game defense that Karl craves, but until the Nuggets know they can count on Ty Lawson, Carter will probably still be in their plans.

In the next day or two look for some video of Afflalo to give you all a better idea of what he is capable of. Plus Afflalo is not the only player involved in the trade. Look for a post on Walter Sharpe, with rarely seen footage from the 2008 summer league, in the near future as well.

By the way thanks to those of you who emailed me news of the trade while I was fighting off rain and near hurricane force winds at Water World with my family.

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