Denver Nuggets Free Agency News – July 2, 2009

We are a day and a half into the free agency negotiating period and so far only two players have been locked up as Detroit has verbal agreements with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva (didn’t Detroit win their title largely due to their stellar team defense?).

At this point the only news out of Denver is Mark Warkentien was in Los Angeles to talk contract with Chris Andersen. I do not think there is any doubt at this point that Birdman returns to Denver.

That leads up to a big question. Denver can sign Andersen for up to six seasons. Do you give Chris Andersen a five or six year deal? I say no. The primary reason is Andersen turns 31 in five days although he is certainly not your typical 31 year old big man.

Birdman set a career high for playing time this season having logged 1,460 minutes on the court. For his career he has accumulated 5,692 minutes. That may sound like a lot of minutes, but consider that over the previous two seasons LeBron James has played the fewest minutes of his career. However, LeBron has still totaled 6,081 minutes over those two seasons. LeBron has played almost 400 more minutes since November of 2007 than Andersen has played over his seven year career.

Even with Andersen’s low mileage you have to be wary of signing a player so dependent on his athleticism into his mid thirties. I think the perfect contract for Andersen would be a three year deal with a team option or non guaranteed fourth season.

As a sidebar, team options/non guaranteed seasons can be used as a de facto expiring contract and I think they give teams a great deal of flexibility. If I were a GM I would tack on an extra season to every contract that starts at $4 million a year or higher where only $250,000 is guaranteed. The player then gets an additional $250,000 and I get a potentially high value trading chip. Of course, you open yourself up to having some dead money on your cap so it would be important to make sure you only have two or three non-guaranteed seasons coming up at the same time, but that would be easily manageable. The benefit would far outweigh the cost in my mind.

Apart from meeting with Birdman the Nuggets have been very quiet. The only player I have seen them linked to consistently in published reports is Grant Hill. There is no mention of Denver being involved with Rasheed Wallace. San Antonio, Orlando and Cleveland are all hot for Sheed, but Boston has been the most aggressive suitor. It will be interesting to see what Wallace does. Boston is the only team for which he would not start, unless they decided to bench Kendrick Perkins, but they are probably the best fit as Wallace can do many of the same things Garnett does. Wallace would make Orlando much more traditional with Rashard Lewis moving back to small forward, but he would still give them the three point threat from the power forward spot. Should he go to San Antonio it would allow the Spurs to bring DeJuan Blair along more slowly and he and Duncan would be possibly the best interior defensive tandem in the league.

From a Nuggets perspective I think it would be most interesting if Wallace signed with Cleveland because it would put Anderson Varejao in play. Cleveland would probably want to bring him back, but I doubt he would want to back up Rasheed. Varejao is the kind of team defender Denver needs. He is always amongst the league leaders in charges drawn (2006-07 stats were the most recent I could find) and he is a great pick and roll defender. I am not sure if Denver would pursue Varejao, but the Nuggets have fellow Brazilian Nene on the roster and Varejao could probably be had at mid level exception money. Of course, Varejao would not be a full time starter in Denver either with Nene and Kenyon on the roster, but I think if Rasheed is in Cleveland he would want out.

I did stumble across a sentence in this article that says the Nuggets are interested in Channing Frye. Frye is not a great individual defender, but I do believe he can be effective as part of a solid team defensive scheme. The Nuggets are missing a big man who can consistently shoot from the outside and Frye would fill that role as the fourth big. He is also an underrated rebounder. Should the Nuggets swap Kleiza for Hill and Petro for Frye there will not be dancing in the streets, but I think those two players would be positive upgrades and both would come relatively cheap. Add in Ty Lawson and that is a pretty good boost in talent from last season.

Shifting to the Nuggets’ free agents, I think the silence surrounding Dahntay Jones, Linas Kleiza and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Carter is deafening. At this point I would be very surprised if Kleiza or Jones are back in Denver next season. If the Nuggets miss out on Hill I think LK is their fallback option, but I think they would probably still rather sign and trade him than keep him around.

I have read that Cleveland is interested in Kleiza and this morning I saw Indiana has made a call to his agent as well. The report that links Kleiza to Indy was same report also claimed the Pacers are looking at Jones and Carter too. If you are Anthony Carter how much more would the Pacers have to offer in order for you to move from Denver to Indianapolis?

Other big news includes David Lee losing almost all of his leverage now that Memphis has acquired Zach Randolph, which brings a possible sign and trade back into play. The Knicks probably do not want to add his contract to their summer of 2010 payroll, but they have offered him a four year, $32 million contract. Now Toronto is tossing their name in the hat although they are also looking at using their limited resources on a small forward such as Hedo Turkoglu or Trevor Ariza.

Speaking of Turkoglu, it appears Portland is going to add him to their stacked roster, but I am not sure how much of an upgrade that will be for them. Turkoglu does a lot of the same things that Brandon Roy does, especially at the end of games. I think Hedo definitely makes them better, how much I do not know. Dave at Blazer’s Edge looks at what Hedo might do or not do for Portland What would scare me is if Portland adds Turkoglu and then pulls off a sign and trade for Andre Miller.

Ariza’s agent apparently is saying that the Lakers need to reward Ariza with a contract over the mid level exception. If they do not he claims Ariza will take someone else’s mid level offer out of spite. So far the Cavs have joined the Raptors as potential destinations.

Finally, we are getting some good comments from readers. One name that keeps popping up is Hakim Warrick. I believe the Nuggets are going to continue to bring in players who can play great team defense and Warrick does not fit that mold. Plus his qualifying offer is for just over $3 million and that is too much for what he would bring to the table.

Finally I will leave you with some big time breaking news from the Denver Post. Chauncey Billups is switching his uniform number from 7 to 1. J.R. Smith was number one last season, but will wear an as of yet undetermined number. Apparently J.R. just surrendered the number 1 to Billups without so much as a dinner at Sizzler.

  • TheseNuggs

    Great Article once again. Further more like my last comments Im happy to see we share the same opinion that hakim would not be the greatest fit for the nuggets. I couldnt tell you enough how great I think david lee would be for the nuggets regardless of the fact that David Lee was probably the only big in New York you cant overlook the fact that the man did lead the NBA this year in double doubles, hes young but most importantly knows how to play his game. There are NBA vets and NBA stars who either are selfish or dont stick to their game. Example being Kmart taking 20 foot jumpers. I cant be the only one when watching a nuggets game seeing the look in Kmarts eyes yelling at the T.V when you know hes about to pull up and your saying to yourself why didnt you just do your little patented spin to the hoop flat floater over the defense, ugly but decently accurate. So I will continue to hold out hope for David Lee in a nuggs uniform. If not Id very much welcome Grant Hill and Channing Frye as I also pointed out being in Portland I have seen Frye play and like what was said hes an underrated rebounder and has a nice shot.

  • runningdonut

    With the FA market drying up, David Lee for LK and Hunter’s expiring? I like him a lot, would love to see what he can do on a good team. We don’t get better defensively though. I wish Kenyon would add some finesse to his offensive game, for the 4th year in a row. Regardless, its a plan for life after K-Mart which the Nugs currently do not have. Can’t decide if I like it more than signing Channing Frye and bruiser like Diogu or Shelden Williams.

    Varejao opted out of $6.2m. He’s already overpaid and under-good. LBJ made Drew Gooden look decent too. A flopper who can’t shoot straight would not be good on our bench which already lacks scoring. He’s terrible

    As for AC, he’s looking at his last chance at something other than 1 year minimum, and like last year it won’t happen. He’s back :(

  • fatlever

    I really would like to see Rasheed Wallace in a Nugs uni. This season proved they are really one more big away – especially one who can score from deep and defend – and Sheed and Chauncey know each other’s game really well. Plus he has that postseason experience they desperately needed this year. I’m sure he has enough gas in the tank to play 16-18 min/game in the regular season and gear up for a playoff run. Everyone else whose name i’ve heard: Frye, Varejao, Warrick – totally unproven at the level Wallace has been for a long time. And i think their window is now: Billups can only play at this level a couple more years.

  • Stumbleweed

    The hell? Gonna be weird to see JR in another number… maybe he’s going back to 23? That’d be my guess. Whatever, as long as he’s starting, I’m happy.

  • intheknow

    J.R. will be #5 next season.

    And Stumbleweed… what’s wrong with AC?? We know Ty is the future PG, but the veteran AC brings good leadership and defensive mindset to the team. Now if only he wouldn’t shoot! :)

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Krishna105 Tanner Curren

    While nodding in agreement, I find myself thinking, “I’d rather be rich than stupid..”.

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