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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The Denver Post is reporting that the Denver Nuggets are indeed discussing the possibility of acquiring Arron Afflalo from the Detroit Pistons. Chris Dempsey writes that Afflalo is “limited a bit defensively,” but I disagree. I do not watch a lot of Pistons games, but my eyes tell me Afflalo can D it up pretty well at shooting guard and I am not the only one who thinks so. Here is the first line from his DraftExpress profile:
Arron Afflalo is first and foremost a tough competitor. He prides himself in many different areas of his game, most notably his defense, and always wills himself to improve.
The more I think about it the more I suspect the Nuggets can get him for a second round pick. They will have a high to mid second round pick available next season thanks to the Los Angeles Clippers second rounder that Denver has the option on in 2010 from the Marcus Camby deal. Afflalo was a (late) first round pick in 2008 and it might seem Detroit deserves a first rounder in return based on his play, but what Detroit wants is cap space and the benefit they receive by trading Afflalo is the extra cash the deal would open up for them. Because the Nuggets are giving them salary relief there is no need to give up a first round pick as part of the deal.
One other thing to keep in mind is the Nuggets have two trade exceptions they can choose from to use to trade for Afflalo. They own a $9,790,625 trade exception that was originally created in the Camby trade, but was recharged in the Billups deal. It expires on November 3, 2009. They also have a smaller, but still sizable $3,240,000 from the Chucky Atkins trade that expires on January 7, 2010.
If Denver does complete this trade, I think it will be interesting to see which exception they use. The $9.8 million exception will expire first and they can extract Afflalo’s nearly $1.1 million salary from it and still have a big chunk of it still available (David Lee sign and trade anyone?). On the other hand if they want to preserve the $9.8 million in its entirety they can pull the money out of the smaller $3.24 million exception.
I suspect they will use a portion of the $9.8 million exception because it expires first and removing $1.1 million from the lesser exception would greatly reduce its value. However, if we find out they pull the money for our as of yet fictional trade from the $3.24 million exception we will know they are still hoping to pull off something big before the season starts with the larger exception.
It was not necessarily what I had in mind two weeks ago, but I am starting to think an Afflalo, Matt Barnes Joe Smith/Drew Gooden/Shelden Williams offseason might not be all that bad for the Nuggets. All three players would come cheap and allow Denver to take on a little more salary at the trade deadline.
Of course, I read today that the Orlando Magic are reportedly turning their gaze on Barnes now that they have landed Brandon Bass and Barnes is supposedly choosing between Orlando and Cleveland (Dallas is mentioned as well, but that was before the Shawn Marion trade.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Phoenix Suns will sign both Grant Hill and Channing Frye (thanks to Stumbleweed for passing on the news).
Frye’s contract is for less money than I suspect the Denver Nuggets were offering at two years and $3.8 million. That is lower than the biannual exception which starts at $1.99 million for 2009-10. However, with Shaq out of the picture Phoenix had the most playing time to offer, which is always important.
With Frye off the table if the Nuggets are going to improve their front court depth via free agency, they are down to players such as Drew Gooden and Joe Smith. Brandon Bass is intriguing, but there are quite a few teams interested in him and it is highly unlikely the Mavericks would be interested in a sign and trade with Denver (Update: Bass has reportedly agreed to sign with Orlando). Ditto with Paul Millsap and Utah. Glen Davis is also still in play, but as with Bass and Millsap the Nuggets do not have the money to pry him away from Boston. If Denver is interested in Davis, and there are no indications that they are, with the addition of Rasheed Wallace the Celtics may be interested in a sign and trade as well.
If the Nuggets are going to make a big splash it appears the only chance of that happening would be with a sign and trade with New York for David Lee. Now that Hill is returning to Phoenix New York may have renewed interest in acquiring Linas Kleiza.
As I tell my daughter, patience is a virtue, but I do not think the author of that phrase was familiar with the NBA free agency meat market.
We mentioned Arron Afflalo as a potential replacement for Dahntay Jones. Afflalo is not a free agent, but we wondered if Detroit may be interested in trading him now that Ben Gordon is in town. Apparently, Detroit is hoping to move Afflalo:
There’s a good chance the Pistons are looking to clear another $2 million off their payroll. That would give them close to $4 million to pursue another frontcourt player in the wake of Antonio McDyess going to the San Antonio Spurs. Brandon Bass (Dallas Mavericks) and Glen Davis (Boston Celtics) are two possibilities.
To clear the space, the Pistons most likely will try to move Arron Afflalo and Sharpe.
I do not know what Detroit is looking for, but Denver can easily fit Afflalo into one of their trade exceptions and if Detroit is really motivated to make a deal perhaps a second round pick could be enough. If not, a massively protected first rounder (say 22 or lower) might be worth it. Keep in mind since Denver traded their first round pick in 2009 to Oklahoma City they cannot trade away their 2010 pick.
In other free agent news Grant Hill is looking more and more like a pipe dream for the Nuggets. They are never mentioned as one of the teams pursuing him by the media, and New York and Phoenix are both being very aggressive in their courtship of him.
The Knicks have supposedly offered Hill his choice of a one year, $5 million contract or a three year, $10 million deal. Both are more than Denver can offer without agreeing to a sign and trade with Phoenix. The Suns have not given up on bringing Hill back as owner Robert Sarver, GM Steve Kerr and coach Alvin Gentry were all in Orlando trying to talk him into returning to the desert.
If Denver is out of the running for Hill I agree with the opinion that Denver should move on to Hill’s Phoenix teammate Matt Barnes. He is a versatile, athletic high energy player who is an adequate three point shooter, solid defender and can run the floor like a personal injury lawyer chases an ambulance. Barnes will be cheaper than Hill and will fit better on defense and in the running game. He is not the creator that Hill is, but he is a decent passer (far better than Linas Kleiza).
On the Channing Frye front there has not been much news since he visited Cleveland. I think it is pretty good news that he left town without signing a deal. With the Nuggets only having $2.1 million of their midlevel exception remaining to offer Frye, and a sign and trade is out of the question as pointed out by runningdonut in the comments of a previous post, he may be a long shot to come to Denver. Still, the money should be close between Denver and Cleveland as the Cavs have reportedly signed Anthony Parker with a portion of their midlevel exception. (Update: According to Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst the Cavs signed Parker to a two year, $6 million contract so they probably have $700,000 more of their midlevel exception than Denver does. Windhorst has also tweeted that the Cavs are currently not close to singing any other free agents. That also leads me to believe if the Cavs want to add Kleiza, it will have to be via sign and trade since they can only offer him a starting salary of $2.8 million, which is barely more than his qualifying offer.) Phoenix is also in the picture for Frye and probably offers the most playing time of the three teams and the Suns are his “hometown” team (his family moved to Phoenix when he was seven) so Frye will have to decide if he wants to play for a contender or if he wants to play for Phoenix.
Update: As reported by Chris Tomasson Johan Petro is not out of the picture just yet:
The Nuggets didn’t pick up the qualifying offer on Petro, making him an unrestricted, rather than restricted free agent. However, his agent, Sam Goldfeder, said that’s not necessarily an indication Petro won’t return to Denver. Goldfeder said he’s talked to both Warkentien and Karl and “they’re big fans” of his client.
However, any deal in which Petro were to return to Denver likely would be for the minimum.
As I mentioned in my piece on Petro, you probably do not like him at nearly $3 million a year, which is what his qualifying offer would have been for, but at or near the minimum he is a nice roster filler.
It is frustrating to see the other teams in the Western Conference add player after player while the Denver Nuggets appear to be doing nothing, but I think we can expect Denver to jump into the fray at some point and reel in their own big fish.
Let’s start off with some more NBA accounting. Henry Abbott at TrueHoop has reported that each team will receive a payment from the league escrow account.
What is the escrow account you ask?
A percentage of each player’s salary (for 2008-09 it was nine percent according to Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ page) is deposited into an escrow account. At the end of the season that money is either returned to the players or disbursed to the teams. The determining factor of who gets the money is the ratio of player salaries and benefits to Basketball Related Income. Typically the escrow money is returned to the players, but this season the ratio dictated that the money will go to the owners.
As a result every team will receive a cash payment of $6,467,847 out of the escrow account. That is a significant chunk of change.
Keep in mind the luxury tax money that is collected from the big salary teams gets redistributed amongst the non tax paying teams. The result is another $2,911,756 payout. That means that a non tax paying team like Denver will receive a grand total of $9,379,603 in cash by the end of July. Now add in the Nuggets’ nine home playoff games as opposed to the regular two and the bottom line for 2008-09 gets much better for Stan Kroenke.
The question then becomes what is Kroenke willing to spend?
Let us allow history to be our guide.
In 2007-08 Denver paid out $81,437,079 million in team salary and at that time the luxury tax limit was $68,865,000. The result was that between their payroll and $13,572,079 in tax payments the Nuggets shelled out a grand total of $95,009,158 on players.
Can we assume that Kroenke is willing to spend $95 million again? What we as fans have going in our favor is the 2007-08 team was completely unproven where this team was able to knock on the door to the NBA Finals. I believe Kroenke will open up his pocketbook again to improve this team.
Using the $95 million expenditure in salary and tax payments from 2007-08 as an example we can surmise that the Nuggets payroll could be allowed to get as high as $82.46 million (at that salary level the tax payment would equal $12.54 million and thus a total outlay of $95 million). Right now the Nuggets are sitting at a team salary of $76.7 million (including Linas Kleiza’s $2.7 million qualifying offer. That leaves room for almost another $6 million in salary to be added in our $95 million scenario.
Now add in that extra $9.4 million the league is handing out as discussed above and perhaps it is possible Kroenke will green light a team payroll even higher than the $82.46 million from our example.
With only $2.1 million of the mid level exception left over after signing Chris Andersen and the biannual exception starting at $1.99 million remaining to be spent on free agents it would appear that if Denver wants to make a splash, they will probably have to use their trade exception(s).
It is certainly possible that the Nuggets sign a couple of minimum salary guys and call it good, but from what I know about Stan Kroenke, we should expect Denver to bring in at least one more solid player in order to hang with the Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks.
The Denver Post is reporting the Indiana Pacers have come to a contract agreement with Dahntay Jones on a four year, $11 million deal.
All I can say to that is congratulations Dahntay. There is no way I would have given him that much money or that many years.
With J.R. Smith and Sonny Weems Denver has plenty of offensive firepower at shooting guard, but neither one is a defensive specialist. Smith has made tremendous improvement on defense over the previous two seasons, but he still has a way to go, primarily in the are of providing consistent focus from play to play.
What the Nuggets do from here depends on how confident they are that J.R. can continue to improve his defense and whether or not they trust Weems to contribute in his second season.
If Denver has doubts about one or both of those issues they will have to bring in a legit shooting guard who can defend. Players like Keith Bogans, Ime Udoka and perhaps Marquis Daniels, who may be out of the picture in Indiana with Jones now on board, are decent possibilities.
One player I would love to see come to Denver is Aaron Afflalo from Detroit. He is not a free agent, but with the addition of Ben Gordon there is not going to be many minutes available for him to get on the court. Afflalo can defend very well and increased his three point shooting to 40.2% last season.
On the other hand, if Denver is happy with their shooting guard duo of Smith and Weems, look for them to stand pat and spend their limited amount of money elsewhere.