In a summer where their competition has made transactions that have been splattered all over the headlines the Denver Nuggets have made another low key move. The Nuggets have managed to coerce the Memphis Grizzlies to take on the final year of Steven Hunter’s contract in exchange for a future draft pick.
Dumping Hunter’s salary is no small accomplishment. It will save the Nuggets $3,696,000 in salary and an additional $3,696,000 in luxury tax payments for a total of $7,392,000. (Of course, in reality that amount is reduced by the salary and tax payment on said salary for whoever fills Hunter’s roster spot.)
While it is frustrating to see them give up another first round draft pick, keep in mind that they are getting a premium for what will, hopefully, be a late first rounder. The most you can “sell” a draft pick for is $3 million. For all intents and purposes the Nuggets received almost $7.4 million for one. That is pretty good business.
I have no idea if the trade was made as a salary dump, which is most likely, or if they did it to free up money they want to spend elsewhere, a small possibility. Regardless of the motive, this trade does make it more palatable to take on salary at some point this season.
This trade now leaves the Nuggets with only ten players under contract. Of course, they still have the qualifying offer on the table for Linas Kleiza and an outstanding offer to Anthony Carter. Even if both of those players sign, which I suspect they both will, the Nuggets will have to add at least one player to reach the 13 player minimum.
Who that player is can go a long way towards how successful this trade will be as a basketball transaction. Even though Hunter was trying to work his way back from his latest knee surgery with the intent to play in 2009-10, it has always been clear that George Karl never trusted him. If this trade is indeed a straight salary dump as it appears there can be a basketball component. If the player who fills Hunter’s vacant roster spot is a player that Karl does trust and can play even a little bit, that will be a plus.
Denver still has not made any this offseason headlines, but once again as with the Lawson trade and the Afflalo trade I think they have made a very solid transaction that will further strengthen the franchise even if it only ends up strengthening the bottom line.
Update: The Nuggets did receive a future second round pick as part of the transaction. There has been no information released as to whose second round pick it will be and when the Nuggets will receive it. If the second round pick belongs to the Grizzlies as opposed to another better team whose pick the Grizzlies have the rights to, it could work out like the Atkins trade with Oklahoma City where the Nuggets only drop a few spots in the draft order.
For the Memphis perspective, check out 3 Shades of Blue.
Up-Update: Travis Heath of HoopsWorld, who lives in Denver, is reporting the first round pick the Nuggets traded was protected 1-14 in 2010 and 2011 and 1-10 from 2012 through 2015. In 2016 it is completely unprotected so Memphis could get the number one pick from the Nuggets in 2016 if things fall apart in Denver.
Plus Travis points out that Denver received a trade exception equal to Hunter’s contract that is good until August 7, 2010. I am usually all over the trade exceptions, but I forgot all about it today for some reason.