Finally, a NBA Draft Rumor Involving the Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets do not have a draft pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and rumors of activity have been few and far between. That may be about to change as according to a report from Chad Ford on TrueHoop that might change. Apparently the Nuggets have been seeking a top ten pick in the upcoming draft with the hopes of acquiring another big man.

The kicker is they are using Ty Lawson as the bait.

My initial reaction is that they are a year too late. Heading into the 2009-10 season Denver was one big man short of being a full bore title team. Instead of making that one extra move that could have put them over the top the Nuggets were content to once again pare their payroll as low as possible. In the draft they passed up a chance to draft DeJuan Blair in order to sell their pick to the Houston Rockets (although to be fair they received a record $2.5 million) and in free agency they only used one barrel and that was the resigning of Chris Andersen.

Denver certainly does need another big man, however Ty Lawson is not the player I would be using in the transaction. Not only did Lawson turn the backup point guard position into a strength, but Chauncey Billups has seen his performance dramatically fall off towards the end of the last two seasons. With another year’s worth of miles on Chauncey’s tires Lawson will be even more important next season, as well as in the future when Chauncey is no longer around.

I previously wrote about how important it is for teams to be honest about where they are in their progression. When a team misinterprets its relative position to the other teams in the NBA, they make moves that are counterproductive and typically those transactions made in desperation end up making things worse. The perfect example is the New York Knicks where they continued to trade expiring contacts for big name players because they refused to acknowledge the need to start over.

A trade of a sure thing in Ty Lawson for an unknown quantity you would receive in a rookie big man smacks of a desperation move to try to force open a closing window.

It could be a sign that the cloud of Carmelo Anthony’s impending fee agency is beginning to hang over the team. He has proclaimed that he would be interested in signing an extension as long as the team improves the roster. When management begins making moves based on veiled threats from players they rarely make sound decisions. The Nuggets need to realize that while Carmelo is their current number one commodity, there is no proof that they need him to be a contender, or that his presence in Denver makes them a contender. As much as Melo has meant to Denver, I think they need to be open minded about his future. That is the only way they can continue to make decisions based on what is best for the team than what Carmelo wants.

That being said assuming the rumor is grounded in fact, what fun would this post be if we did not make that assumption, two questions come to mind. First, is Denver targeting a specific player and second, what teams fill the bill of potential trading partners?

If the Nuggets are targeting a big man they think will be available in the top ten, and not top five, it has to be Cole Aldrich (Insider required). Aldrich is a defensive presence who can step out and hit an open jumper. He gets credit for being solid on the pick and roll defensively, which is key for the Nuggets. He is a little undersized measuring 6’9” in socks in the combine, but makes up for it with a massive 7’4” wingspan. Trading Lawson would be a win now move and he is the only center that falls in the top ten who would fit the profile of a player ready to come in and contribute immediately.  Aldrich would basically be a better rebounding, defending and scoring Chris Andersen without the athleticism.

If Aldrich is indeed the target, we can solidify what picks the Nuggets might be seeking.

While Lawson was very good last season, it is unlikely a team would sacrifice a high pick for him. There is no way Denver gets a top six pick for him and I doubt Detroit goes for Lawson at number seven although they certainly could use his talents. The Clippers would not be interested in landing a back up to Baron Davis with the eighth pick and I doubt Denver is interested in giving Lawson to Utah and the Jazz are just as likely to reject him with Deron Williams in the fold.

Now we come to Indiana and the tenth pick. This is the first decent match for the Nuggets as the Pacers have been seeking stability at the point for years. Indiana is in the market for a big man of their own though so it would be a difficult decision for Larry Bird and the rest of the Pacers’ front office.

It appears the lowest Aldrich will fall is New Orleans and they are obviously not in the market for a point guard as rumor has it they will probably be shopping Darren Collison this offseason after his stellar performance when Chris Paul was injured.

The only other option for Denver in my mind is if Aldrich falls all the way to the Raptors at 13. There has been a great deal of chatter recently about how Jerry Colangelo is seeking to mix things up north of the border. They are talking about anyone and everyone. I could see them interested in Lawson to play the high octane offense Colangelo prefers. Plus Toronto is one of the few teams who have shown interest in Linas Kleiza in the past and he could be used as a sweetener to entice the Raptors to part with their pick.

While I find this rumor to be distasteful it is important to note that should Denver actually find a partner and pull the trigger on a Lawson for a draft pick deal there will be other moves to help round out the roster. The front office should not be judged on any one trade, but the body of work as a whole and should this rumor come to fruition I will be interested to see how they follow it up as the hole in the roster will simply move from the frontcourt to the backcourt.

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  • Frontrange

    Denver can’t trade Klieza rights as long as he is in Europe . . .per the CBA he would need to come back and be used in a sign and trade.

  • Jeremy

    The Nuggets can trade his restricted rights to another team. Basically like trading an unsigned draft pick.

  • Frontrange

    I don’t think so . . it is different than a draft pick which specifiies the rights are tradable. Klieza is a restricted free agent with a tendered contract. Per the CBA:

    A Team shall not be permitted to exercise its Right of First Refusal pursuant to an agreement to trade the Player Contract to another Team pursuant to Article VII, Section 8(e).

    Pretty sure you can’t trade the RFA rights to a team, you have sign and trade the player. Now if another team signs LK, we would have the right to match.

  • Jeremy

    In looking through the CBA, I believe the sentence you cited, Article XI, Section 5(i), pertains to sign and trade transactions, which is what Article VII Section 8(e) pertains to. I am no lawyer, but I believe that sentence stipulates that a team cannot utilize its first right of refusal on a sign and trade transaction thus tricking the player into thinking he is going to be traded, but then “matching” the contract to retain his services.

    I could not find any prohibition on trading the rights of a restricted free agent. There is no mention of such a stipulation in Larry Coon’s FAQ either.

    I do admit that the CBA is far from intuitive so I certainly could be wrong, I just have not seen any evidence to the contrary.

    Thanks for taking the time to look into it.

  • Frontrange

    I see what you are saying/

    When I looked through the CBA I couldn’t find the specific langauge around trades and RFA, but I am pretty sure you can’t trade an unsigned player, playing overseas unless it is under the draft pick rules, and you can’t trade RFA rights. E.g. we couldn’t trade for Rudy Gay’s RFA rights and then match if he get’s an offer.

    Second, I would note that there has been no rumors from any NBA brass regarding trades involving either LK or Josh Childress over past two seasons.

    Third, last year when people were drumming up trade scenarios a lot of them involved LK’s rights after he signed in Greece, but some poster on the Denverstiffs board came out with the citation that you can’t trade a players rights in those circumstances.

    Doesn’t really matter, but I think if the Nugs could use LK as an asset, they would.