There were two free agent signings today that has a direct impact on the Denver Nuggets. Jermaine O’Neal signed with the Boston Celtics and Linas Kleiza is returning to the NBA after signing an offer sheet with the Toronto Raptors. The O’Neal signing is very disappointing, but the Kleiza offer sheet could open up a tremendous opportunity for Denver.
The O’Neal signing is devastating to the Nuggets’ chances of fielding a quasi contending squad. There are no other big men on the unrestricted market that could provide the size and skills O’Neal possesses. Boston secured his services by offering him a full midlevel deal for two seasons worth roughly $11.8 million. Even so, if the Nuggets lost O’Neal to the Celtics based on their refusal to top the Celtics offer by tacking a third year onto the contract I believe they did the right thing. O’Neal is still an effective player, but paying him over $6 million a season in 2012-13 under a new CBA would be less than appealing.
It is possible the Nuggets will now turn their attention to Brad Miller as the remaining pool of centers drops off dramatically after him. Miller provides a big body to take up space on the block and would certainly make Denver better. However, despite his reputation as a solid perimeter shooter his numbers dropped off considerably last season.
There is good news from the Nuggets’ pursuit of O’Neal as it indicates that Stan Kroenke is willing to spend their midlevel exception this season on a player that will help the team.
Heading north of the border the Raptors have signed Linas Kleiza to a four year, $18.8 million offer sheet. The Raptors are a team that has shown interest in Kleiza in the past and it is no surprise they have reached an agreement with him.
Denver now has seven days to match the offer, but I suspect that outcome is highly unlikely. Kleiza is a very limited player and with the Nuggets watching the bottom line closely I cannot imagine them matching Toronto’s offer. However, some good can still come from this for Denver.
Please take note, this is complete speculation on my part, but the following is a scenario that peaks my interest. Denver cannot sign and trade Kleiza now that he has signed an offer sheet. However, if Toronto rescinds the offer sheet it frees up the possibility of working out a trade. With Chris Bosh having committed to sign in Miami and the Heat seeking to part with Michael Beasley and his salary of around $5 million a year Denver, Toronto and Miami could work out a trade where Denver signs and trades Keliza to Toronto, Toronto sends Bosh to Miami in another sign and trade and Beasley comes to Denver. Toronto gets Kleiza, Bosh gets his six year max deal with Miami and Denver gets an intriguing young big man.
That would be a pretty good coup for Denver considering Keliza has not exactly been very high on their list of prized assets.