What the Denver Nuggets Must Do to Build a Championship Roster

How do you build a championship roster?

That is a question that General Managers and Presidents of Player Personnel must ask themselves every day.  What complicates things is while every team starts every season at 0-0 not every team is created equal.  What works in one market is not feasible in another.  Add in the fact that no two teams are at the same point in their process of building a team and the possibilities for every team are endless.  Every decision creates a ripple in the pool of NBA chaos.

My favorite example of the single ripple turning into a tidal, or title, wave is when Anthony Carter’s agent, Bill Duffy, failed to send in the notice to the Miami Heat that he was activating his player option on the last year of his contract.  The resulting cap space allowed Miami to sign Lamar Odom.  Miami was then able to acquire Shaquille O’Neal for a package with Odom as the centerpiece.  Miami would win a championship with the duo of O’Neal and Dwyane Wade.  Of course, Odom would also be a key cog in the Lakers’ championship teams in recent years.  One seemingly insignificant event played a major role in the process that lead two teams winning a combined three NBA championships.

The bottom line is no one knows what any single transaction will trigger.  Even the most mind numbingly obvious decisions, such as drafting Greg Oden number one overall, drafting Carmelo Anthony third overall, or throwing Marc Gasol into a trade for his brother Pau, can prove to be the wrong decision.

In this article I am hoping to dig deeper than hindsight is 20/20.  Instead of looking back and realizing a mistake, how can a team look ahead and consistently make the right decisions?

More specifically, how can the Denver Nuggets claim the Larry O’Brien trophy as soon as possible?

What we know about building championship teams change almost every season.  Before the Dallas Mavericks won last year it was conventional wisdom held that you needed two Hall-of-Famers or three if not four All-Star caliber players to win it all.  Dallas showed that one truly great player with a very good supporting cast, all of which had a defined role, and excelled at their role, could pull it off.

Dallas was a team built primarily through trades.  They acquired Dirk Nowitzki via draft night trade, or draft night robbery, when the Mavs sent the rights to the late Robert “Tractor” Traylor to Milwaukee for the man who would become the Teutonic Tormentor.  Jason Terry was brought in from Atlanta for Antoine Walker.  Jason Kidd was acquired from the Nets in the much maligned Devin Harris deal (by the way they acquired Harris by trade for Antawn Jamison, who they acquired by trade…).  Finally Tyson Chandler came to town from Charlotte for a package featuring Erick Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract.  The tweaking took years, but everything started with the acquisition and development of Nowitzki.

Before we move on, keep in mind Dallas let Steve Nash walk away to Phoenix for nothing.  Nash was an All-Star and went on to become a two time MVP and Cuban just watched him leave.  With the money they did not pay Nash, the signed Dampier, who earlier in the paragraph was mentioned when Dallas acquired the second most important player on their championship team, Tyson Chandler.  The other thing to keep in mind, it took seven years after Nash left to win that title.

Dallas did very little via the draft, outside of drafting Josh Howard they did not have a significant draft pick in ten years and they also did not improve their team drastically via free agency.  However, Mark Cuban regularly paid the luxury tax and their championship team last season had a team payroll above $86 million.  Dallas is an example of how aggressive trading can be effective as long as you target the right players with the New York Knicks under Isiah Thomas being the polar opposite.

Dropping back a season we come to the Los Angeles Lakers who won back to back championships.  Again, they were built primarily through trades.  Kobe Bryant, like Dirk Nowitzki arrived via a draft night trade when Vlade Divac was sent to the Charlotte Hornets many moons ago.  Pau Gasol came to LA in the universally despised transaction known as the Pau Gasol Trade.  Lamar Odom came to town from Miami in the previously mentioned Shaq trade.  Ron Artest was acquired for Trevor Ariza in a trade, of course, Ariza had been acquired via trade from Orlando.

The only key piece in LA that arrived via the draft was Andrew Bynum.  Another thing to keep in mind is many players dream of playing for the Lakers in LA in front of movie stars and music moguls.  Also, the Lakers make more money than any other team and their team payroll is the highest in the league.   Their payroll including money not paid during the lockout, is projected to be over $90 million for the third straight season in 2011-12.

Next we come to the Celtics who won one championship in 2008.  They are a fascinating study in team building.  Key cog Paul Pierce was brought to Boston in the 1998 NBA Draft with the tenth pick (Denver selected Pierce’s Kansas teammate Raef LaFrentz third overall).  Boston acquired the other two members of their Big 3 via trade.  Ray Allen was shipped from the then Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for the number five overall selection which was Jeff Green (who the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins for last season).  Kevin Garnett was brought to the Land of Leprechauns in a trade with Minnesota that featured Al Jefferson, some other young assets, an expiring contract and two first round picks.  Would the trade ever been completed if Minnesota GM Kevin McHale had not played in Boston with Celtics GM Danny Ainge?  It certainly does not matter now, but it adds an intriguing ripple.  The other key players, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo were drafted by Boston, Rondo’s pick was purchased from Phoenix.

The prerequisite to Boston’s title was a couple years of failure.  They acquired enough young talent that they could make an acceptable offer to convince another team to trade an MVP.  They were also bad enough to have the fifth pick to offer Seattle for Allen.  The interesting thing was they never completely bottomed out and needed a top draft pick to rebuild.  Ainge did a good enough job of drafting good players with picks in the teens or later.  Al Jefferson was drafted in 2004 with the 15th pick.  Gerald Green was selected the next season with the 18th selection.  Those two were the top young players that went to the Wolves.  They only missed the playoffs two seasons before winning the title with the Big 3 team.

The most recent Spurs title comes up next.  San Antonio is a team that acquired their top talent through the draft.  While their initial championship run was fueled by their duo of first round pick big men, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the Spurs later championships came with Duncan supported by a dynamic backcourt.  As we have discussed before on this blog the Spurs have been unbelievably lucky.  They have been in the lottery three times as a franchise and the last two times, not only have they won the lottery, but they won the lottery in seasons where there was an MVP caliber big man available as opposed to winning the lottery for the Michael Olowokandi draft or the Kenyon Martin draft.  The Spurs are proof that winning the lottery is not enough, but who is available the year you win it is just as important.  If you are going to lose your MVP for the season, make the upcoming draft features a Hall of Fame big man and then make sure you win the lottery so you are not stuck with Ron Mercer or Tony Battie.

However, before you get jaded about their incredible luck the Spurs proved that they did not need a top draft pick to draft top talent nabbing Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick in the 1999 draft and Tony Parker with the 28th pick in the2001 draft.  The Spurs ability to find the diamonds others were overlooking triggered their post David Robinson dynasty.  The Spurs proved that they had an equally good eye for free agents as they signed Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry.  San Antonio also added amnesty cut Michael Finley as a free agent and he would contribute to their 2007 Championship.  San Antonio is a great example to follow as long as you can get your Tim Duncan and then be smarter than everyone else in the league when it comes to the draft and avoid any free agent mistakes.  Follow that blueprint and you too can build a team who can be a top contender for more than a decade.

The Miami Heat won the championship in 2007 with two stars that joined the team in different ways.  Dwyane Wade was drafted two spots after the Nuggets drafted Carmelo Anthony, and three spots after the Nuggets would have drafted Darko Milicic.  Shaquille O’Neal arrived courtesy of the previously discussed trade with the Lakers.  The trade featured a player the Heat signed as a free agent, Lamar Odom, and a player they drafted, Caron Butler.  Like the Celtics, the Heat had bottomed out and had two bad seasons following the breakup of the Alonzo Mourning teams that were a perennial contender, the second of which resulted in Wade being drafted to play at South Beach.

Other key players were acquired in various ways.  Antoine Walker was obtained in what was then the largest trade in NBA history.  Contributor James Posey and Jason Williams arrived in the Walker transaction.  Udonis Haslem was signed as an undrafted rookie.  Miami used the draft, trades and free agency to mold the roster into what they wanted.  The Big Question is would the Big Aristotle have signed the Big Extension he agreed to that kept him in Miami long enough to win that title if he was in somewhere like Minnesota or Portland or Denver.

The last title team to study that was put together in an economic climate similar to what we have today is the Detroit Pistons.  The 2004 Pistons appear to be the outlier of the group.  They built a team short on Hall of Fame talent and only the Wallace (not) brothers had ever been in an All-Star game prior to their title.  Plus hot head Rasheed was acquired at the trade deadline and had little time to gel with his new teammates.  Looking at their five starters Ben Wallace was the first to arrive as warm body in the sign and trade deal that sent Grant Hill to Orlando.  In the summer of 2002 Tayshaun Prince was added in the draft with the 23rd pick and Rip Hamilton was traded from Washington to Detroit for Jerry Stackhouse, who Detroit had traded for previously, and Chauncey Billups was signed as a free agent away from the Minnesota Timberwolves where he had started to become the player we know him as today.

The final piece in their championship puzzle arrived on the 2004 trade deadline when Atlanta dumped Wallace for pennies on the dollar after acquiring him from Portland for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.  Wallace completed the Pistons’ fantastic defense and also provided an offensive boost as a versatile big man who could score on the block or knock down a three.  The Pistons core starters proved to be more talented than anyone expected, but they still defied logic as a team with no uber-talented duo.  They did not have Kobe or Shaq, let alone Kobe and Shaq, yet they trounced the Lakers and took the powerful Spurs to seven games the next season. They are the only team on the list who did not have a top flight franchise player acquired on draft day.  Joe Dumars just happened to find five players who fit perfectly together who fed off each other.

The question then becomes what does any of that mean for the Denver Nuggets?

The latest iteration of the Nuggets was a regular season dynamo that fell apart in the first round of the playoffs.  The strength of that team was its depth which has already been decimated by defections to China by three core players.  Right now Denver has some nice assets.  I believe Ty Lawson is a top ten point guard and he still has great potential.  Arron Afflalo is a well-rounded player who can defend and shoot.  Danilo Gallinari can score and at least puts forth effort on defense.  Rookie Kenneth Faried will be a force on the glass right away and is more athletic than I thought.  Wilson Chandler is a restricted free agent whenever he returns from tearing up the competition in China.  Gary Forbes has shown promise this summer.  Chris Andersen is a solid backup center.  Not to mention Denver has a mountain of cap space and an extra first round pick in 2014 from the Knicks.

The most important step to becoming a contender is the Nuggets must be honest about where they are as a franchise and what their goals are.  If they are happy to be a fringe playoff team and nothing more, then throw the bank at Nene and be aggressive in the free agent market this year.  However, if the goal is winning a championship Denver must look at the way contending teams are built and realize they do what needs to be done.

The lesson recent NBA history has taught us is you do not trade for Tim Duncan.  You do not trade for Dwyane Wade.  You do not trade for Dirk Nowitzki.  The caliber of player you need to win a championship is acquired on draft night typically after a season where quite frankly the team was terrible.  Even beyond the championship teams we studied if we look at the most recent crop of contenders we see a high draft pick, the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose, Oklahoma City drafted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Cleveland drafted LeBron James, Orlando drafted Dwight Howard, Utah drafted Deron Williams, Phoenix drafted Amare Stoudemire, the list goes on and on.  Even Miami who built their current roster primarily off of two major sign and trade deals made possible by massive cap space drafted Dwyane Wade and needed him on the roster to get LeBron and Chris Bosh to come to town.

Denver needs to rebuild and bottom out.  They must find that franchise star that will be the foundation for a contending team.

As Charlie and Kalen have already discussed the Nuggets are likely to plot the future course of the franchise based on what Nene decides.  In my opinion the worst thing Denver can do is base their strategy on Nene.  The worst possible outcome being to try to avoid rebuilding by telling Nene that they will top any offer he receives.  I would personally pursue my sign and trade options immediately, but ultimately the front office must be willing to let him walk just like Mark Cuban did with Steve Nash.

The next necessary step is to resign Arron Afflalo to a new deal and as Charlie mentioned front load the deal so as to preserve cap space in the future.  With Nene no longer on the payroll Denver will need to spend some money to get in the vicinity of the 85% of the cap minimum.  Give Afflalo a huge first year salary of $10 million or even more and then fill out the other four years with a salary of $3.0 or $4.0 million.

Denver should part ways with Andre Miller for the same reasons they traded Chauncey.  It does not make sense to pay a guy in his mid-thirties on a rebuilding squad.  He has a one year deal and should be flipped to a playoff team in exchange for a draft pick, a cheap prospect or two and of course, no long term contracts.

Be patient with the amnesty clause.  If Al Harrington needs to be on the books to help hit the minimum salary requirements this season and possibly next season we well.  Just know that he will not finish out his contract in Denver.

Leave some space below the minimum team salary in order to facilitate trades with teams interested in saving money.  Denver will have the ability to acquire contracts from teams looking to shed salary and in doing so can receive draft picks as compensation.

See if there was any truth to the rumor that the Clippers would part with Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round pick in exchange for Gallo.  That is consistent with the primary goal of acquisition of high first round picks.

Let the youngsters play.  Gary Forbes, Faried, Jordan Hamilton, Timofey Mozgov and even Chukwudiebere Maduabum need to be on the court a lot next season.  The result will be important experience and most likely a few more losses.

Hope that by building a team responsibly and with purpose instead of bottoming out through incompetence which has been the typical MO for Denver in the past, the Nuggets horrific lottery luck will finally change and the ping pong balls will bounce their way for the first time in franchise history.  They have to move up sometime, right?  Anyone?  It is possible, isn’t it?

On December 9th the Nuggets have the chance to chart a bright future for the franchise.  Whatever direction they choose they will start creating more ripples.  Who knows where they will lead.

  • popex_17

    Jeremy, great article. I totally share your thoughts and I hope that what you said will come true this year.
    I also wanted to inform you of something I recently found out:
    sam_amick Sam Amick
    Owners must pay the difference out to the current players RT @OKCChuck hey. If a team doesn’t spend the required 85%, what happens to them?
    This means we can save the money for next year, go all in on for the draft and hope for the best. Masai isn’t Kiki and I am sure he’ll draft the best possible player(s). If we can somehow land another lottery pick for next year, than it’s great news. Maybe do a sign and trade involving Nene, maybe when Chandler returns from China do the same thing with him (he also has a lot of suitors) and I foresee a bright future for the franchise.
    Front loading Arron’s contract is a must, it’s in the team’s best interests going forward.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

      Thanks popex_17, we appreciate you taking time to stop by RMC. There is a lot of the new CBA that no one knows yet so thanks for passing on the info from Amick.

  • Ernie

    My only question with your strategy is why you would trade Gallo for a first round pick from Minnesota? He’s young, tall and can score and seems to be improving. You could argue his upside is Dirk, given how poorly Dirk started his career (though he is not as tall and obviously not as good a shooter yet). Wouldn’t young tall scorers be the kind of players we are trying to get? Especially since the draft is such a crapshoot in terms of what the pick would be?

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

      Ernie, I do not see Dirk when I look at Gallo even though I agree Danilo has room to continue to improve. I am not saying dump him for any first round pick. Knowing the Timberwolves, it is unlikely they make a large jump forward this season even when adding Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio, they will probably continue to be one of the worst teams in the league. Their unprotected first round pick will add to the chances that Denver could, if not win the lottery, at least move up to the top three.

      Honestly there is not a player on the roster that I would not trade for a good chance at acquiring a top draft pick. Again, I am not blindly swapping players for any first round pick. Most teams are too smart to ship out an unprotected pick, thanks to what happened to the Clippers unprotected pick last year that turned into the number one pick in 2011 no one is going to be in the trading unprotected picks market. The Minnesota 2012 first rounder is the only true lottery ticket that is currently available. Plus you know you get it in 2012, which looks to be a loaded draft.

      • DH

        Jeremy, those are all good points, but I have to quibble with one thing. The Wolves not only added Rubio and Williams, but also Rick Adelman. And with what could be a crazy period of player movement, who knows if they might be able to trade Beasley for something valuable or add some decent pieces with their cap room? All I’m saying is that they could end up in the middle to bottom of the draft lottery, and it would be very disappointing to lose Gallo for that. So it’s risky.

      • Ernie

        Jeremy,

        Thanks for the response. Let’s look at the draft just to see what is coming up.

        According to NBAdraft.net the top 5 would be Andre Drummond (UCONN), Jeremy Lamb (UCONN), Anthony Davis (UK), Harrison Barnes (UNC) and Jared Sullinger (OSU). Some scoring and some height, but as someone that mildly follows college b-ball doesn’t seem to have a Ewing, Olajuwan, Jordan type of guy. No point guard better than Ty, no can’t miss 7 footer (the bigs are all 6’10” or less in a league where 7′ matters).

        Again I agree with all of your principles on Nene, Miller and the rest. I just think Ty and Gallo are the type of players that we would be looking to draft given their respective age and talents and thus leery of trading them just for picks.

        • Warner

          I totally agree, Gallo is still very young and if there’s anything I value George Karl’s coaching for, it’s tapping into young, good players with potential. I wouldn’t ship out Gallo for that Minny pick because I do believe they will be better than most think. The only thing that Gallo truly needs to do is turn into a proficient defender. If he could guard bigger men, he’d be a major asset for years to come. Don’t trade him, the NBA draft is entirely too hit and miss.

  • gk4prez

    Problemo numero uno: You have the wrong coach for the job, GK doesn’t like to play rookies/young players and you are going to ask him to field a team full of them? Good luck with that.

    • John

      If all we have is young players and rookies, Karl will have a hard time not playing them. I doubt he will start Harrington, Miller and Anderson just to have vets on the floor.

      • DH

        I could see him starting Harrington over Faried. And the only reason he would not start Andersen over Moz is because he likes Birdman’s “energy off the bench”. Lawson is the starter and the future, so he’s safe. But, as the story goes, Lawson’s teammates had to basically beg Karl to get him more playing time at the beginning of last year. So that tells you how George feels about young players.

  • John

    Suck for Luck. Suck for Luck. Suck for Luck.

    Oh wait, wrong sport.

    Blow for Barnes, Blow for Barnes, Blow for Barnes.

    Anyway, great article, agree 100%. I’d even like the Nuggets to use their cap space to pick up every bad contract they can for whatever draft picks they can pick up. Unfortunately the Amnesty Clause is going to limit what they could get, but you never know.

  • Aurress20

    2 great articles since the tentative lock-out ending. Keep up the good work guys.

    Don’t really want to see Gallo leave Denver. Hope that doesn’t happen any time soon. But I also understand the desire for as many high 1st rd picks as possible.

    I know they are locked into their China contracts, but could I get your opinion on the chances that the Nuggets try to and are successful at re-signing Wilson Chandler, JR Smith, or K-Mart?

    • danuggz4ever

      I think trying for jr smith could work if gk wasn’t here but if they did it would be a s&t for draft pick, Will Chandler would be a thought for keeping but if we did keep him he would be bench player under Gallo starting. And personally KMart can kick rocks don’t get me wrong he’s decent player but with bad knees and he don’t want to be here. If we did sign him itshould and probably would be a s&t where I don’t know where but who knows

    • DH

      I know you’re looking for a reply from Jeremy or Kalen, but I’ll add my two cents, if you don’t mind. From what I’ve read, there’s a chance that J.R. and Chandler could be let out of their CBA contracts. If so, I still think it’s less than 50-50 that we get Chandler (maybe 30-70). For one thing, he apparently doesn’t want to return to Denver. But more importantly, I don’t think Denver will want to match the offer that he’s likely to get. He’s a very solid player in all facets of the game. So he’s a starter for a bad to mediocre team or a key contributor for a contender. Either way, he’s likely to be offered more than the Nuggets would pay for a bench player (behind Gallo) – even a valuable one.

      J.R. is already in trouble with his Chinese team – for things like missing practice due to illness, only to be seen shopping on the same day. Yet, someone is going to see him as “the missing piece” because of his instant offense, and he will also be offered more than he’s worth. I think Denver would think twice about signing him at any price, much less at an inflated price. I would put the odds at something like 10-90 against signing him.

      I don’t think Kenyon can get out of his contract. But if he could, he’s different than the other two. In my opinion, he’s actually worth more to the Nuggets (assuming we are not rebuilding) than he is to other teams. The whole thing with KMart is that I feel certain that he will think he’s worth much more than he actually is. So maybe nobody signs him, because pride makes him wait for a better offer (ala Latrell Sprewell). In any case, I can’t make a prediction on him because of his contract status, and because I just can’t see him signing for what we would offer – even though I don’t think he will get substantially better offers elsewhere.

      • danuggz4ever

        DH I agree with your predictions pretty well I don’t see any of them and your arguements are pretty dead on from what I am thinking

      • Charlie

        I know a lot of readers and my co-writers may not agree, but I think there is at least a somewhat decent chance of getting Chandler back in a Nuggets jersey. I watched the team very closely after the trade last year, and Wilson was such a big part of the team’s post-trade identity – maybe the biggest part. He played very well off Afflalo and they embodied the kind of youth, versatility and energetic defense that made the Nuggets such an intriguing team.

        Wil is still a restricted FA, the Nuggets would be wise to keep some flexibility on their roster to at least take a shot at getting him back here. I know Afflalo would like it and once Harrington is out you clear the way for Chandler to play a big time role on the team for years. I’ve heard all the rumors that Wil was upset about being traded and just may not want to be in Denver long-term. It is worth trying to convince him or at least be in a position where they could sign and trade for some decent assets.

        I think the Nuggets have zero interest in K-Mart or JR. Both said they likely wouldn’t be back with the team and both were 100% right. There are younger, cheaper, less troublesome guys coming along and neither one is worth the potential trouble of bring them back.

        • Ryan

          nobody played a bigger role? how about nobody quit on the team more than chandler. he looked disinterested at the end of the season and even more so in the playoffs. he was putrid on the offensive end. if we still retain him due to restricted status i say look for a trade, as while he is a solid player, he has less upside than the rookie we just drafted in hamilton (who could be a stud, dude can shoot the lights out and is athletic).

  • squidz409

    Who is this draft pick everyone is talking about. Trade Gallo? What! There is no player on the horizon who is a Lebron, Melo or Wade. THere isn’t even a Bosh out there. When we made that trade the only dissapointing player was Chandler. Timofey and Kosta were dominant when Karl would let them play. This kid Faried will replace the oft injured Martin. Heck the only reason we got drubbed in the playoffs is because Karl refused to play the big guys in the middle. It worked in the regular season and he abandoned it in the playoffs. Like he does every year. The Nuggets need to make the key signings like the article discussed. Lock down the young big men. Timofey, Kosta and Danilo. Sign and trade Nene to strengthen the bench. Dump Miller, Martin and Smith. get what you can but save that money. FIRE COACH KARL. The worst playoff coach in the NBA. (Him and Melo are a perfect match. Great in the regular season, sorry in the playoffs. See Seattle years.) And there you go. Championship base set for 6 to 8 years.

  • Omar

    andre drummond, anthony davis are both franchise players

  • squidz409

    Andre Drummond – 8ppg / 7rpg
    Anthony Davis – 12ppg / 8rpg

    Neither one is tearing it up. Thomas Robinson of Kansas is a better prospect then either of those two and he is no franchise player. Look they are both nice players. All Im saying is everyone is talking about Gallo for another #1 but none of these guys can change a team in the NBA and you cant gaurauntee that any of them can perform up to Gallo’s caliber now. There is no one out there ya’ll need to stop trying to trade out the young proven players we already have.

  • Jeremy’s Horrific Fantasy Team

    This is the best column you have written and you will continue to have my eternal gratitude for the El Busto reference.

  • RT

    Not really on board with trading Gallo. I mean we’re one of the youngest teams as it is. High picks don’t always pan out, just ask Portland. I think we keep a core with Lawson, Gallo, Afflalo, and Farried and add some pieces. There are a lot of Free agents next year.
    We maybe able to add some solid players if we can manage a sign and trade with Nene.

  • Aaron

    Woww, Great Article Man.
    The Only Thing That I Do Not Agree With Is Trading Gallo For A 1st Round Pick.
    Maybe If It Was A Top 3 Pick Then Maybe, Then U Could Get A Sullinger Or Someone Like That.. But Other Then That I’d Trade Andrew Miller And All Harrington
    For An Up And Coming Player And A 1st Roumd Pick.

    • danuggz4ever

      I think your right Andre Miller and Al Harrington I think someone out there will give us some good upcoming players and a pick. And I think Gallo is and should be someone to keep and use as a building block he has so much potential and is a solid player

  • Ray

    I really liked your article, but couldn’t disagree more with letting Nene walk. At this time there isn’t much separating this Nuggets squad from the Pistons teams that went to 6 straight ECFs. That is of course with a healthy Nene. Even more promising considering the fact that we have several young players who are typically on the “likely to improve” side of variance.

    So we just scrap all that over principle? I’m not buying that at all. Especially considering the Nuggets are in a great spot not only to sign Nene, but to KEEP all of their young talent once it comes time for them to get paid. Yes it means going over the cap in the future, but we’ll know by then whether or not it’s worth it to do so.

    Detroit did a similar thing with AI, who wasn’t traded to win (he was expiring). What ended up happening is that it closed what little window they had left.

    THIS TEAM WAS ON PACE FOR 58 PYTHAG WINS POST MELO FFS!!! Do we really want to tear that up over paying our most valuable player, a player who’s top 10 in almost every advanced metric, a few extra million?

    An alternative idea would be to offer Gallo/Mosgov+Melo’s TPE+draft picks for Dwight Howard and Hedo, which is more than anyone else has to offer. Nene would no doubt sign for a decent number to play with Dwight, and the Nuggets would be looking at contending immediately. The risk is that Dwight wouldn’t sign, but I just don’t see him leaving a young team, in the weaker conference no less, that figures to contend every year.

    Even with Dwight and Hedo, the Nuggets would still be 27 million under the cap, enough to sign Nene+Aflalo+ 7 million. They can have more if they chose to amnesty Harrington, but they might not want to.

    Don’t break up a young 55 win team over a few million a year, that’s suicide.

    • Ray

      BTW I’m in full agreement IF they can’t land Nene, I just don’t share the same feelings about the offer to him.

    • Haig

      I doubt Orlando would entertain an offer of Gallo/Mosgov+Melo’s TPE+draft picks for Dwight Howard and Hedo. They’re going to want some proven players.

    • G

      The problem with Nene is intangible, it is that he is simply not dominant. He has all the skills of a dominant big man, but he does not have the will or the confidence (at least not on a consistent basis). If we sign him, we’re doing so in hopes that he develops this confidence. He is 29 years old. Do you think he’s going to change much at this point? I’m not sold.

  • Haig

    We wouldn’t trade Gallo or Miller right off the bat. This short season is an oppty to see what we have on hand. Faried, Gallo, Mozgov will get starters minutes. Hamilton, Koufos & Chu should get decent minutes off the bench. The FO will get a good luck at strengths and weaknesses of this very young roster and determine who should stick around.

    Ty, AAA, Gallo, Faried and Mozgov are an adequate starting lineup. Our bench will be thin though and we’ll have trouble keeping up with better teams. But we’ll at least know what he have.

    We’ve already “blown up” this team by losing JR, KMart, Nene and eventually Chandler. So, I don’t reallly see a burning need to cut ties with Miller and Gallo until we’ve seen how they perform over this short season.

    Miller might be worth keeping as a low cost backup as we continue to build through the draft and FA. You can’t have an entire team of youth or else you end up rudderless like the Hawks or Kings. You need some veteran presence to help the younger guys learn the game as they grow in the system. Ty benefitted tremendously from Chauncey. Dre and Big Al will help in this regard this season (and possibly next) and I expect the FO to pick up at a couple more high character vets for just that purpose.

    This won’t be as painful as the 2002 season before we drafted Melo. Our core is much better. Hopefully talent like Melo falls in our laps in next June’s draft. But having some moderately priced vets around to groom the next generation is essential for a quicker building process.

  • RT

    This team might look a lot different by Christmas. We have some money to spend to get to the minimum. I just hope we can get somebody who can contribute this year.

    • danuggz4ever

      I don’t think it will be to big of a change I think Afflalo will be back so the only change is missing 4 player which we know who they are but for those who don’t lol KMart, JR, W Chandler and NENE. What or who do you think is coming?

  • RT

    I don’t know but if we have to lose Nene we could do a sign and trade for a team who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get him. I think our core will be here but I think there are several pieces we could add through free agency, amnesty, and or sign and trade options.

    • danuggz4ever

      I agree there are a couple pieces we need and it would be great to get a s&t out of nene

  • Omar

    what do you guys think of greg oden. he is only 23 and is in the need of a change. i think we could get him in good shape in denver.

    • Charlie

      Unfortunately Oden can’t play until January at the earliest, and he has not been in a NBA game in 2 years. Also as we saw with Kenyon, once there is pattern of injury it does not go away and you can rarely count on reliability down the line. Oden need s a lot of time and lot of development, and unfortunately we already have Mozgov and Faried who need the same. I would like to see Portland continue to eat all the risk concerning Oden and let him play out another year on his $8+ million qualifying offer and become unrestricted next summer. If Oden proves he is actually worthy of a multi-year deal by playing I’d have no problem with the Nuggets then getting involved.

    • G

      A big HELL NO to Oden. Ever. Just, no. He is obviously fragile. He cannot be relied upon.

  • DH

    I mentioned in another post that my dream scenario (although I thought it was nearly impossible) would be to sign Tyson Chandler, which might convince Nene and Wilson Chandler to return. Nene could play PF, which he really wants to do. And the team would be very competitive, which should be appealing to both Nene and W. Chandler.

    Now I see on ESPN.com that Tyson Chandler doesn’t expect to return to the Mavs. Apparently, the Mavs want to save money for next year’s free agent crop. So maybe my dream isn’t so unrealistic. Here’s the lineup…

    C – T. Chandler / Moz / Koufos
    PF – Nene / Faried
    SF – Gallo / W. Chandler
    SG – Afflalo / Chandler / Forbes / Hamilton
    PG – Lawson / Miller

    I think that team could compete. Maybe we would need another scorer, but we would have great trade pieces to allow us to add what we need. And if I really dream big, we would have the trade pieces to make a run at Dwight Howard, right?

    I’m not sure what the salary cap is this year, and I don’t know exactly what it would cost to sign T. Chandler, Nene, W. Chandler, and Afflalo (maybe $35M?). But if we amnesty Harrington, maybe we are in the ballpark of being able to do this. If not, then maybe we forget about W. Chandler. Anyway, what does everyone think?

    • G

      I can’t stand Chandler, he’s a whiner. We’re also not competing for a ring this year (and shouldn’t be). As the article above outlines, we need to build our championship roster slowly and methodically. Haphazardly throwing guys into the mix because their stats make them look like they’d help us is not the way to go. We don’t know enough about the talent we have now to know what pieces need to be added. Let Nene go (if he doesn’t want to be here, fuck ‘em). Play out the year getting all the young guys as many minutes as possible. Front load AAA to hit that 85% (plus sign Hamilton, Forbes, Faried, and maybe one or two vet minimum guys to one or two year deals to fill out the 13 man roster). Save the rest of the cap and the amnesty for 2012, and by that point, we’ll know much better what we actually need moving forward, and we’ll still have more flexibility to sign players than just about any team in the league. Thinking we can just add a player or two alongside Nene and compete for a championship this year is just plain ignorant and unrealistic IMO.

      • G

        by the way, I was talking about Tyson, not Wilson. Wil, who I do like more than Gallo btw, will likely be part of a S&T when he gets back from China. chances of him suiting up in a Nuggets uni again are pretty slim, IMO. He’d be playing backup to Gallo anyway. He already doesn’t want to be in Denver, and I’m SURE he doesn’t want to be a backup, and he’s expected to get some pretty good offers. He’s pretty much guaranteed to not play for Denver again.

      • DH

        Stats? I’m not looking at Tyson Chandler’s stats. He’s primarily a defender and having him would allow Nene to play PF, where he would excel IMHO. We could throw out some really big lineups, which would help us match up well with teams like the Lakers and Thunder, at least defensively. Honestly, I think it would put us only a couple of moves away from being a contender. And it gives us a lot of ammo for trades that could make that happen.

        I agree completely that if we lose Nene, then we go with youth and patience, as you described. But ignoring possibilities that might make us contenders sooner, rather than later, if those possibilities are out there, is just as ignorant. Plenty of teams have shot themselves in the foot trying to follow a plan when the solution was right in front of them. We should be exploring every course of action.

        • G

          The problem is in thinking we’re only a move or two away from being a contender. That’s blind faith. We are not that close right now. We are not developed enough as a TEAM to know that we are only one or two pieces away. That’s what I’m saying. Picking up big contract players right now would be a huge gamble, and ultimately, a huge mistake.

  • Peter

    That would be amazing if we could get Chandler AND Nene, but I’m pretty sure Nene wants out. There are other teams out there that really want Nene. The only way I see us keeping him is if nobody elese offers him a lot and we our offer is better than every one else’s. I’m really torn on if I want the Nuggets to keep Nene because I kind of want our team to bottom out and get a high draft pick, but if we re-sign him we stay competitive. Overall I want a championship just like every other fan, so if it means swallowing one season in order to be better in the long term, I’m all for it.

  • Matt Henry

    Do you guys think that if the nets could sign tyson chandler they’d be willing to accept a trade of Nene (and perhaps some combination of picks and other players) for Brooks Lopez?

    • Matt Henry

      I know it’s kind of weird to respond to my own question, but I had a follow up question. What do you guys think about a trade with Minnesota, perhaps for Beasly and Randolph?

  • gk4prez

    I think that if the Nuggets wanted Randolph, they would have him.

  • RGon

    Great article. I hope the Nuggets front office is thinking the same way. Planning for the future is so much smarter than planning for the now.

  • Kalen

    Wow. That might have been the best article I’ve ever read on the state of the Nuggets. Fantastic job Jeremy. (And sorry I couldn’t get to it sooner!)

    My thoughts:

    The key thing for me is Masai. Something you notice in all those championship teams is at least ONE legendary, all-time great member of the organization — be it coach, player or GM. The Nuggets might have that in Masai. That’s a gut feeling of mine. I truly believe he’s going to be the type of GM that works the draft so well that we won’t have to worry about re-building. With Masai, we’ll always be good.

    This brings me to my next point: the need for a franchise player. As mentioned in your article, these can be obtained via trades and don’t HAVE to be had through the draft. Eventually if Masai piles up a bevy of assets, we’ll be able to make that play for a Dirk, Kobe or Lebron.

    Lastly, and most importantly, I think there’s a general lack of appreciation and understanding for continuity, steadiness and year-in-year-out greatness in the sports world. Everyone always talks about what’s necessary to win a championship, but nobody ever talks about what’s necessary to consistently be a playoff/fringe title contender every single year. That, to me, is what being a well run franchise is all about. Because as you point out in your article, the smallest move or decision can change things forever. If we put ourselves in a position to win every year, we’ll eventually hit the jackpot one of these times, just as the Mavs and Pistons did.

    • G

      I agree with you on all of this, well said. I think Masai is more important than people realize as well. He straight up performed magic with the Melo situation last year. The guy looks incredibly promising, he did great with his first draft, and I can’t wait to see how he handles the draft and FA situation next summer.

      • Tommy4daNuggz4ever

        Well put i completely agree with you Kalen and G Masai is a genius during our last season drama and this last draft he has already started well off and G you are loiking forward to next years FA and Draft I am way to interested in what magic and mind blow greatness or confusion he has in store for us by Friday I just know he wont let us down. But I do believe that there is going to be magic happening this FA to get a jump start for next years events.