Free Agency hasn’t started yet, but that has caused no shortage of drama in what is sure to be the craziest NBA offseason ever. By now you’ve all heard news of the Chris Paul deal that wasn’t. The league office will open for business at 12pm MST today and it will be very interesting to see how fast the frenzy will unfold one day after the infamous Veto. This post will be updated with any Nuggets developments and our thoughts on them, so check back throughout the day.
The big news out of Benjamin Hochman today is that the Nuggets are making a “strong push” for Milwaukee RFA Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Denver has also been linked to RFA’s Nick Young, Thaddeus Young, and DeAndre Jordan but those have been generally been sourced to questionable tweets mentioning the Nuggets and a half dozen or so other teams.
Keep in mind that under Masai and Josh, the Nuggets front office isn’t leaking out rumors in every direction which they have been known for in the past. About the only thing we know is that the Nuggets want badly to keep their own players and are unlikely to make any significant moves beyond trying to do that. Take all rumors with a grain of salt because I do not believe Masai has even hinted at what the Nuggets strategy might be when free agency opens.
Until then, enjoy the latest news and links as day one starts. Again, 12pm MST is when all official business starts happening sans any more vetos. Updates coming throughout the day as news comes in.
Follow Jeremy, Kalen, and Charlie on Twitter and we will let you know when we post an update. If you are an NBA fan and not on Twitter, you missed a front row seat to the circus yesterday. It costs you nothing but your free time and self respect to join!
Update (11:54 AM MST)
Nets to offer Nene 4 years, $60-65 million
News is coming from Woj at Yahoo Sports that Billy King, New Jersey Nets GM, is expected to offer a 4 year contract to Nene today. At $65 million, that is an average of $16.25 million per year. The Nuggets have been confident they will retain Nene with a five year deal but it remains to be seen if Nene and his agent would be willing to forgo a higher annual salary for the added security of a fifth guaranteed year. It’s not clear to me how high the Nuggets are prepared to bid on Nene but this offer is close to the near-max contract he is said to be seeking.
Update (12:06 PM MST)
I will kick things off discussing local hero and recent Nugget Chauncey Billups. The New York Knickerbockers have come to an agreement to sign Tyson Chandler and as part of that deal they had to amnesty Chauncey Billups. The entire amnesty process has not been made public as of yet, but here is what we know. Players who are released via the amnesty provision are subject to an auction involving all teams under the salary cap. The team with the winning bid will then pay that player that salary for every remaining year of his contract. According to Larry Coon, any player who is acquired through the auction process cannot be traded for 30 days.
Here are two things to keep in mind at this point. First, most teams that are under the cap are not good. Second, Chauncey wants to play for a contender.
The question then becomes will a team under the cap take a shot at Chauncey, or will he clear the auction process without a bidder and become an unrestricted free agent? To answer that question, let’s take a look at who is under the cap and whether or not they will pursue Chauncey.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $29,903,965
Must spend $16,531,235 to reach Salary Floor (80% of $58.044 million salary cap)
The Kings have Tyreke Evans and now Jimmer! While they need to spend a lot of cash, they are not in a position to fight for a playoff spot. You can make the veteran leadership argument, but to me you want those two on the court and Chauncey will take minutes from both. Add in young shooting guard Marcus Thornton and Sacramento does not look like a potential destination for Mr. Big Shot.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $36,957,444
Must spend $9,477,756 to reach Salary Floor
The Pacers are seeking to spend their money on some big men, i.e. Marc Gasol and Nene. I doubt they will want to tie up many dollars with a bid on Chauncey. Add in developing point guard Darren Collison and we get the same issue as in Sacramento. The veteran leadership would be nice, but they want Collison on the court.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $37,363,810
Must spend $9,071,390 to reach Salary Floor
Memphis is saving all their money for Marc Gasol, plus they just paid Mike Conley last season. No way they make a bid for Chauncey.
New Jersey Nets
Committed 2011-12 Salary $39,814,161
Must spend $6,621,039 to reach Salary Floor
I do not think we even need to discuss this. Deron Williams, saving money for free agents. Pass.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $40,682,282
Must spend $5,752,918 to reach Salary Floor
John Wall should be playing 40 minutes a night. No interest in Chauncey here.
New Orleans Hornets
Committed 2011-12 Salary $42,066,057
Must spend $4,369,143 to reach Salary Floor
Um, what can we say here? Chauncey would have made a lot of sense for the Hornets if that whole Chris Paul trade had gone through. Now, that front office must feel completely handcuffed. They could always place a bid and trade Chauncey if Paul remains in New Orleans for the rest of the season or have him in their pocket incase Paul is traded. Still, I find the Hornets front office unlikely to bid, unless that whole veto deal is reversed and soon.
Los Angeles Clippers
Committed 2011-12 Salary $44,919,031
Must spend $1,516,169 to reach Salary Floor
This is interesting. I would actually love to see Chauncey on the Clippers. He would bring additional shooting alongside Mo Williams and would really help provide leadership. Chauncey with the Clippers would be great fun. Would they put in a bid, I would expect so, but only a minimal one.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $46,879,433
Must spend $0 to reach Salary Floor
I would hope the Raptors would pass, but who knows? They are crazy. With the forthcoming ownership change, I doubt they will spend any money. I would not want to see Billups in Toronto anyway. I doubt Chauncey wants to see himself there either.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $47,306,218
Must spend $0 to reach Salary Floor
Chauncey is an efficient player on offense, which will peak Daryl Morey’s interest no doubt, but what can the Rockets do? They will want to make sure the trade netting them Gasol is truly dead. Plus, they are pursuing Nene and will want to preserve that money. I think they pass, but would not be surprised if they bid.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $48,263,032
Must spend $0 to reach Salary Floor
It would be a nice story and if Detroit wants to make a push at the playoffs, they might try to add Chauncey. He could play in the backcourt with Stuckey, should he resign. I believe there is a decent chance the Pistons make a bid.
I do not see any other potential suitors unless Dan Gilbert wants to feel like he is sticking it to the Knicks by having them pay one of his players this season. Do not put it past him, he is the David Kahn of owners.
Those of you paying attention we skipped one potential suitor.
Committed 2011-12 Salary $28,883,142
Must spend $17,552,058 to reach Salary Floor
Might the Denver Nuggets attempt to bring back Chauncey, potentially against his wishes to play for a contender? Denver must spend a lot of money, they obviously want to compete. Plus if things do not work out, Nene leaves or the team is not a playoff caliber team, they can do good by Chauncey and trade him to a contender. If Denver places a solid bid on him, they can protect him from ending up in Toronto or Sacramento and then either Chauncey plays in Denver on a playoff team, or the Nuggets get something for him again to help him find a good home. Andre Miller could be flipped to a team who wants him rather easily thanks to his expiring deal, or George Karl could run a three point guard offense, which I bet he has had dreams about.
The odds on favorite in my mind is Denver. In the words of the Church Lady, “Well isn’t that special?”
Update (2:27 PM MST)
With Nene soon to receive an official offer from the Nets as was noted above, word could come at any second that he is leaving. The Nuggets front office is forced to choose between offering a massive contract to a player who has had injury issues in the past and if offered a fifth year will be making roughly $18 million in the fifth season when he is 33 and completely turning the page from being a perennial playoff team to a rebuilding team with an unknown future.
Nuggets fans all know about Nene. He is a very talented player. He has lateral quickness, but lacks vertical explosiveness. He is big, but not huge. Of course, he has never been a dominant rebounder or shot blocker, but has elite perimeter skills for a center or power forward. Most frustratingly of all, even in his ninth season he continues to disappear during games. Most shockingly, for a player whose strength is scoring, who played on a fast paced team, he has never scored more than 28 points in a game. Nene plays hard and obviously cared when he is on the court, but he does not rebound nor does he block shots. He was 70th in the league in rebound rate last season.
For Denver to match, or exceed the offer from the Nets, they must be certain that Nene is a franchise center, or power forward if you like, and that he can be the building block of a contender.
Personally I do not see it. I believe Denver must do what they can to get something out of a sign and trade with New Jersey, even if it is just a future draft pick and move on. It is a terrible decision to have to make. Based on what the Nuggets do we will know if they want to be mediocre just to try to keep attendance up, or if they are committed to making the difficult decisions in order to truly have a chance at building a new foundation for a contending team.
Update (2:40 MST)
Adrian Wojnarowski just revealed via twitter that Gary Forbes is close to accepting a three year deal with Toronto. The third year is a team option and no details on the dollar amount of the contract were released. Based on Woj’s wording it seems that despite Forbes being a restricted free agent he is in the final stages of becoming a Toronto Raptor.
This is the MO for a front office that last year made an offer to Linas Kleiza that Denver did not match. After dominating the Euroleague two seasons ago Kleiza failed to live up to expectations with the Raps and reverted to his mediocre NBA self. Gary Forbes was a rookie last season who showed promise with Denver, but he turns 27 in February and he is a developing player who may not turn out to be a contributor.
The Nuggets have money to spend, but anything beyond a very low risk contract for Forbes seems silly to me. I would have no problem having Gary prove he can settle into a nice role on this young term and earn a decent contract extension. The problem is giving an unproven player an extension now. It’s a difficult decision to make and it really depends on how much this offer is for before we can speculate on whether or not matching it would be wise.
Update 4:48 PM MST
This has little to do with what is happening today, but the trade deadline has been set at March 15, 2012. The Chinese Basketball Association regular season is set to end on February 15, 2012. At this point all three Nuggets affiliated players’ teams are likely to make the playoffs as they are lined up third through fifth in the 17 team league. If any or all of them are knocked out before March 15 they would be eligible for sign and trade deals giving the Nuggets additional flexibility. Of course, all three might be playing past the March 15 trade cutoff, but it will make the Chinese Basketball playoffs even more interesting than ever, which of course, would not be difficult.
Update 5:13 PM MST
The Denver Nuggets have signed UTEP’s Julyan Stone to a contract, according to the El Paso Times. Stone is a 6-7 guard who has the ability to play multiple positions on the floor. He is both Conference USA and UTEP’s all-time leaders in assists, and is the only player in school history to be top 10 in both assists and rebounds. He is also an excellent defender, being named to Conference USA’s All-Defensive team. In UTEP’s only game in the NCAA tournament last year against Butler, Stone went for eight points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals. According to Alex Kennedy, the deal is worth $1.1 million over two years.
Quick reaction: Stone was a popular name leading up to the draft last year, especially among Lakers Nation. I remember examining him briefly and being impressed with his distribution skills given how tall he is. There was buzz that he would go to the Lakers, but they instead went with another sleeper point guard in Andrew Goudelock. This acquisition is just further corroboration to the argument that Masai is a brilliant scout. I fully expect Stone to fit in perfectly with the Nuggets given his wide-ranging skill set and tenacity on the defensive side of the ball.
Update 7:00 PM MST
Afflalo doesn’t sound too happy about still being a free agent: