A Day of Action – Nuggets Re-sign Nene and Trade for Two

Well Nuggets fans, you wanted activity, how did today treat you?  In addition to adding Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer and DeMarre Carroll today, Denver has reportedly reached an agreement with Nene on a five year, $67 million contract.  The fifth year apparently was a key to sealing the deal as the average salary is well shy of what was available to him from other teams.

Denver has gone from woefully undermanned to one of the deepest teams in the NBA.  For those of you unfamiliar with the roster Denver has Ty Lawson and Andre Miller at point guard with undrafted free agent Julyan Stone able to back them up or play one of the win positions.  At shooting guard Denver has Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer and rookie Jordan Hamilton.  At the other swing position Denver can play Danilo Gallinari, DeMarre Carroll and the aforementioned Jordan Hamilton.  At power forward veteran Al Harrington is supported by rookie Kenneth Faried at power forward with Gallinari and Carroll also capable of filling in.  At center Nene will be supported by Chris “Birdman” Andersen (both of whom can also play power forward), Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos.  That list does not even include restricted free agents Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler.

In a season where the games come early and often, that kind of depth will be a tremendous asset.

The other important characteristic of this roster is the versatility.  Several players can play multiple positions.  George Karl will be able to mix and match.  They can play small, play big and anything in between.

From a monetary standpoint, the final year of the contract Nene opted out of would have paid him $11.6 million.  If the contract that was agreed to has the new standard 7.5% raise allowed under the new CBA and started off with an annual salary of $11.6 million it would be worth $66.7 million, which fits with what has been reported for the total salary.  As we discussed yesterday, the market for Nene was sitting at four years, $56-$58 million.  Add in the fifth year and this is a very reasonable deal for both Nene and the Nuggets.  There is potential for it to be a bit of a cap albatross in the last year or two, when he is 33 or 34, but even in the last year of the contract he is making $15 million, which with a higher cap after years of (assumed) economic growth, it will not be disastrous.

Of course there is the possibility Denver could have gotten creative with the deal and paid Nene $17 million up front and finished it out with payments of $12.5 million over the final four years to maximize any future cap space.  I do not know the details, but I will assume for salary purposes the contract is the standard deal with the 7.5% raise.  At this point the Nuggets are looking at an estimated $48.6 million in salary committed for this season.  That does not include paying anything to Afflalo or Chandler.  I expect Afflalo to sign for something in the area of $6 million and Chandler’s qualifying offer is a hair over $3 million.  Between those to Denver is near the salary cap for this season.

Looking forward in 2012-13, again assuming Afflalo signs for $6 million a season, Denver will have committed salary between $42 and $43 million.  That does not include qualifying offers for Gallo ($5.6 million), Koufos ($3.2 million) and Fernandez ($3.2 million).  Denver could still be a player on the free agent market and would have near max cap room if they amnesty Al Harrington.

The Nuggets appear to be set with a deep roster for the next three seasons at the very least.

While it is exciting to see the Nuggets retaining a competitive team I have to wonder just how good they will be.  This is a versatile team with fantastic depth that is built to win, in the regular season.  As I look at this roster I see a playoff caliber team, but not a team in position to compete for a championship.  When the games start being counted as the best of seven, I do not see how this group will find success.

They still need a superstar who can carry the weight of the team when the postseason arrives.  Maybe that player is on the roster and he has not met his potential as of yet.  Denver should be able to maintain their stretch of playoff appearances and they will still be fun to watch.  I just wonder if after building another strong team if they are actually any closer to winning a championship.

Rudy Fernandez Scouting Report

Most Nuggets fans are familiar with Mr. Fernandez as he has played with division rival Portland over his three years in the league.  Fernandez is a talented player who has seen his performance and role reduced with every successive year in the league.

Offensively, Fernandez plays with aggression on offense.  He has a very good feel for the game.  After posting very good percentages in his rookie season he has seen those numbers drop the previous two campaigns.  Last season he was 50th amongst shooting guards in TS%.  He only converted on 32.1% of his three point attempts.  To make matters worse 62.8% of his shots last year were from behind the arc.  He is a good free throw shooter converting on 85.5% for his career, but again there is bad news.  He attempts a mere .26 free throws per shot attempt.

Fernandez does take some wild shots.  He frequently pulls up while on the move and will be drifting as he shoots, which makes a shot exponentially more difficult.  Even when he is set his shot looks more like a fling and his arms are too far in front of him and I believe it causes him to struggle with distance control.

If you watch Fernandez play, he really does have a lot of natural ability.  He sees the floor very well and is a good passer.  His assist rate 21.0 is very good for a shooting guard and is comparable to Manu Ginobili, who had an assist rate of 22.3 last year.  He can get into trouble trying to make too difficult of passes sometimes as he has a tendency to attempt difficult passes through small windows.  Even so, he has a very respectable turnover rate of only 9.6.

He is competent at running the pick and roll although he settles for the long jumper a little too often and he struggles to finish in traffic although his conversion rate at the rim of 63.6 percent is acceptable for a guard.  When he cannot get to the rim, he is a little too eager to attempt difficult running one handers and he also seems to think he is capable of making a floater like fellow countryman Jun Carlos Navarro.

His favorite action is when he starts on the left wing, makes a circle cut around the top of the circle, takes a handoff and drives the lane, or takes a jumper.

Defensively, he is not helpless.  He has decent lateral quickness so because of his lack of girth he would find himself covering the opposing point guard.  He avoids contact and will only nab a rebound if it lands in his lap.

The one hope for Fernandez to regain his solid stats from his rookie season is that he will be more comfortable in Denver’s up tempo system.  He can run the floor well and with Denver running a lot of pick and roll after the Melo trade last season he very well could fit in there as well.  Fernandez does believe he is entitled to significant playing time so it will be interesting to see how he fits in for the Nuggets, or even if he shows up.

He has pined for a return to Spain and might be one of the few players who never wanted the lockout to end as he was playing there during the labor strife.  What kind of attitude Rudy has when he shows up will be very interesting.  He does become a restricted free agent after the season so he may very well head back to Europe after this season.  Still for the cost of only a second round pick and the fact that he comes to Denver along with Corey Brewer I think it is a risk worth taking.

Corey Brewer Scouting Report

Corey Brewer is hailed as an elite wing defender.  I took to Synergy to see him in action and was very unimpressed.  His on ball technique is very poor.  You can tell at some point he was told because of his length he can play back a bit and still recover to challenge the shot if his man rises up.  As a result, he plays off his man and to make sure he can reach him if he shoots he hunches over at the waist.  This completely throws his balance off and as a result he cannot react quickly to a dribble drive.  He also plays completely flat footed until his man puts the ball on the ground, which slows him down even more.  The result is he gets beaten off the dribble repeatedly.  I am not talking about a sick crossover or something difficult to handle.  After watching film on both Brewer and DeMarre Carroll I am convinced Carroll is the better defender and it is not even really that close.

He is also very slight of build and as a result he cannot handle even the slightest contact when he is retreating.  He also gets bounced around screens and does not do a good job of fighting through.

The good news is he is a solid team defender and that is when his length serves him best as he can fill in space and challenge passing lanes.  He is also very good at ball denial when he is tasked with that.

Offensively Brewer is not the complete disaster he is painted to be either.  He posted solid numbers on the catch and shoot from behind the arc converting 36.6% in that situation.  He can also take advantage of defensive gaps to get to the rim.

The sad thing is when you look at this trade is Brewer is not the lockdown defender he is purported to be, but his percentages are also just a smidge under those of Fernandez who is supposed to be the offensive contributor out of the deal.

Hopefully Fernandez can find his niche with Denver and get back to being a solid contributor as he was his rookie season and as a result spurn the siren call of his homeland after the season.  If Brewer can continue to hone his three point shot and tweak his approach on defense he could be a very solid contributor.

The reality is this trade ultimately offers little more than some decent depth for the Nuggets as they enter the logjam of games between Christmas and the All-Star break.