According to NBA.com’s Aaron Lopez, the Nuggets will send out a starting lineup against the Dallas Mavericks that consists of Nene, Chris Andersen, Julyan Stone, Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson. This is Birdman’s first start since the 2008 season and Julyan Stone’s first start at small forward since joining the Nuggets. Meanwhile, Corey Brewer is still out due to the tragic death of his father. Our thoughts and prayers are with Corey and the rest of the Brewer family.
As for the ongoing Wilson Chandler saga that’s caused quite the confusion within Nuggets Nation, it appears we finally have some clarity and resolution thanks to a few loyal Roundball Mining Company readers and primarily salary cap guru, Larry Coon. According to Coon:
Restricted free agents can’t sign offer sheets after March 1 of any season, and this season is no exception… If Chandler wants to play in the NBA after March 1, his only option will be to return to the Denver Nuggets… A sign-and-trade arrangement, in which one of these players is signed by his previous team and immediately traded to a new team, is out of the question. The new collective bargaining agreement prohibits sign-and-trades after the season starts… So if [Wilson Chandler and Aaron Brooks] return to the NBA after March 1 and don’t sign with their previous teams, they likely must wait until this summer – when they again will be subject to restricted free agency. It’s potentially a no-win situation for both.
In summary, if Chandler is to return and receive his FIBA letters of clearance before March 1, he can sign an offer sheet from any team in the NBA which Denver has the option to match; however, the Nuggets cannot complete a sign-and-trade with Chandler and another team since the season has already gotten underway. Conversely, if Chandler’s team in China is to make the playoffs and therefore postpones his return until after March, he then has two options: either re-sign with the Nuggets or wait until this summer when he can sign an offer sheet with another team which Denver would still have the option to match.
The scenarios that could possibly play out in the next month will be fascinating from a Nuggets perspective. If Chandler is to return before March 1 and in turn, signs an offer sheet from another team, it will likely be one the Nuggets are less than thrilled about matching. In fact, it’s entirely possible that a team with ample cap space could offer Chandler a contract north of the $10 million per season range which would put the Nuggets roughly that same amount over the cap threshold this year. Would Stan Kroenke be willing to pay this? If not, the Nuggets could theoretically lose Chandler — by far its best trade asset — and get nothing back in return. But if Kroenke does give the green light to match, then the Nuggets would almost certainly explore trade options sometime next year in order to free up what would be an unnecessary contract from its payroll, which in turn would create much needed cap room to re-sign Ty Lawson.
The most beneficial scenario from a Nuggets standpoint is, without question, Wilson Chandler returning after March 1. This would prevent him from signing a potential catastrophe of a contract from another team and would guarantee that if he wanted to play in the NBA this year, he’d have to re-sign with the Nuggets. Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke won’t be foolish either. Signing Chandler to a one or two-year deal, even if inexpensive, will subtract all future trade value he may possess after entering the market as a restricted free agent. Ideally if March 1 passes and Chandler still greatly desires to play in the NBA this season, the Nuggets should use their leverage and coax him into signing a frugal, long-term deal that undersells his current value but ensures him the right to play this season. Not only would this make the decision to keep Chandler long term much easier, but if the Nuggets did ever decide to trade him, he’d be an extremely valued asset due to his cap-friendly contract. If Chandler and his agent don’t go for the relatively moderate payday the Nuggets offer up and instead decide to wait until summer to cash in, the Nuggets also benefit as they’ll still have the right to match whatever offer he receives and in all likelihood will be able to pull off a sign-and-trade that sends an asset or two back Denver’s way.
Lastly, here’s a pretty cool video featuring Wednesday’s starter at small forward, Julyan Stone.
A note on the recent struggles (by Charlie)
With the team currently mired in their worst slump in years, morale is predictably low among Nuggets faithful. There’s no doubt things don’t look good and figure to get worse before getting any better. While losing 5 out of the last 6 games has been no fun for anyone, I do think fans are jumping the gun on declaring the Nuggets’ season in jeopardy.
The fact that the Nuggets are struggling at home only makes losses hurt worse. The Nuggets’ best basketball has been played in other arenas and fans aren’t witnessing the signature mile-high blowouts the Pepsi Center is known for. Fans have every right to be upset and demand the Nuggets find a way to fix this. They simply cannot afford to squander one of the best home court advantages in the N.B.A. during a season like this.
There are legitimate concerns about the Nuggets poor play as of late. While I hate making excuses for losses, the impact of the recent losing streak has been way overblown. Scheduling woes and injuries have much more to do with the losses than the Nuggets simply being a bad team.
What’s getting lost in the shuffle is how hard the Nuggets are playing despite the losses. They nearly squeaked out a win against the Lakers after being on the wrong end of a national TV back-to-back in Denver (a loss for the traveling team something like 80% of the time). Andre Miller gave away a big lead in Memphis with turnovers and missed free throws. Gallo went down with a chip fracture at the worst possible time.
The only totally bad game in this recent stretch was a double digit loss in Portland. I’m convinced no team in the N.B.A. had a legitimate shot of winning such a brutally scheduled game. It was the third in three nights and a stretch of four in five in which the Nuggets traveled and switched time zones every game. In all honesty that loss could not have been realistically avoided. In all likelihood it didn’t matter who played and that’s why I argued most of the regular rotation should have sat out.
The Nuggets badly need a win right now. The defense is in total freefall and remains a big-time concern, but they are still a deep team with a winning brand of basketball. I expect the Nuggets to come out desperate tonight and eventually right the ship despite the ridiculously difficult schedule ahead.
Fans are also ignoring a lot of the good developments coming out of these hard times. The rookies are seeing their first real action and showing promise. Although Kenneth Faried didn’t have the spectacular double-double debut many were somehow predicting, he gave us a great glimpse of what makes him such a unique and promising player. Kenneth gave a tremendous effort every possession and he plays defense with pride. Faried will endear himself to George Karl and have a bright future in Denver, it just can’t come soon enough for Nuggets fans who want to see more right now.
It’s no secret the Nuggets are in a defensive rut. Karl is responding with one of the wackiest starting lineups all season against the Mavericks. It’s clear his aim is to get the Nuggets off to a better start so the defensively-challenged Andre Miller isn’t asked to dig the bench out of a hole. Assuming Birdman and Stone get the defense off to a better start, you have to wonder about where the offense will come from considering there are no shooters and scorers surrounding Nene. Right now, it’s better to worry about fixing the defense and let the offense figure itself out later. While I find it strange, I have great respect for what Karl is hoping to accomplish.
Julyan Stone is going to pull the illustrious honor of starting and defending Vince Carter and Jason Terry. Although I was harsh on Stone for his lack of production against the Rockets, he held Kevin Martin to 1-9 shooting and made him a complete non factor throughout the game. Stone is another rotation player coming out of his shell before our eyes, but it’s just hard to keep a starter on the floor if he’s unable to put any points on the board. I expect Stone to eventually figure it out and come through with a big time performance if Karl continues to show this kind of confidence in him.
The Nuggets have to defend the perimeter and start running a more fluid offense immediately. Like I said, they are desperate for a win right now and despite everything working against them, they’re going to figure it out and play much better. Whether or not that happens tonight remains to be seen, but their fortunes will change so long as they keep playing hard and developing talent. There is still much of the season left and great things to be found if you can stomach looking beyond this depressing spat of losing.
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