Nene, Afflalo to return against Mavericks + Wilson Chandler [Updated]

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.

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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.

  • Andrew

    Ha ha. So now everyone s back to hoping Chandler does not come back until March. Weird scenario.

    Thanks for the starting lineup for tonight, Kalen! On the one hand, I would have preferred to see K2 (who I thought deserved a better rating for the last game) and Nene rather than Nene and Birdman. However, I do like this new Karl, who seems to be searching for better combos to see what works. Starting Birdman and sliding Stone to SF is pretty bold. Look at Karl, getting all experimental on us!

  • al68

    deberia salir con hamilton de inicio necesitamos tiro exterior para que nene tenga espacios contra haywood.

    Chandler es un buen jugador pero no debemos de sobrepagar por él utilicemos mas a brewer que es muy buen jugador y muy rápido como le gusta a GK.

  • Frontrange

    No team has 10 mil left under the cap though, right. Mem, Ind, Det and Sac are around 50 mil so even they could only offer about 8 mil. Pretty sure Sac and Ind wouldn’t be doing that. Not sure about Mem and Det.

    • Charlie

      Great point. Another thing to consider is do those teams even have an open roster spot to accommodate Chandler? I doubt all of them do.

      Even then, they also have to sell Chandler on a long-term contract. It’s not even clear if there are minutes or a significant role available to him on those teams right now.

      At least with Denver, there is some familiarity with George Karl and the Nuggets can basically guarantee he will play should he choose to come over. Add that in with all of Denver’s leverage surrounding his restricted status and things look decent for the Nuggets.

  • Frontrange

    Check that . . Mem 50 mil doesn’t include Zach contract so they don’t have any room.

    • skithebert

      good point. denver looks to be sitting pretty. don’t see anyway we’d lose him for nothing. at the very least we’d get a sign and trade after the season.

  • ThrowItDown

    Thanks for the information. I did not know the sign and trades were prohibited in season, and I’ve been wondering for a while if Chandler would be an RFA this summer if he failed to sign with Denver. Much Appreciated.

  • Henry aka KFH

    How much more bizarre can Karl’s line-ups get?

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

    I do not think the March deadline means much in the Chandler scenarios. Whether he can sign an offer sheet or not, I do not see one being presented to him that he would want to sign. As others have pointed out, there are no teams with significant cap room to pursue him.

    • Charlie

      I agree, not only do so few teams have the cap space necessary to produce a threatening offer sheet, there is a severe shortage of open roster spots.

      On top of all of it, adding big money restricted FA’s now is not a priority for any decent organization in the league. There are more important things to worry about.

      Everyone can go back to rooting against Guangsha now.

      • Kalen

        It’s pretty easy to drop a few guys at the end of your roster, make a trade or even amnesty someone (if you can still do that mid-season) in order to clear up room for Chandler. The $10 mil scenario was just a hypothetical I threw out there, but it is still possible. There are teams out there that can throw a lot of money at Chandler, no doubt about that.

  • chronosynclastic infundibula

    That is great news regarding Chandler. I hope he resigns for something reasonable and long-term. Afflalo needs to get back to his “3 & D” style of play or Chandler is going to take his starting job in the future.

    Tonight will be interesting. Nene, Ty, and Al will have to do all the scoriing. I wonder if Afflalo, Rudy, and Dre will chip in. Maybe J-Ham and Faried will get some pt. One can hope.

  • NuggLove

    Hey, Kalen. Is LARRY BROWN available? I wonder if he’s the perfect replacement for the stubborn George Karl. With Nene and Afflalo returning, Faried won’t play meaningful minutes again. Putting Stone at the starting lineup just went worse because he’s the starting SF. Stone was never an SF and this starting lineup is just plain bad. What would have happened if Karl started J-Ham? He should be fired right away before we make a player move.

  • JustaFan

    Whether Wilson returns or not? We’ll never go deep in the playoffs under George Karl. The players or the roster isn’t really the problem, the coach is!!!! How about make a blog about Karl’s supposed-to-be replacements. I just don’t understand why the front office hasn’t taken notice of the coaching blues.

    • Kalen

      Just for the record, I suggested the Nuggets look to replace Karl after last season and petitioned strongly against re-signing him to a long term deal until after the playoffs last year, but at the time everyone was so caught up in that little winning stretch after the Melo Drama that nobody thought anything of it. That said, I don’t think firing Karl right now would be a good move unless Masai has a coach he fully trusts waiting in the wing. Remember guys, the season is long, the Nuggets are depleted right now and this is just one stretch of losing. We can’t be too hasty with our demands. Plus, Karl is sacred among the Nuggets higher ups. No matter what’s happened during his tenure it feels like he’s always had undeserved job security simply based on the fact that the Nuggets are such a historically weak franchise. I highly doubt, even if the Nuggets struggle mightily, that Karl would be fired considering his track record and amount of money still left on his contract.

      • lil rik

        Really? WHO do you guys suggest? Adrian Dantley? Oh – I’m sur Larry Brown would be a great fit – it’s worked out so well for him in Charlotte. I think they should hire one of you guys at coach so that we could all sit back and criticize and laugh at you!
        Hahahahahahahaha

        Everyone is so quick to forget that LAST week we were the #2 team in the west with a healthy roster and Karl at coach. But now that half the team has come up limp Karl is the wors coach in the league.

        I have a great idea, maybe we can pry Mike D’antoni away from the Knicks…

        • Denver4ever

          There’s no way we’ll be very with D’Antoni. But with Brown, definitely. I’ve never seen him play to inconsistent “smallball” lineup. But in the defensive end is he really gives a bright side for this Nuggets team. He wants big men to rebound the ball. Remember year 2004 when the Pistons were the champs? At one point he scolded his big men for not rebounding.

          George Karl’s potential replacements:
          Larry Brown
          Melvin Hunt
          Tony DiLeo

          -I don’t know the style and achievements for other coaches. Guys, What are your suggestions?

  • stevesf47

    nugs looked terrible again tonight. So frustrating to watch them lay eggs at home.

  • Eddi0

    NBA.COM (on their ticker at the bottom of the screen) is saying that “when Wilson Chandler returns he will be re-signing with the Nuggets”….more later

  • Eddi0

    NBATV is what I meant to say…

  • Ricardo

    It’s a better idea for the nuggets to sign Chandler till the end of the season and then the find the best offers for him during the off-season.

    • Ricardo

      Ignore my above comment, I meant to say what is below this.

  • Ricardo

    Chandler is averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds per game in China right now. The nuggets should definitely be thinking about re-signing him to a long-term contract, they could really use a player averaging those types of numbers right now. I would prefer to have Chandler back-up the power forward position than Harrington.

  • Denver4ever

    Kalen, are you kidding me? In his 20 years, Karl has only made it to the Finals once. And we never made deep into the playoffs. At one point, we even got swept because Karl does not have any answer for Gasol and Bryant but especially for Gasol. Had Karl pressed the right buttons, the series would have been competitive. Just face it, Karl should be fired no matter what. Losing is not an option and it never was. Yes, injuries are mounting, but it’s his fault why didn’t he play Faried and Stone more which could have given rest to some starters and bench guys. Thus, Injuries were never an excuse for team as deep as this.
    I just posted this here so at least someone would take notice of it.

    Although I’m no real tv analyst, but at least I’m just using my logic to criticize this team’s weaknesses.

    To me, signing Wilson Chandler is damn needed but since we’re riding a potential 10-game losing streak now, it’s time to close the door of George Karl and open it to someone maybe with the name of “Larry Brown”, or Melvin Hunt (I’m really expecting a lot from this guy).