Former Denver Nuggets beat writer Marc J. Spears has posted a story on Yahoo! Sports that Wilson Chandler wants to resign with Denver at the close of his service in China. While on the face of it, a quick return appears imminent, I think some caution is in order.
The quote from Chandler’s agent, Chris Luchey, that caught my attention was this one:
“The ball is in their court. If Wilson is comfortable, he will be a part of their core group.”
Let’s look at the facts. Denver is without their leading scorer Danilo Gallinari for the next three to four weeks. They have lost six of their last seven and have fallen from a solid second to a precarious sixth in a week and a half. Chandler cannot threaten to sign the qualifying offer for leverage for a long term deal. No team is likely to throw a large offer sheet at him that is worth considering. (Detroit, Sacramento, New Orleans? Please. He is not risking getting stuck with any of those rebuilding squads. The other possibility is Indiana, but with Danny Granger and the ascending Paul George in place, I doubt they want to spend money to bring in Chandler.) OK, back to our facts. If Chandler cannot return to the NBA until after March 1, by rule, he cannot even sign an offer sheet.
The bottom line as Kalen has pointed out is Chandler has almost no leverage. If he wants to get paid now, his best hope is to make his return sound inevitable and put the onus on Denver to get a deal done. With the fans desperate to see the team stop their slide and Gallo out, bringing Chandler back is their number one priority. There is just a minor hurdle to overcome.
Denver has made long term commitments to Arron Afflalo, Nene and Gallinari this summer. They still have room to add another one or two above league average players into their salary structure going forward. In all likelihood one of those two slots will go to Ty Lawson. That means the Nuggets have one more bullet in their free agent magazine. Should it be expended on Chandler? A player who will back up the team’s best player?
I completely believe Masai Ujiri when he proclaims the following:
“Our goal is to re-sign Wilson Chandler,” Ujiri said. “We like everything about him. Wilson was one of the key players we got in the trade with New York and he’s a phenomenal player, shooter and defender.”
At what cost will they look to bring him back into the fold? I have no doubt Chandler is going to be seeking at least Arron Afflalo money, though maybe not a full five seasons. As we have discussed here previously, Chandler would love to get a one year deal which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent following the season. I highly doubt the Nuggets go down that road.
The most likely outcome in my mind is the two sides come to an agreement on a three year, $18-$21 million deal. It puts some money in Chandler’s pocket. The Nuggets completely lock in their core of the post-Melo team. Chandler is not stuck in Denver long term, plus Denver could have some financial wiggle room in the summer of 2014 with Birdman,
However, there is a good possibility that Denver is not prepared to offer Chandler enough to seal the deal. There is a possibility the Chandler sits out the remainder of the season and then hits restricted free agency this summer. If that happens, Luchey has fired the first salvo in the PR battle. Chandler is just waiting to suit up for Denver and if it does not happen, it is the Nuggets’ fault.
Nate Timmons makes a good point at Denver Stiffs. Do not forget that Chandler has been bothered with ankle issues in his young career.
Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post has comments from George Karl on the rumored return of Wilson. Plus he steals my Nuggets fans second favorite team joke (kidding, I am only kidding, he would have to read RMC to steal it).
Guangsha won their game today and is 16-13 and holding the eighth and final playoff spot. However, they only defeated the third worst team by a single point and are 7-12 since their 9-1 start with two of their three final games against good teams. Chandler apparently came off the bench and shot 4-14. There is still hope for Guangsha to miss the playoffs!
Jeremy did a great job spelling out this particular piece of non-news reported by Marc Spears. While on the surface it seems like a fantastic development that Wilson plans to return to the Nuggets, you need only but read the piece in detail to realize this is little more than a negotiating tactic by Chandler’s agent. Denver and Chandler are no closer on a contract than they were months ago. Nothing has changed outside of Wilson’s willingness to play for the Denver Nuggets, and I always believed Wilson would be amenable to playing in Denver with the right contract.
As we found out yesterday (thanks to the help of our commentors), Chandler is an a very unique situation thanks to his restricted status and his inability to control his fate while he toils away in China.
Chris Luchey said it best in his statement — “it’s a unique situation.” What is unique about is that Chandler is essentially out of options. The only bit of leverage he had left is the threat of signing an offer sheet with another team by March 1. Luchey’s statement is essentially a confession of what was already painfully obvious — there will be no offer sheet in Chandler’s immediate future and he isn’t even eligible to sign one until granted a FIBA letter of clearance (unobtainable until his Chinese team’s season is over).
Luchey’s statement also reveals Wilson is indeed itching to return to the NBA this season, following Kenyon Martin’s path to a latter of clearance and a new NBA contract. The only realistic way to accomplish that is to join the Nuggets so naturally, that’s his plan.
It’s like walking into the only Ford dealership in town and trying to haggle the price down with the threat of walking away. They have the exact car you want and can safely ignore the empty threat of you walking away because nobody else is selling that car. If you want it, there is only one supplier with which you can negotiate and nothing except honor and goodwill is preventing them from totally ripping you off.
Chandler is in the same situation with the Nuggets. He is counting on them to honor his market value despite there being no market forces at work.
The Nuggets are in a difficult situation where they have to be cold-hearted and take advantage. They must offer a below-market contract to Wilson while there are still zero ramifications for doing so. They have to protect their long-term intersts.
The question becomes how much of a discount is Wilson willing to give them? By doing so, he gains a prorated amount of salary for playing this season versus sitting out and earning nothing. On top of the lost potential earnings he still faces the uncertainty of restricted free agency next summer. If the difference between a below market value contract is less than or equal to the prorated potential earnings, then it makes sense to sign the discounted contract. This is what makes Jeremy’s idea of a two or three year deal with a smaller total amount a likely compromise.
It’s clear Wilson’s only viable strategy is to make the Nuggets so desperate to get him they would act as if they are bidding against other teams to lock him up, despite the fact it’s physically impossible for anyone else to bid. Ideally, the Nuggets would become so pressed for his services that they relent and grant him a one year deal allowing him the holy grail of freedom for NBA players – unrestricted free agency.
Only in dreams would Denver be so foolish to allow that to happen. I think it’s a non-starter to even consider it. Unfortunately, this is the scenario Chandler’s agent is hoping will come to fruition should contract negotiations eventually come to a halt.
That means there is a sizable chance Denver doesn’t sign Chandler this season and he goes into restricted free agency in July. Denver will look like the big bad bully and the oppressive cheapskate, but such is the cost of doing cutthroat business in the N.B.A.
I still believe there is a good chance Wilson signs a cap-friendly shorter-term deal to remain in Denver. It makes financial and basketball sense for everyone involved. There should be no more doubts about his willingness to reside in the city of Denver and accept millions of dollars to play basketball there.
Unfortunately, Wilson just made his first move in the dangerous game of chicken that will be contract negotiations to bring him back. The game is rigged in Denver’s favor however and how much they choose to abuse that will determine whether or not Chandler actually joins them.