Wilson Chandler – Apply Pressure Here

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.

Money.

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.

Other Links

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!

Charlie’s Perspective

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.

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  • Kalen

    I’m glad you mentioned it Jeremy: money — that is the key here. The Nuggets will be well over the cap if he re-signs. Is Kroenke OK with that? Also, moving forward the Nuggets cannot afford to pay Al, Chandler, Nene, Ty, Afflalo and Gallinari big bucks and still expect to improve the team substantially. Something has to give. Someone needs to be amnestied or traded. Maybe the Nuggets amnesty Bird then trade Al to a team in need of a sixth man or starting small forward? Plus, you also have to consider the future of Hamilton and Faried. Where do they fit into the equation? It’s all about being wise with the money you have and maximizing the space in your salary. I just think if Chandler re-signs, someone is getting the ax.

    • chronosynclastic infundibula

      I’m pretty sure Miller and Rudy won’t be back and if they amnesty Bird then that leaves 12 on the roster plus whoever they draft. The team would more or less look like:

      C: Moz/Kouf/Nene
      PF: Nene/Harrington/Faried/Chandler
      PG: Lawson/Stone
      SG: Afflalo/Chandler/Hamilton/Brewer
      SF: Gallinari/Chandler/Brewer/Afflalo/Faried/Hamilton

      So the question is would the FO and Kronke be comfortable with dipping into the luxury tax to have the aformentioned team. I like the idea of going forward with Ty, Chandler, Gallo, Nene, and Afflalo as the core with Al providing some veteren leadership. Hopefully two out of the three Moz-Kouf-Faried can devolope into consistant contributers and I think the Nuggets will have a formidable team for several years.

      • lil rik

        -Bird gets amnestied. thats the next 2 years at $4-5MM off the books.
        -Andre comes off the books at $8MM at the end of this year – don’t want to see Dre go, but something has to give.
        -Rudy comes off the books at $2MM at the end of this year – but we have to have a shooter coming off the bench – will Hamilton be ready? Or will his $1MM+ become a potential salary dump?
        -Big Al is at $6MM+ for 3 more years after this year – I’d like to keep him, but he’s expensive – plus, who’s interested in trading for him and his contract?
        -C. Brew at $3MM+ but he also is an important cog.

        Charlie, Jeremy, Kalen –

        Do you guys by chance have:

        1) Our existing cap number for this season & the league cap number before a team has to pay tax?
        2) Our committed salary number for next year & what the league cap number will be next year?

        Thanks…..

        • steve

          lil rik…

          Cap this year is $58.044 million. I believe the Lux tax level is the same as last year at $70,307,000. a good site to look up salaries for any team is hoopshype but it hasnt updated Gallo’s new salary yet for next year.

          http://hoopshype.com/salaries/denver.htm

          I’m not sure about what it’s looking like next year. Hopefully the others can answer.

          • nugzin2040

            Denver has $57.5 million committed in 2012/13, assuming they take the player option on Stone and Gallo’s deal is $10.5 million every season, just like Koufos is $3 million every season.

            If we sign Chandler to a Afflalo type deal, that would put us at about $65 million, plus $1-1.5 million if we keep our first rounder. Might have to amnesty Bird if not in 2012, certainly in 2013.

  • ryan

    im so sick of AAA, we overpayed him so much, i’ve been saying it since we made the deal and now he’s playing even worse than before. he has no concept of his role in the offense. for him everything should be in rhythm, catch and shoot, or drive to the hole, everytime he dribbles a few times then takes a jumper it’s a brick. and his defense has not been consistent lately. he needs to watch some tapes of hersey hawkins or something, cause his offense is terrible and his defense has been too inconsistent to warrant him starting over rudy.

  • Dubz

    I think this article is too quick to point out dooms day scenarios for these contract discussions. From ALL accounts, Wilson Chandler is a fantastic locker room guy and is an all around nice guy. He didn’t want to leave NY and made it clear, but I think that shows the mans loyalty. Regardless of his situation, he didn’t have to say he wants to come back to Denver, but he did it anyway. If push came to shove and Denver didn’t offer him a fair contract (I think 3 years $21 Million is very fair) then I think he’ll sit out the year and wait for restricted FA in the summer. He won’t lose that much money for any contract this year is pro rated anyway, and he’ll get competitive offers from teams like Toronto who have cap space and can over pay him. My point is, Wilson DOES have options. I think he genuinely does want to play in Denver and his role here would be very profound. Currently, lineups of Nene, Chandler, Al, Miller, and Lawson sounds very intriguing to me. When Gallo returns, it’s Nene, Chandler, Gallo, Miller, Lawson. Chandler wont’ start, but he can LEGITIMATELY play PF, SF, and SG (even though SG is his weakest). He can really be the x factor this team needs. SIGN THE MAN!!

  • http://espn Gary

    Think I might be in the minority, but IMO Chandler is overrated. He’s not as good as Gallo at his peak and just a little more of what we already have in spades…mediocrity. That he can’t stay healthy 5 games in a row is just another factor. His intentions are also still debatable.
    Injury or no injury, this team ain’t built to go deep in the playoffs right now. Adding another role player will not help till the young core…Lawson, Gallo, Moz, Koufus…take the next step. And the kids…..Hamilton, Faried, Stone…at least become consistently serviceable. Think that is where the focus should be right now, rather than trying to salvage a mediocre season, sneaking into the play-offs and getting blown in the first round. Nene, AAA, Rudy, Al are just what they really are….good average players…..quit hoping for miracles from these guys
    Moreoover, coaching has no answers and it pains to say that GK has long hit his ceiling. Unless two of his core guys suddenly turn into Kareem & Magic, he ain’t winning nothing the way he runs the team right now. Regardless of anything else, the FO seriously needs to consider his long term status with the team…..he’s the Jeff Fischer of NBA basically.

    • ParkHillNative

      I agree that Chandler is not going to do anything miraculous for this team. I think a 3-year, $18M deal sounds okay. Anything more than that, I dunno.

      Jeremy mentioned in a post yesterday that Josh & Masai said at the start of the season that this team is one player away from becoming a contender. Pretty sure Wilson Chandler is not the player they were thinking of.

    • Dubz

      Where does this “that he can’t put 5 games together in a row” comment come from? He’s had injury problems but he played 72 games last season and missed a couple games due to the trade. While I agree he’s far from a super star, I’d rather have Wilson Chandler play the role of Fernandez, Brewer, and Birdman all in one player. He’s very much like Iguodala. He’s not fantastic at any one particular part of the game, but he’s very good at basically everything. This team desperately needs 3 point shooting, defense at the PF position, blocks, and rebounding. He provides all of that and more. Anyone comparing him to Gallo is comparing apples to oranges. They’re totally different players and actually compliment each other very well. We should sign Chandler and let him play out the rest of the year on this team. If it works out well, keep him. If not, trade him in the off season. I assure you there’s a bunch of teams out there who would love to secure his services. Ask the Knicks, they’re begging for him back. Look at his numbers while he played for the Knicks, can anyone with a straight face tell me that the Nuggets couldn’t use a player of that magnitude? Please.

  • stevesf47

    i agree…chandler is somewhat overrated. We have plenty of assets as it is and IMO, we have a poor version that’s less than half the price of chandler now in brewer. i think we need to sign him regardless because it’s another asset for us. We could easily spin him on the offseason with other guys or picks for an upgrade.

  • ParkHillNative

    Excellent breakdown, Charlie — the metaphor of the lone Ford dealership puts it in good perspective.

    I’m not sure how optimistic we should be that the Nuggets will make the best decision here. Have they been showing too much willingness to overpay in the contracts they’ve given out so far? At least in some cases it seems like it.

    Also, wondering what Jeremy’s favorite Nuggets fan joke is?

  • Jrsmithisnumber1

    I disagree with everyone saying Chandler is overrated. He’s a very versatile 3, can play 2, 3, or 4. His release point is high, at 6 8 making it almost impossible to block. He can make 3s and take it to the rim. But the best part of his game is his defense. He’s an excellent on ball defender and I think he led the league in blocks for small forwards. He was a big part of the success last year after the trade and if we can sign him from anywhere between 6-8 million per year i’d take it.

  • 3ptlegend

    Chandler is the type of player that any contending team out west will take a flyer on. He has said before playing in New York is an option. His agent may be using the Nuggets as leverage in a potential bidding war for his client.

  • eddi0

    He can start at 2/3/4 (if someone is injured) or he could come off the bench and shoot 3’s/rebound/steal/block shots. PLUS, he actually wants to play for the Nugs. Let Masai and Kronks work out the financials, we’ll likely amnesty Bird next year/lose Dre/Fernandez. This is our Swiss Army Knife player, a jack of all trades but not a master of one.

    Am I missing something? This should be a no-brainer, sign the man Masai!!!

  • FinazzAus

    I think it is total possible that the nuggets FO try and sign him to a multi year deal. Then use him as trade bait in the off season. It’s a win for the FO, get to use him this season and then next season his contract is gone and we get someone good in return.

  • Trevor

    So I assume letting Demarre Carroll go was to make room for Chandler?

  • Hank

    Trade K2 and Big Al

  • Ricardo

    I think the nuggets should sign Chandler to a three-year contract and see how they do with him, if it doesn’t work out, they trade him for assets.

    It’s more likely he may be the back-up power forward until Fernandez leaves at the end of the season to takes over the back-up shooting guard spot. The line-up would look as follows:

    PG Lawson/Miller/Stone
    SG Afflalo/Fernandez/Hamilton
    SF Gallinari/Harrington/Brewer
    PF Nene/Chandler/Faried
    C Mosgov/Koufos

    Anderson may have to be traded for cap-space purposes.