As has been pointed out by several readers, Wilson Chandler is currently visiting numerous different teams who have expressed interest in the free agent small forward. On Wednesday, Chandler was in Toronto, a team that covets him and has for quite some time. According to his agent Chris Luchey, Chandler is talking to six other teams besides the Nuggets and does in fact have interest in signing with Raptors. As Marc Stein pointed out on Twitter, “Only three teams currently have the needed cap space to test Denver’s Chandler resolve: Pacers ($14 million), Kings ($9million) and Cavs ($7.1 million).” Meanwile, according to SI.com’s Sam Amick, just as we’d thought all along here at Roundball Mining Co., Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, “has made it clear he has no interest in signing him for only the rest of the season and that he wants a long-term deal.”
Unfortunately the Raptors — who clearly value Chandler the most — don’t have the necessary cap room to offer him the type of deal he’s in line to receive. While the Kings (who should be highly involved in the Chandler discussions given how starved they are of a decent small forward), Pacers and Cavaliers could all offer Chandler the kind of lucrative deal he’s seeking, it’s important to keep in mind that he’s still a restricted free agent. The Nuggets absolutely will not let Chandler walk for nothing even if it means matching a contract offer they’re entirely uncomfortable with paying. This essentially allows for three scenarios to play out: Either Chandler and the Nuggets will come to an agreement themselves, the Nuggets will match an offer from another team or Chandler will sit out the remainder of the season in order to become a restricted free agent this summer. If the latter transpires and Chandler finds a destination (other than Denver) where perhaps he would receive a starting gig and hefty contract to pair with it, the Nuggets would then be allowed to maneuver a sign-and-trade which would ensure other assets return to Denver in exchange for Chandler’s services. Remember, because of the lockout the Nuggets cannot execute a sign-and-trade deal mid-season in 2012.
As I have repeatedly stated over the course of these discussions, in my eyes, the ball — so to speak — is in Chandler’s court. If he wants a lucrative deal, he’ll likely get one. If he wants to play somewhere else, the Nuggets will make sure that happens. However, if he wants to remain in Denver, Masai Ujiri will not hesitate to configure a deal that ensures this scenario plays out as well. My gut feeling is Chandler’s deepest desire to get paid to be a starter. No matter what scenario, this can’t happen until the summer. Therefore, it seems logical the Nuggets would sign Chandler to a long-term deal, bring him back this season to help the team out (given how badly it’s struggling) then deal him either on draft night or sometime next summer. The old Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulated that a player could not be traded until at least three months after he was signed and assuming this remains true for the new agreement, Chandler would be eligible for trade after the 2012 season concludes. By this time Toronto will have more than enough cap room to absorb the type of deal Chandler wants, and who knows, maybe they’d be willing to part with their first-round pick in order to obtain him. No matter what, it’s hard to see Chandler not returning to the Nuggets at least for the remainder of this year.