Free Agency: Nuggets to meet with JaVale, Rudy unrestricted

It was more or less a foregone conclusion that JaVale McGee would become a restricted free agent, but Masai Ujiri’s penchant for secrecy couldn’t help but get a few fans worried when free agency opened without any official confirmation on McGee’s qualifying offer one way or the other. In a series of tweets on Sunday morning, Ken Berger of CBS Sports broke the silence and confirmed that the Nuggets have in fact gone through the obvious formality of extending the qualifying offer to McGee, making him a restricted free agent and allowing the Nuggets to match any offer he could receive from another team.

Berger went on to reveal that Rudy Fernandez did not receive a qualifying offer, essentially ending whatever slim hope there was of Rudy returning to the Nuggets or eventually being signed and traded to another team. Rudy will now be unrestricted and free to sign with any NBA team, but he’s currently rehabbing in Spain with an eye on playing in the London Olympics. From what I’ve been told about Rudy’s contract with Real Madrid during last year’s lockout, a deal is already in place for him to return to the Spanish team for multiple seasons after he has fulfilled his NBA contract. Considering Madrid just lost up-and-comer Kyle Singler to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, I think it’s a safe bet they go hard after Rudy and even if they don’t, holding onto Rudy’s rights isn’t likely to pay off for the Nuggets anyway. I’m pretty certain this is farewell for Rudy and the Nuggets, and quite possibly the NBA as well.

Woj followed up with the latest bit of interesting free agency news today, revealing that Masai Ujiri will meet with JaVale McGee on Monday to talk extension. I expect there to be a pretty competitive market for JaVale’s services, but the Nuggets do have the leverage of restricted free agency and Berger mentioned that JaVale has yet to receive an offer from another team.

As of now, that’s all to report on where the Nuggets currently stand in free agency. ┬áJaVale is obviously the top priority with unrestricted free agent Andre Miller not far behind. Jeremy already did a great job previewing free agency last week, and while I do not mean to rehash his entire post, I’ll bring up a lot of the same points to preview how I think free agency is likely to play out for the Nuggets.

Salary Cap

The Nuggets are in good shape financially, sitting around $10 million under the cap although all of the usable cap space is tied up in holds for Andre Miller, JaVale McGee and Rudy Fernandez (Denver still holds his bird rights despite the fact they’ve let Rudy become unrestricted). Even if they decide they have no plans Rudy and renounce his rights, the Nuggets can’t offer a free agent substantial money without doing the same for McGee and Miller, which has no chance of happening.

The Nuggets do have their midlevel exception available for up to $5 million, which could be used to offer middle and lower tier free agents. As I predicted in our Draft Roundtable a couple of days ago, I think the Nuggets may decide to use a small portion of this to give Quincy Miller a longer term contract that the minimum one mandated for second round picks. If the Nuggets are not able to retain Andre Miller, I think the Nuggets “plan B” will be using part of the midlevel on a backup guard for somewhere between $2 and $4 million a year.

I agree with Jeremy in that it’s much more likely the Nuggets address their needs via a trade than through free agency. Even though Denver has managed the cap wisely and could have money to spend, the Nuggets have only two roster spots and extremely limited playing time available. In my opinion, Masai Ujiri has been making cap-saving moves with an eye towards maintaining the flexibility necessary to keep JaVale and Ty Lawson, who is entering the last year of his rookie deal. A great example of this was wiping out the cap hold for a first round pick by selecting Evan Fournier and stashing him overseas for a year or two. If the Nuggets need to stretch their pocketbook a bit to lock up JaVale and Ty this year, they’ve maximized their flexibility to do so.

Targets – JaVale and Andre

I literally can’t think of any free agents who make sense beyond these two. JaVale is obviously the number one priority, a player who showed star potential in the playoffs against one of the best front lines in the NBA. He came off the bench and lacked consistency throughout his short stint in Denver, but his production was solid across the board and there’s little reason to believe he won’t continue to improve and produce in the Nuggets system, where JaVale showed he could be a very good fit.

The market for JaVale is extremely difficult to predict. For instance, defensive specialist Omer Asik is reprotedly set to make somewhere around $8 million a year, while well-rounded All-Star Roy Hibbert will likely get the max, which starts around $14 million. An extremely rudimentary guess would put a fair contract for JaVale around $12 million, who isn’t the proven All-Star Hibbert is but has the same game changing potential — a quality you just won’t find even in a solid big man like Asik.

As far as Andre Miller goes, Jeremy doesn’t believe he’s a good fit and is very skeptical the Nuggets keep him around. While I agree on the part about fit, I find it hard to believe the Nuggets don’t find a way to bring him back. I seriously doubt George Karl will allow it, and Andre is in a good position to get market value from the Nuggets. Backup point guard is a huge area of need and once again, I’m struggling to come up with sensible options that fit into the Karl culture. Andre doesn’t fit with the long-term goal of building a young championship core and doesn’t provide a big enough short-term boost to make the Nuggets contenders now. Still, the Nuggets will rationalize signing him with the Karl factor and the fact he could help the development of Faried and McGee.

Wildcards

I would hate to be Masai Ujiri faced with the prospect of matching a max offer for JaVale McGee. Most fans and pundits would skewer him for maxing out such a controversial player, but I fail to see how he has any choice. The Nuggets can’t realistically compete without signing him and do not have a clear path to rebuild without him. Ideally, Masai avoids the nightmare scenario of maxing out a player who clearly hasn’t proven he’s worth it, but I think the Nuggets match anything while hoping he develops and remains tradeable thanks to his age, potential, and injury-free history. Still, I can’t deny this scenario scares me to no end. At the very least, the maximum deal JaVale can get from another team is for four years. The lockout was a terrible mess, but the one thing it did accomplish was making it impossible for another seven year max contract to cripple a franchise a la Kenyon Martin.

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Charlie Yao

Contributor at Roundball Mining Company since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • Evan “The French Hope” Fournier

    Hopefully Masai works his magic and gets Javale McGee at a reasonable price, and I also hope they let miller walk. And it also scares me that a team may go nuts and offer McGee a big contract we can’t match, I don’t know what we would do… Mosgov Hasn’t convinced me that he can play in the NBA, and koufos is a back up center. But other then signing McGee it should be a quiet offseason with us, unless Masai does a trade which is highly unlikely

    • Charlie

      Masai talking extension early is good. It might show that he’s trying to use the leverage of a fifth guaranteed year to get a reasonable price on JaVale. The Nuggets are the only team that can give McGee five years and for a player who has been through as much as he has, long-term stability could be very important.

      Unfortunately, as I wrote above, I think there is a possibility he would get a max offer. I’m not saying it’s likely but it’s pretty possible and that puts the Nuggets in a very bad spot

  • steve

    max deal might come from Hornets. Rumor has it they’ve coveted him for a while and almost landed a deal with Wiz before they went with ours.

    • Aaron

      Hornets Just Used Their 1st Overall Pick on a Big Center That’s Gonna Get a Max Deal Already? Why Would They Spend Another Maced Contract For Another Center?

  • Gary

    Who give a flying f*** what Karl wants or what makes him happy. His job is to coach the players he’s given and win a Championship. He’s proven that his two PG strategy sucks come playoff time. Why are we even thinking about enabling him by bringing back Andre? Oh, I forgot, Nuggets fans are happy just getting to the Playoffs, and so is George. He’s not a good fit? So bring him back? Gimme a break!

    • Gerardo

      I agree that’s why we won’t win a championship with karl, and we won’t go far in the playoffs if his crunch time line up is miller Lawson aaa gallo and Harrington, and we’re ganna be stuck with him till 2014. In my opinion hes one of the most overrated coaches ever. 2 guard line ups has never worked with iverson-carter, billups-carter, billups-Lawson, Lawson-felton, and Lawson miller, yet he continues to do it. And he goes small for the end of the game and in the post game press conference he blames it because they couldn’t rebound…plays mind games with players, there’s a reason Why alot of players didn’t like playing for him, and whoever thinks he’s done a good job with the nuggets or is a good coach for us then they don’t know a lick about basketball..

      • Ryan

        Actually the tyray felson combo worked really well. The rest of the 2 pg lineups didn’t work out too well though

        • Gerardo

          If it worked so well then why did we get a first round exit again? 2 guard lineups never work

      • Gary

        Bringing back Andre simply endorses the ‘it’s ok to lose because it puts us in a good place’ strategy that the 2 PG offense gives us. When we don’t get critical rebounds, it’s not because 4 of our 5 players are shorter and playing out of position. With Karl, it’s that they didn’t try hard enough. Blame it on the players.

        Bringing back Andre guarantees just three things:

        1. Ty won’t grow into the team leader we need.
        2. The regular season will end without home court advantage, and
        3. The Nuggets exit in the first round.

        But we’ll be in a ‘good place’ for next year…

        3.

  • Landry

    Like the name, but I don’t understand why it is a foregone conclusion that Fournier is stashed overseas. He doesn’t want to play for a bad team and GK will still not play him if he is stashed for a year increasing the waiting time for 2 years rather than the typical 1 for a GK prospect. Additionally, I like that the nuggs don’t overpay except for their own players and attempt to get deals in FA like Brewer, Andre, and Rudy.

  • DAN

    I don’t think we need anyone in FA. Just sign McGee and save money to extend Lawson. I could see us using one or two of our extra bigs to get a back up pg but that’s about it short of a Chandler trade. Even if we did trade Chandler what would we want back?

  • Trevor

    I hope the Nuggets low ball McGee. I don’t see him improving much from where he is now, and he is not worth 12 mil a year. He is good for what he brings but I don’t think it is the best situation for him in Denver where defense is not the focus. The Nuggets should just save their money.

    • DAN

      It is so hard to find athletic 7 footers that can block shots and rebound that you can’t just “save your money”. Without JaVale Denver would be a far inferior team. While the case can be made that he is not worth 12 mil. is Hibbert worth the max? Market determines value. That’s the conundrum, we really don’t want to pay him that much but it’s better than the alternative.

      • nugznazty

        it’s been pretty obvious this year that hibbert is worth the max. mcgee is not worth max money (as of now) and I doubt we see any team try it. unfortunately asik’s contract makes him like 10-11 million

  • MongoSlade3000

    McGee is a must sign in my opinion. 7 foot tall athletes with 7’6″ wingspans are too rare. He played hard for us and even with his limitations you’re getting a guy that is capable of averaging a double, double while being top 3 year after year in blocked shots.

    I say we turn the second team over to Stone and let Andre walk. This makes me kind of nervous because I honestly don’t like Ty as a floor general. But, he has to put up. I’d try to find a veteran PG that can shoot. Heck a Luke Ridnour type. Just a solid guy with a reliable jump shot.

  • Poz_303

    What is the feeling on Birdman? Does anyone think he gets amnestied on July 11th?

    We have 12 players under contract. If we amnesty Birdman we are down to 11 giving us four roster spots

    One of those spots is definitely for McGee. Giving us three spots.

    Logically it would seem Andre Miller, Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller fill the three available spots.

    If Nuggets keep Fournier in France there is one possible FA move available.

    I would like to see nuggets go for a young PF like a JJ Hickson who we could probably get for below MLE.

    Obviously if Andre Miller leaves then a second FA move would need to be completed to get a FA point guard.

  • Avarice

    I think a trade could be possible, especially since no one saw the Nene trade coming. I would love to trade some assets for a proven allstar- we have so much depth that we can afford it. That said even without a big trade I think this team is in a good spot right now. They will be competitive and fun to watch.

    I hope they do a lot of development on Quincy. I think he could be a starter in this league, and who knows, maybe an allstar someday.

  • NuggFan forLife

    Though it’s hard to accept, I do agree Andre should be leaving Denver. Karl has to move on and look forward to using Julyan Stone. If Stone can just develop a shooting touch, then it will be possible. If Miller is that important, then why didn’t he make an effort on veteran leadership like Al Harrington? If Miller ever leaves, then Denver has to get a PG willing to become a mentor to young guys but at a cheap price. Take Anthony Carter for example

  • AAA

    Miller has to go.

    Lawson deserves a chance to be the unquestioned star leader on this team and miller is holding him back

    Plus with the abundance of wings that deserve playing time – Afflalo, gallo, chandler, brewer and hamilton, they deserve the minutes at the off guard position rather than playing 2 point guards all the time.

    We should sign a young cheap guy like jonny Flynn
    Or get someone like armon Johnson or a cheap veteran to back up julyan stone

  • AAA

    Most likely scenario is we re-sign javale and miller/another veteran PG

    We sign Qunicy Miller and Fournier despite his preference spends another year in France

    That will give us a 15 man roster

    I think it is the obvious choice to amnesty bird because apart from big al he is the only available candidate. Big al still contributes and is probably tradeable plus him contract becomes largely unguarrenteed in its final few seasons.

    If he was amnestied I would sign a young guy like Craig brackins to a small one year deal or sign Evan Fournier if he’s so desperate to come to th U.S despite it probably best for his development to stay in Europe for one more year due to the lack to zero playing time he’ll receive

  • Aaron

    Why Cant Quincy Miller Turn Back into The Player He Was in Highschool?? (Top 5 Prospect). Quincy Miller Plays Exactly Like…..Lebron When He Was Drafted! Why is Everyone Doubting This Guy??? I Can See Him Being A 5 Time All-Star! Call Me Retarded, idc, But I Don’t Understand Why This Kid is Extremely Underrated?

    • AAA

      I’m with you. I thought he would have been a steal at 20. But pick 38? He might take a year or two but gallo should eventually be traded to make room for this guy

  • AAA

    Andre Miller has just reached an agreement for a three year deal with Denver

    • AAA

      Stays in line with philosophy of keeping the team together for another year and also how Masai Ujiri like to hoard assets and keeping future deals open.

    • dynamo.joe

      Those 3 yrs better not be guaranteed.

  • A big stub

    Andre was amazing last year with his professionalism, durability, toughness, and moxie. Not only was he their best playmaker, he was their nastiest enforcer. Check out his Code Red on Ibaka when he was having the ten block game. He was teaching this team how to play. Has value far beyond his playing skills — which are still solid.

    • ryanvdonk

      professionalism? he didnt try at all for most of the season, giving zero effort on the defensive end till after the trade deadline when he realized he wasn’t going to get a starting opportunity…pretty much the opposite of professional.

    • Ryan

      Yeah, I’m not sure what games you were watching, but it doesn’t sound like they were Nuggets games. Andre wandered around the court about 90% of last season with the same intensity (especially on defense) as a stoned Burger King employee…

    • A big stub

      I was watching the game where he separated his shoulder, shook it off, and didn’t miss a single game. He’s 37, and he was never quick. Flying around the court on D is not his game. But answering the bell every time, getting a clueless McGee engaged, and leading a scared Nuggets back from 2-0 hole against the Lakers is. Don’t hate the weaknesses, as he’s a warrior.

  • dynamo.joe

    If your objective is to force Karl to play Stone, you don’t let Andre go and bring in a cheap vet. You force his hand by letting Andre go and bringing in an unsigned rookie PG like Machado. Stone now is the cheap vet.

    If you can’t sign Mcgee because someone offers him more than 10-11M/yr, then you have to have Anderson. So, you can’t amnesty the Bird unless Mcgee is resigned.

    There is an available 2 guard, Landry Fields and Denver loves its ex-NY players.

    Here’s what I want to know, could you get Ryan Anderson or Ilyasova for the money cleared by Amnesthytizing Big Al?

  • Beau

    Plain and simple, the Nuggets need a go-to all star type player if we are going to even compete for a championship. We need to go for a guy like Rudy Gay or Pau Gasol in my opinion. Both teams have been open about trading those guys and it would give the Nuggets the 20 ppg scorer that we have lacked since Melo left. I personally would want Gay to replace Galinari because I don’t really want Gasol to threaten Faried or McGee’s growth on our team. But Gay is a proven go to scorer and could be the number one option our team, something that Galinari has proven that he cannot step up and do. What are everyone’s opinions?

    • Ryan

      I like Gay as a player, but his contract would cripple the Nuggets cap flexibility unless memphis took back Afflalo or Gallo’s, which would be counter-productive. You have to remember, he will be making more money than Kevin Durant in 2014-15. If the price was lower, I would be all for it

  • Matt

    I know it’s wishful thinking, but I think finding a way to pry Aldridge away from the Trailblazers would be perfect. They need a SF and more bigs. We could offer Chandler, a combo of Mozzy and/or Koufos, and a future #1 (we clearly don’t have a need for 1st rd picks any time soon). Not sure if that would be enough, but it could put them in the ballpark.

    • Peter

      I would love to build around L.A., but the Blazers would never do that deal.

  • Craig

    I think everyone should just calm down. The current front office has done a great job to this point assembling this team. They walked into a nightmare with Melo and rely screwed the Knicks with that trade, they pick up Rudy and Brewer for a second round pick. They have a good if not great draft last year. They sign and move Nene for JM instead of just losing him to free agency and this year the draft is to early to tell. They will hold tight on the majority of this team to see how they improve and then will think to move some of those assets in the next off season if the direction of the team isn’t what they want.
    Most experts thought this team was rebuilding without Melo and they are far from it.
    You people are a bunch of whiners and complainers so just knock it off and enjoy the athletic, young, up and coming team we have.
    These guys are young let them develop a little before you arm chair too much.