The latest edition of our ongoing 3-on-3 series centers around one — one player that intrigues each of our writers in three different areas of the game. With hardly any roster space left for free agents, a serious need for star power and a Summer League team boasting with young talent, the fact remains: The Nuggets could certainly use an adjustment or two. Though we aren’t general managers and don’t control the fluidity of the roster, we can at least point out several players that we feel would benefit the Nuggets in some fashion — which is exactly what we aim to do, 3-on-3 style.
1. Although the roster is essentially full, if you could chose, who is the one available free agent you want to see the Nuggets sign? (2012 free agent list)
Charlie: Before I answer the question, I should say that I’m fine with the Nuggets sitting out free agency and I suspect they will. This crop of free agents just isn’t very good and you need only look at the Dallas Mavericks for proof. They sacrificed their aging championship core to maximize cap space this summer and needless to say, it hasn’t paid off. The Mavs now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to fill out their roster by overspending in a market where Gerald Wallace got $40 million guaranteed. There’s simply no reason the Nuggets shouldn’t keep their flexibility intact so they can spend at a later date when team needs will become a little more clear. That being said, I’m intrigued by taking a flier on the recently amnestied Elton Brand. Denver would likely have to amnesty Birdman or Harrington to create the requisite room, but they have more than enough depth to do so. Brand’s polish in the post is a great compliment to Faried and something sorely lacking in the rest of the Nuggets bigs. I don’t expect it to happen, but that would be an opportunity with little to no risk and a lot of potential reward.
Jeremy: I am going to carry my philosophy of the draft into this question. They should look for players with potential. I narrowed my list down to Anthony Randolph, who did not receive a qualifying offer from Minnesota, or Gerald Green. I have always been a sucker for Randolph’s athleticism and potential. If you are honest with yourself you’ll admit to being intrigued by a McGee/Randolph front court; however, I have to give the nod to Gerald Green. Despite the glut of wings on the roster I think Denver needs a shooter to come off the bench behind Afflalo. Green would thrive in Denver’s high octane system, plus, he drilled almost 40 percent of his threes last season. More importantly, he proved he has grown from a crazy athlete into a legitimate basketball player.
Kalen: While I was tempted to go with a smart, veteran locker room presence — think Grant Hill, Anthony Tolliver or Eduardo Najera — who could mentor Denver’s young core and act as a stabilizing force when adversity strikes, I have to settle on Chris Kaman. Even with three 7-footers, the Nuggets front court situation is still shaky. I like having big bodies just as much as the next guy but fans are fooling themselves if they think Koufos and Mozgov are going to save the day come playoff time. Having a skilled, veteran 7-footer who can actually play at a high level would prove invaluable for such a young squad. This would also allow Harrington to move back to his natural position at small forward, therefore decreasing the amount of “small ball” to be played in the process. Additionally, Kaman is a full-blown redneck who would likely find comfort (shooting something?) in the Rocky Mountains, which he has yet to have had in his NBA career.
2. Who is the one player you’d like to see the Nugget trade for?
Charlie: This is another difficult one to answer, because it just so happens the one thing the Nuggets lack (a star) is by far the riskiest and most difficult to acquire. Denver is not a legitimate destination for top free agents, while the second tier guys they could trade for don’t come without serious flaws or financial risk. For that reason, I’d love to see the Nuggets stay young and developmental rather than trying to patch up their weaknesses with guys who don’t significantly move the talent needle. Derrick Williams, the former No. 2 pick of the Timberwolves, is pretty clearly on his way out of Minnesota and extremely likely to see his declining trade value plummet further. The Wolves are hard after cap space and while taking on another project like Williams doesn’t help the Nuggets now, it’s the type of long-term gamble Denver must be willing to take.
Jeremy: I have tried to limit my options to players who are realistically available and while Dwight Howard is available, realistically that scenario is not even worth discussing. With that in mind, I would love to see Andre Iguodala in a Nuggets uniform playing shooting guard. Iguodala makes plays at both ends of the court and has quietly improved his 3-point shooting throughout his career (39.4 percent last season). A package including Afflalo, Stone, Chandler and Mozgov or Koufos should at least get Philly’s attention.
Kalen: Josh Smith. Plain and simple. This guy has been on Nuggets Nation’s radar forever so it’s about time he officially suits up in blue and yellow. He’s one of the most underrated (versatile, athletic, defensive) players in the league who’s been on the verge of making the All-Star team the last several years. While he’s played power forward in Atlanta his true position is at the three. He’s been very vocal about wanting a fresh start and at only 26, Denver is the absolute perfect place for him to land considering he could be the missing piece to a blossoming young core. Because he’s in the last year of his contract the Hawks can’t expect a king’s ransom for his services; therefore, something as simple as Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler alone might seal the deal. Once in a Nuggets uniform it’s almost a guarantee Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke would be able to re-sign him given how well they’ve done in recent contract negotiations.
3. Who is the one player you want to see excel most at Summer League?
Charlie: Without a doubt, I think this is the summer of Jordan Hamilton. Despite a less than stellar rookie year, Hamilton showed glimpses of a well-rounded offensive game. With Rudy Fernandez gone and Al Harrington coming off yet another major surgery, he’ll have the opportunity to see minutes both on the wing and in the backcourt with the likes of Miller and Lawson. I have no doubt Hamilton will help the Nuggets next season if he improves his focus and shows he does not need the ball in order to be effective. Hamilton has been a natural scorer his whole career, but I think he needs to get quicker and show the coaches he can fill a variety of roles on both ends of the floor. Hamilton’s ability to shoot, get to the basket and rebound makes him the most intriguing prospect on the Summer League squad and I have a lot of confidence he’ll make the most of his opportunity next week.
Jeremy: That is like asking me to pick which of my kids I want to see in heaven. Faried already has already established himself as the starting power forward. I really want Stone to succeed, but he is blocked by Lawson and Miller. I desperately want to see Quincy Miller prove that he was the steal of the draft, but he will not see the court much this season regardless of how well he plays in Vegas. That leaves Jordan Hamilton as the player with the best mix of potential to blow up and actually earn playing time with the Nuggets this season so I am going to choose him.
Kalen: Jordan Hamilton as a rotational player next season already seems to be a foregone conclusion — and for good reasons. He should be better than everyone aside from Faried. In other words, I don’t want him to play well, I expect him to play well. The guy who needs a convincing performance the most is without question, Evan Fournier. While fans have had the chance to see American-born players like Miller, Hamilton, Faried and even Stone in live, full-length game action, Fournier has been much more difficult to track. This will probably be the first opportunity for many fans to see the guy Ujiri chose over Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger and John Jenkins up close and personal. If he struggles the pessimism will only perpetuate. While it’s unfair to expect a dominating performance, it will be crucial for Fournier to at least hold his own and show glimpses of what made him such a high selection in the Draft. In theory, if he’s been playing against full-grown men since he was 16 then he should be able to handle Summer League.
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