This past week was a very active one from the Nuggets’ standpoint. In addition to competing in the Las Vegas Summer League, the Nuggets amnestied Chris “Birdman” Andersen, signed Anthony Randolph and re-signed JaVale McGee. To gain a better understanding of what these moves entail, we’ve called upon our writers to dish out analysis in true Roundball Mining Company fashion — also known as 3-on-3. With three different big man scenarios, this edition will aim to attach three different words from three different writers to each of the players discussed.
What word (followed by many others) would you use to describe…
1. JaVale McGee’s new contract?
Charlie: Risky. Perhaps the biggest one taken under the new leadership regime of Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri. I have no problem with the contract or the way negotiations were handled. The Nuggets did what was necessary within the confines of the CBA and the free agency market for centers. That being said, I don’t think anyone truly knows the real JaVale McGee yet. He must be willing to continue his transformation as player more than ever, despite the fact he was just handsomely rewarded for coming off the bench in a three-month honeymoon with the Nuggets. I believe JaVale is misunderstood as a bad character guy and player who is difficult to teach, but I haven’t seen enough to say that I’m really sure.
Jeremy: Investment. NBA players have been compared to corporations. Every player is his own business. Some provide a better product than others and some are better run than others. The Denver Nuggets just converted $44 million into stock in JaVale McGee, Inc. When compared to the other investments made this summer (primarily Hibbert, Inc. and Lopez, Inc.), this investment is a sound one. As with any investment there is risk: The return on the investment may not recover their sizable expenditure. Of course there is also hope the investment pays off. There are very few businesses that have the raw materials that McGee, Inc. possesses and at the end of four years, the stock the Nuggets purchased could turn out to be a bargain.
Kalen: Necessary. Call me stubborn, but I simply can’t look at JaVale McGee’s contract and think Denver got a steal. Yes, he is significantly cheaper than Brook Lopez or Roy Hibbert but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s still massively overpayed. Maybe it’s the basketball purist in me that despises the NBA “market.” Then again, a talking head (can’t remember who) on TV brought up a great point the other day when he said, if all big men are payed at the same inflated rate then none of them are actually “overpayed.” The fact is, this contract was entirely necessary and all things considered, $11 million per year won’t asphyxiate the franchise. I’ll still cringe whenever I look at it, but I figure over time I’ll build up an immunity. The real problem it presents is with future contracts, specifically Ty Lawson’s. There are already rumblings Lawson will be the highest paid player on the team, and if true, that will be the real mistake as distributing point guard contracts based on the market value of today’s NBA center is essentially hopping on the interstate to Luxury Tax City.
2. the Anthony Randolph signing?
Charlie: Brilliant. There’s just no two ways about it. There is basically no risk here and so much potential reward. Jeremy’s article did a great job outlining the reasons this might turn into one of the best contracts in the NBA. By adding Randolph to their stockpile of high-potential bigs, the odds that one of them making it and perhaps becoming a special player is greatly increased.
Jeremy: Savvy. I had already gone on record with my support for the Nuggets signing Randolph, who is now on the same roster as two of his classmates from the 2008 draft: Danilo Gallinari and McGee. The combined annual salary of his two new teammates is ten times as much as Randolph’s. Needless to say, Randolph’s career has not exactly taken off. He has to realize this is his last chance to recalibrate his trajectory. If he cannot make things work playing for a winning organization that is committed to player development, the three year, $6 million contract he signed may be his last. The good news is, even if Randolph never improves, he can already outperform his contact; however, just like with McGee, if he can begin to play to his elevated talent, the Nuggets will have made out like bandits.
Kalen: Luxurious. Tell me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this signing totally resemble someone who’s finally made it and decided to splurge on a sports car? They have the house, the family — the business is thriving like never before — and now all they want is a little something for themselves. Not even a brand new, top-of-the-line dream machine (which is really out of their price range). Just a nice, used sports car that really purrs when the petal’s to the metal. To me, Randolph is Masai Ujiri’s used sports car. Fans are fooling themselves if they think Randolph is going to suddenly transform into some kind of deadly force now that he’s in Denver. He’s probably not going to ever be used as much as anyone would like. But he’ll always be there, waiting, ready to go for that thrill ride whenever the “regulars” just aren’t cutting it.
3. Chris “Birdman” Andersen’s tenure in Denver?
Charlie: Fun. Birdman did what was asked of him throughout his Nuggets career. He represented himself with class and dignity on the court despite his missteps and transgressions off it. I never liked signing him to a five-year deal, but at that time it was necessary considering the Nuggets cap situation. His time simply ran its course with the Nuggets before his contract did. I will have great memories of his Nuggets career even though I am disappointed he never adjusted after his gimmick was outed by the rest of the league. If he showed the Nuggets any ability to resist being pump-faked to death by opposing players, Bird might still be a valuable piece of the rotation. Even so, it’s simply time to move on and I hope everything works out for him in the future.
Jeremy: Colorful. Back before blogs had been invented, I ran a sports website with a friend of mine. Every article was hand crafted in HTML with help from a template. It sure was a pain in the tuckus. We focused on our favorite teams, but wrote about everything. It was during that period of my life that the Nuggets called Chris Andersen up from the D-League. We mocked Dan Issel and Kim Hughes for wasting a roster spot on a guy they knew nothing about because he was the No. 1 in the initial D-League Draft (“He was the No. 1 pick in the draft, he must be awesome!”). Our ignorance was exposed as Birdman quickly became a fan favorite. Whether it was on the court, off the court, overseas, or on his body, Birdman’s basketball career has always been colorful. He was a rags to riches hoops fairy tale and made sure everyone knew he was enjoying the ride and we enjoyed it along with him.
Kalen: Disappointing. I know, I know. It’s “negative.” It’s predictable. But it’s so true. Birdman was such a great story when he returned to Denver in 2008-09. He went from rock bottom to soaring across the sky and he did it through hard work and dedication. He was a key part of why the Nuggets made their second Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history. I remember games where he, alone, changed the outcome of the contest with his incredible energy on the defensive side of the ball. You couldn’t find anybody who didn’t want him back with the Nuggets following that season. If you ask me, the whole “Birdman” persona went to his head. He thought he was larger than life. Everything was about “Birdman” and not Chris Andersen, the basketball player. He totally lost his fundamental feeling for the game and became infatuated with the big play, rather than doing what got him back in the NBA in the first place. His most recent troubles with the law ultimately sealed his fate with the Nuggets. I really hope Andersen figures it out again. I’d love to see him with a title contender, playing the role he did with the Nuggets his first year back. In the end, I’d just like to thank Chris Andersen for everything he did while in Denver. He was truly a sight to see.