3-on-3: Big man moves

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.

  • Landry

    48 Minute Dilemma GK most likely scenarios next year
    PG Ty Lawson (33mins) A. 3000 (15mins)
    SG AAA (25mins) A.3000 (10mins) J-Ham (8mins) Gallo (5mins)
    SF Gallo (20mins) Chandler (20mins) Brewer (8mins)
    PF Faried (20mins) Harrington (18mins) AR(10mins)
    C McGeezie (25mins) Mozgov (10mins) Koufos (10mins) Al (3mins)
    Human Victory Cigars barring injuries- Stoned, Q. Miller, E. Fournier

    • chinatown

      i think faried will be getting more than 20 min a game, probably at the expense of koufos or mozgov

    • Evan Woodruff

      Nice, great job with that it’s great. Im impressed with how much i agree. However i do think faried will get way more minits.

    • Head of the Quincy Miller Fan Club

      You’ve stretched the minutes out too much. GK is already on the record saying Faried will get more minutes than last year when he was getting 25 so why would his minutes decrease? And we aren’t playing 6 bigs a night just cause he have them. GK will mix and match but no way he plays Moz KK and Randolph in the same game without a couple of injuries.
      No way is Gallo playing minutes at the 2. Chandler is way more suited to that. AAA gallo and chandler are getting more minutes.

      And oh I don’t think anyone has ever played 13 guys in one game since it’s not legal…

      GK will probably ride the hot hand and put 82 different rotations out there throughout the season but I guarentee you that none of them will look anything like this

    • dynamo.joe

      Recent history says AAA and Gallo get the highest burn on the team. Around 35 mins or so. They are also among the highest paid players on the team. Right or wrong that seems to have an effect on playing time.

      Honestly the only way Chandler gets that time is if they are trying to showcase him for a trade.

      Faried is the best player on the team (assuming he isn’t murdered in summer league by Q. Miller). So giving him 20 minutes a game is probably grounds for a class action malpractice suit.

      While I personally don’t have a problem giving some or even all of Big Al’s minutes to AR to see what he can do, the idea that Karl would take minutes from Al is laughable.

      Also, Koufos deserves more minutes (but I don’t expect him to get them).

    • Zack

      Unfortunately you list 16 players (including the 2 rooks and Stone). We can only have 15 on our roster. My guess is Stone gets cut to make room for Q Miller.

      Also, my guess is that Randolph doesn’t get too many minutes unless someone (Faried, Big Al, etc. gets hurt). Faried will (should) be playing starters minutes (which means at least 30 per game).

      It’s going to be somewhat difficult for Karl to mix and match his minutes wisely. I think it’s a bit unfortunate that he HAS to use Andre as a backup 2 (in his stupid 2 PG lineup). I hate that lineup. Especially with Fournier (and Stone, although he’s hurt and prob. gone) able to provide minutes as a backup PG and in a “2 PG lineup”.

      Scary how deep we go. So deep that we have to cut someone to sign a rookie.

  • Evan Woodruff

    Hey Kalen, was this talking head Woody Paige? On that shoe that gives the points? ( i have no idea the name )

    • Head of the Quincy Miller Fan Club

      Around the horn

      • SmokinNugs

        Tony Reali is the “shoe that gives points”

  • Chris

    You think that they will play a 13 man Rotation?

    • Zack

      I think they can’t do that per the NBA’s rules.

  • GK4Prez

    Wait, so Romney was right when he stated that corporations are people to?

    • SmokinNugs

      Legally corporations are people….. BUS 101 : Intro to Business

  • Young Pep Dash

    Charlie and other fans,
    I really like the Randolph signing and it is low risk but you’re acting like this is a guy that just need playing time to breakout. He has major character and work ethic issues. I hope he can finally get it because he has so much potential but some guys just never get it.

    I’m probably nitpicking here but the fan reactions have bugged me a bit.

    I don’t want to here about his great stats in April as a writer on this site alluded to earlier. He puts up big numbers playing for lottery teams vying for a high draft pick in meaningless games.

    One of the main writers on Hoopshype wrote recently – “Once saw him work out before a game and realized immediately why he has not reached expectations.” – That doesn’t sound good.

    Some people have used McGee has an example of guy who has changed his attitude/ production since arriving in Denver. They are different guys. McGee gets unfairly labled as ‘bad character’ guy when really he is just a talented yet raw goofball with a low basketball IQ – but his intentions and work ethic are fine. Randolph has character/ work ethic issues

    I hope I haven’t misrepresented myself – I like the signing because it is low risk, high reward and maybe some of Faried’s hustle will rub off on him and I hope he reaches his infinite potential – HOWEVER I just think that low risk high reward phrase is a cop-out; it almost suggets that he has a 50-50 chance of suceeding when really the chances he becomes more than a ninth man on a middle of the road team is slim.

    Still a good deal hope we can develop the most athletic and talented 3 big rotation in the league with faried, mcgee and randolph

    • Zack

      I will always call a deal like the low risk high reward. The worst thing that happens is Randolph doesn’t get his act together and sits on the end of the bench, getting playing time only in the garbage time. It’s low risk because he’s getting paid basically nothing (3 yr/$6 mil is NOTHING). The reward is if he can turn his potential into something more, and become a rotational guy. He has the potential to become a good basketball player, and I sure hope he does in Denver.

  • dynamo.joe

    1. Reasonable. Is he overpaid? Sure, by the same 25% or so the most bigs are overpaid. I read over on wagesofwins that Mcgee’s “true” value, based on production over the last 2 years was a bit over $9M. So, $11M is a reasonable overpay for a starting center. Also hoping 4yr/44 includes incentives per Masai standard operating procedure.

    2. Insurance. Given Mozgov’s injury history I would not have wanted to go into the season with just him and K2 at the 5. I believe the decision to amnesty Bird was made long ago, but wasn’t acted on because they needed him as insurance against a free agency departure by the Big Mcgeezy.

    When the amnesty deadline approached without having signed an extension with McGee and probably preliminary contract negotiations completed with AR’s people they realized they could have their cake and eat it too. They get a guy who still has untapped potential rather than likely to decline quickly with age. Probably more importantly they free up a few $M in cap room. And they got that insurance for that day or 2 when JaVale could have left.

    3. Immature. You probably think that’s a dig at Bird, but really it’s a description of his most enthusiastic fan base. Was there a kid under 14 or so that didn’t think “THE BIRD MAN” was the greatest player ever? I know he was the favorite player of all of my nephews.

    I just had to tell the 8yr old that Bird got fired while we were watching summer league. Crestfallen, I think, is an accurate description.

    As for myself, I think if he got picked up by Miami I might almost be capable of rooting for them. And that’s high praise indeed.

    • dynamo.joe

      Oh ya, Al’s latest surgery probably had somethig to do with this also.

  • HermanVanNess

    McGee deal had to be done. He’s possesses enough skill to go with his incredible length and otherworldly athleticism that even if he barely improves he’ll still be in the upper echelon of centers in the league. If McGee is used solely as a rebounder, shot blocker, rim runner, oop recipient, I honestly think only Howard, Bynum, and Gasol are better at that position.

    Here’s where McGee may not be the greatest fit. He needs to be on a team with an upper tier scorer. The Nuggets still do not have a beat you off the dribble type of scorer outside of Ty who is limited by his size.

    Love Randolph move. Not big money for big upside. I can just see AR, Manimal, McGee, going on swat fests and out running the other players at their positions. Nothing wrong with a long and athletic front line.

  • Alex

    Listen, I love being a deep team just as much as the next person, but we simply do not have room for all the players we are carrying right now.

    We need to package a group of players to make an upgrade and potentially get another starter.

    Either Mozgov or Koufos has to go.

    One out of Brewer/Chandler/Gallo needs to go, and maybe tow of them if Q Miller can prove he belongs and can play a year or two down the road.

    Something also needs to happen with the SG’s. Maybe not this year, but once we have a better idea of who J Ham and Fournier are going to turn out to be. There is still too much depth to be realistically carrying if both youngsters turn out to be players.

    I like the idea of packaging Mozgov, Chandler, and brewer or J Ham to try to get an upgrade and a pick maybe. Someone like Rudy Gay, Iguodala, or whoever might be available.

    • eddi0

      Agree Alex. What is one thing that is in common with championship teams/dynasties? They have 2-3 bonafide studs on their STARTING five, bench is typically cheap/role players. Think of the 80’s Lakers bench, MJ Bulls of the 90’s bench…they were all role players who weren’t paid a lot. Do you really remember the bench players and how much depth a team has? No, you remember the starters and how great they performed at the highest level. Depth from 1-15 is a great idea on paper due to injuries/matchups but it doesn’t win championships. Name one championship team that doesn’t have at least two bonafide starting studs on their team? Pat Riley’s “Big Three” idea is actually valid and has proven year in and year out.

      We need to get more talent with our starters (SG and SF namely) and we have the resources to do so just need the right deal. I personally think Gallo and AAA are the two we need to include in any package as that I think we’ve seen the best from them (particularly AAA).

  • SmokinNugs

    I love how everyone wants to trade people away because we’re “too deep.” Does anyone remember how many injuries we had last year? Being “too deep” is what allows us to play through those stretches and theoretically not have a March like we did last year. (or was it February?) If we trade away all our depth then when people get hurt we look like everyone else and have to start someone way under qualified. I’m all for moving a player or two but anything more than that takes away one of this teams only advantages.

    Also why would we trade away REAL talent to sign a player like Q Miller? Everyone is raving about this kid that can’t put up more than 6 points against summer league players! Yea I know blah blah blah potential, whatever, dude needs to play in the D league and learn the game. He shoulda stayed in college to develop cause he’s got what 3 years of high school ball and 1 year of college ball? So he’s got 4 years of moderately competitive basketball experience which obviously is not enough as he’s no where near ready for NBA play. Offer him the $1 contract, let him reject it, go play in the D League for a year and we’ll evaluate him then. I’ll take injured Stone over Q Miller any day.

    • eddi0

      Please see my response to Alex above, but I disagree about depth vs. talent argument you make. I do agree that Q Miller needs to go to the D League and we need to retain Stone. I don’t like having just A Miller/Ty to man the point alone. Ty is a horse and will get 35-40 mins/night but Dre has been a warrior in terms of health but even the healthiest players eventually will get hurt. Stone will be back in December supposedly so at least we’d only be down to 2 PG’s for about 1-2 months. Stone might not “wow” you with his outside shot but his defensive fundamentals and pass first mentality is exactly what we need to counterbalance Ty/Andre. Miller’s frame and athleticism look great but he clearly needs quite a bit more development. He’s young and very raw, potential is there, but he clearly does not deserve a spot on the active roster.

      Stone in, Miller Out (NBDL)

      • DAN

        A bright side to only having 2 pg on the roster. Karl might be forced to abandone small ball and actually play J Ham.

      • SmokinNugs

        You said you disagree with me but then spent your whole post talking about how Quincy needs development and we need to keep Stone….. which is EXACTLY what I said.

    • Alex

      The reason I would rather package depth in a trade for fewer players with more talent is because I would rather contend for a title if healthy, and miss the playoffs entirely if we have bad injuries than I would be the 6th-8th seed in the playoffs year after year regardless of injuries.

      In the NBA, a 75 cent player is simply worth more than two 50 cent players.

      • eddi0

        Well said and succint

      • SmokinNugs

        I would rather make the Playoffs than miss the Playoffs. 100% of teams that win the Finals make the Playoffs.

  • Andrew

    Wow, this is the first time I remembering disagreeing with Kalen on everything.

    1. Business. I laugh at the word overpaid. The market is the market. There is no such thing as overpaid, unless you have a monopoly or inelastic demand (see Health Care). The Nuggets think they made a good and necessary deal, so there is no overpayment here. Also, good 7′ footers are the single most important commodity in the NBA. It is what it is. All of us are excited to have McGeezie in the fold. Don’t deny it, if the Nuggets had not gotten this done, we’d be looking at Moz and Koufos and another assured early exit (much as I like these two as role players).
    2. Smart. The Nuggets needed some size in the PF position for those match ups where Faried struggles because of his height (hello, Gasol). AR might not be the right guy, but it is worth a try at that low price.
    3. Fun. I’ll go with Charlie on this one. Birdman wasn’t the best BBall player, but he was just fun to watch. I guess I am immature like dynamo-joe, but I’ll miss Birdzilla and hope he does well in Miami or wherever.

  • Eddie

    Kalen- spellcheck, please.

    • DAN

      Spelling is over rated.

  • John

    I personally can’t wait to see what becomes of McGee and Koufous…

    With some good coaching on fundamentals(Hakeem, P. Motumbo, Hunt), and some weight training, they can be really good. I honestly believe McGee has the potential to be a dominant C.

    McGee tweeted a week ago, that he’s already put on 15 lbs. of muscle without sacrificing speed, working with Hess. Another 15, and he will own Bynum, and probably Howard too. He already out-jumps everybody in the NBA.

    … and Koufous, jeez, 2K is only 22, plenty of time to develop. He already has a good touch. I could even see him developing into a PF.

    Mozzy, however, seems to lack a certain level of toughness. He is a good back up, but seems to injure easily. Rolls an ankle and acts like he got shot.

  • http://roundballminingcompany.com Mark from Charlotte

    Good move Mr Masai Ujiri on the big men. GK has the talent on this roster to win the Western Conference this year. However, if GK can’t get the job done, he needs to be fired after the season.