On June 27, Nuggets fans got their first up-close glimpse of how the Nuggets’ front office would operate with Tim Connelly at the helm. Like past drafts, the Nuggets were active. They traded down from the 27th pick to ultimately select Erick Green and sent last year’s starting center to Memphis for a package that included stretch-four, Darrell Arthur. In the end it was a busy night with implications that could be felt for years, which is exactly what we hope break down in our latest 5-0n-5. As always, we encourage you to play along by answering the questions we posed to our writers in the comments section below.
1. What was your overall impression of the Nuggets’ first draft under new management?
Joel: Too soon to judge. Erick Green certainly appears to have major steal potential and if he pans out better than some of the 25-30 picks Connelly will be looking pretty smart a year or two from now. I must admit to having held a remote hope that Miller would be off the roster by the end of draft night. But there’s still plenty of time for that.
Matt: I don’t think there’s much too really take from it. They got Green, which was nice, but that seemed more luck than anything. The team doesn’t have a ton of room under the cap if they want to bring Iguodala back, so I don’t mind the Nuggets getting out from under a guaranteed first-round contract in a weaker draft. Green is just a bonus on top of that.
David: It’s difficult to judge a draft a couple of years after the fact, much less a couple of days, and it’s even more difficult to get a grasp on the competence of a front office from a couple of second-round picks; however, they knew at least one of the players they wanted would still be there at 46 and not only got Green at a cheaper, second-round rate, but received cash for their unnecessary first-round pick. That seems like a pretty good start.
Tom: I didn’t have high expectations for this draft. At best, the Nuggets were going to come away with a specialist bench player with potential. Not only did they do that by picking up Erick Green, but they managed to pick him up 19 spots later than I expected him to be drafted, coming away with extra cash and a little bit of extra cap space in the process. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was a successful draft.
Kalen: It had its ups and downs. The Nuggets obviously liked Green, so trading down nearly 20 spots and still being able to grab him was a shrewd move. But passing up on guys like Livio Jean-Charles, Archie Goodwin and Ricky Ledo could come back to haunt them. My question is: If they didn’t want the responsibility of a guaranteed contract this year, why not just swap for a future first rounder instead of going halfway in on their plan?
2. Did the Nuggets get fleeced in the Koufos-Arthur deal, as some have suggested?
Joel: I think “fleeced” is too strong a word, but Denver should have milked more value from a Koufos trade, and the move feels forced. I’m somewhat underwhelmed by the Arthur addition. He may be able to help by spreading the floor and playing pick-and-roll defense, but low efficiency and rebounding rates are concerning, and the two Nuggets power forwards who will presumably be atop the depth chart are now both undersized.
Matt: I liked Kosta but I don’t think any trade where he is the best player going out can be considered fleecing. I think Denver will feel the effects of losing Koufos defensively at center but Arthur will help plenty and eliminates the need for Denver to go small as often, and to play Anthony Randolph at all which should both help them a bit.
David: I don’t know how someone could get “fleeced” in a trade revolving around two players on the periphery of slightly above average. Koufos’ main contribution to Denver was his capacity to do everything a big does at a competent level. With Faried both undersized and in development and McGee as raw as they come, it fell to Koufos to be the post-up threat, interior defender and pin-down screener. Arthur brings similar skills with an added pick-and-pop threat. At worse, the Nuggets acquired a player of similar value with a slightly more expensive contract.
Tom: Kosta Koufos is a solid player on a pretty good contract. Darrell Arthur was an equally solid player, with a different skillset, prior to his injury. If Arthur returns to his 2010-2011 form he will be a good fit as Kenneth Faried’s backup, and this trade will be a win for both teams. If he continues to struggle with injuries, the Nuggets will have lost the trade and taken a moderate step back.
Kalen: No. Koufos had a great year under Karl but there’s no guaranteeing he duplicates that success in Memphis. And people just forget just how awful he was in the playoffs. If you can’t be relied upon to show up in the postseason, then what’s the point in having you on the team at all? (See: Karl) Additionally, Koufos was not a good defender against more athletic forwards. That said, the Nuggets should have gotten more for him.
3. Will JaVale McGee be able to handle the responsibility of playing starter minutes next season?
Joel: His stamina concerns me more than his “That’s so JaVale”-ness. He had just five starts with Denver. However, he’s started in 153 (43%) of his 354 career games, so it’s not like it’s a brand new bag for him. Will he struggle at times? Sure. But he made progress last season in reducing his infamous “Shaqtin’s,” and those mistakes (a small percentage of his overall game) have been blown out of proportion anyhow, in part due to his awkward physicality and goofy personality.
Matt: I think he will be able to handle the extra minutes but I don’t think it will necessarily be pretty for the Nuggets. The defensive numbers with JaVale and Kenneth Faried together aren’t pretty and while Shaw should coach defense well, he has his work cut out for him with that duo. One-block chases leave him out of position and one-rebound chases before shots are taken leave him out of position. Tough to change those mentalities.
David: We have no idea, and that’s kind of the point. Karl was very resistant to starting JaVale, in part because of his ageist bias in favor of veterans, but also because the Faried-McGee pairing was a defensive disaster on the court (posting a horrifying defensive rating of 108.7). Denver will likely fall short of last season’s win total, but, for better or worse, they’re going to find out what they really have in this $11 million-a-year investment.
Tom: JaVale McGee has shown the ability to start games for a full season and to play well in extended minutes in the playoffs. He can handle the responsibility. The real concern is whether he and Kenneth Faried will be able to adjust to playing together. If not, one or the other may need to have their minutes limited even if their individual play is good.
Kalen: Barely. Between his asthma and decision making it’s hard to see him logging more than 30 minutes per game — but he should get close. I have faith in McGee. He’s not a bad kid and his brain is still malleable. Karl was not the right coach for him; Shaw is. If McGee does somehow take that next step in his game the Nuggets will be lethal; if not, they’ll likely have no trouble trading him.
4. Is it a good idea to invest more money into Mozgov by re-signing him, as management has hinted they plan on doing?
Joel: It depends on two things: price and (if retained) how well he fits into whatever Shaw’s system turns out to be. Also, having traded Koufos, Denver now has just two centers. So if they lose Mozzie they’ll need to replace him via free agency or trade. If they keep him for one more season at $3.9 million, that’s reasonable. But a raise and extension would be a big gamble, and I’m not convinced he’s a good fit.
Matt: I don’t think it will be a large chunk of money so I’m not opposed to it, especially with the other options available at center. Only Zaza Pachulia would be better but he’ll probably cost more than Denver wants to spend and it’s hard to see him leaving Atlanta. The other option for defense is Sam Dalembert and that won’t end well. At all.
David: Depends on how much it takes to re-sign him. It’s not that much of an investment if he comes back on the cheap, but if he passes around a $3 million threshold, I’d pass too.After a few years in the league Mosgov still doesn’t play like he’s anywhere near as towering as he is and seems more an emergency stop-gap then rotation player. I’d prefer a big around the league minimum to warm the bench rather than a $3 million-plus player.
Tom: I don’t expect Mozgov to command any more salary than Kosta Koufos. I also don’t see any better options on the market in that price range. And I don’t anticipate the Nuggets taking the risk of pursuing Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum in a sign-and-trade. Keeping Mozgov for a good price is the best option available.
Kalen: No! I’m not a huge “red flag” guy — I think it’s foolish to label someone before you give them a chance — but this is as “red flagish” as it gets. Mozgov has had his chance in Denver for three years. He was handed the starting center job on a silver platter and lost it to Koufos immediately. He’s almost 27 and still doesn’t understand the nuances of the game. Why in the world would you give him money and trade Koufos!?! It makes zero sense.
5. Do you see Brian Shaw playing a significant role in the Nuggets’ attempt to re-sign Iguodala?
Joel: Absolutely. Which is not to say anything is guaranteed, but a buzz of excitement from Nuggets players could be felt on Twitter when the Shaw hiring was reported. Not only Iguodala, but players across the league have such high regard for him, and he’s got great rapport. The fact the Nuggets now have a coach that many players will truly be excited to play for is quite promising for Denver’s chances to retain and hire free agents moving forward.
Matt: Absolutely. To get a guy like Iguodala, any interested team is going to need to put on the full-court press, and that includes the head coach, important players and the front office. Shaw seems to have a good reputation among players so that should help, but no one seems to really know what Iggy is thinking. The whole process may be long and difficult but needs to be important to Denver if they want to build off last season.
David: I still think the biggest factor for Iguodala is money, and maybe even more importantly, the years Denver will offer him. When players get to Iguodala’s age, security eclipses salary as the most important thing for them and if the Nuggets offer him the best deal he’ll likely stay. If they don’t, he’ll go. It’s that simple.
Tom: Iguodala will stay if he thinks Denver is a good situation for him in terms of playing time, team fit, competitiveness and long-term security. Team fit and long-term security are mostly in the hands of the front office. Any coach would give Iggy enough playing time. The main role Shaw will play is in convincing Iggy that he’ll give the Nuggets a chance to be competitive in the postseason. If Shaw’s news conferences and interviews are any indication, he should have no trouble getting Iggy to buy in.
Kalen: Absolutely. In fact, I think he’s Denver’s best bet it terms of convincing Iguodala to re-sign. Had the Nuggets hired someone else, I think Iguodala might have one foot out the door due to the amateur-hour instability that occurred this summer. Shaw’s specialty is his ability to connect with players and I’m willing to bet that will play a huge role in recruiting Iguodala.