Friday evening it was announced that Andre Iguodala would be turning down a bigger contract offer from the Denver Nuggets and would instead sign with the team that put an end to Denver’s 2012-13 campaign. What now lies ahead for the reformed front-office of the Nuggets is a whole lot of uncertainty.
Some anti-Dre Nuggets fans seem to think Denver will be just fine without Iguodala and that replacing him will be a simple task, citing Iggy’s poor shooting as a major detriment to the team. While Iguodala might not be a good shooter, make no mistake, finding someone who can fill his shoes will be no picnic.
Part of the problem is the Nuggets were going all in on their chances to retain Iguodala, and now quite a few players that would have been decent fits have already signed with other teams.
J.J. Redick would have been a fantastic piece for the Nuggets to have for a multitude of reasons. Paul Millsap just signed with the Hawks and could have added another dimension to Denver’s offense while possibly allowing the team to utilize Kenneth Faried as a sixth man, or even package him with Andre Miller and use him as trade bait before he’s due for a big extension.
Mike Dunleavy, Tony Allen, Kevin Martin, Kyle Korver, O.J. Mayo — while not all those guys would be amazing fits with the Nuggets, they would still be interesting options to explore and all have one thing in common: They’re off the market.
There are still some decent free agents around, but the Nuggets don’t have much wiggle room. Tom, our very own “capologist” here at Roundball Mining Company, outlined Denver’s free agency limitations here and also explained the current situation in our e-mail chains:
The long version: counting Quincy Miller, Denver has 11 players under contract for $52.1 million. With a projected cap of $58.6 million, that’s a gap of $6.5 million — but the minimum roster size is 13, so at least one more rookie minimum deal would have to come out of that amount, leaving about $6.0 million to sign a single free agent. And that could only happen if Denver renounced the rights to Mozgov and Brewer, and renounced the MLE and LLE. The much more likely scenario is that Denver holds onto Moz using bird rights, and then uses the MLE of $5.15 million and the LLE of $2.02 million and minimum-salary exceptions to fill out the roster to 13-15 players.
Translation: The Nuggets are pretty screwed. Iguodala’s departure leaves a huge hole to fill but doesn’t create cap flexibility to actually pay for a decent replacement. The situation is far from ideal, but the Nuggets still need to bring in someone this summer. Here are a couple of available players the Nuggets could look at.
Monta Ellis (gulp)
It has been rumored, especially now that Iguodala’s gone, that there is mutual interest between Ellis and the Nuggets. Personally, I hate this idea. Inserting Ellis into the starting lineup and expecting him to fill Iguodala’s vacancy would only lead to disaster — on both ends of the floor.
Not only would the trigger-happy guard (who, by the way, shot even worse than Iggy last season) jack up a lot of inefficient looks, he would also take away a lot of possessions from Ty Lawson. While Ellis can be a decent playmaker — which is exactly what Iguodala was when he took care of the ball-handling duties — he will often make the decision to shoot a fadeaway jumper rather than pass to an open teammate.
Ellis would not solve the spacing issues Denver has and would make the team’s offense more isolation-based, which is the last thing the Nuggets need. And while we all love guys who can create looks for themselves, when those players make the offense stagnant and solely reliant on long, contested jumpers, they’re no longer beneficial to the team. Denver would be smart to stay away from Monta.
With Iguodala joining Golden State, Jack will be available for business. Should the Nuggets try and provide refuge to the rejected Warrior? Last season Jack made a decent case for himself in the race for the Sixth Man of the Year, and, having the ability to play on and off the ball, was a great complement to Steph Curry.
Jack actually does give the Nuggets a decent guard who is versatile and can be used in a half-court offense. But my biggest reservation with Jack is his perpetual affection with off-the-dribble mid-range jumpers, which he loves to jack up (no pun intended) far too often. Just over 30 percent of Jack’s shot attempts last season came in the mid-range area, and while he is an above-average shooter from that range, it’s not a great habit to have. Jack is also a pretty bad finisher at the rim, which further encourages him to shoot more.
The Spurs are reportedly interested in the Russian forward, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Nuggets pursue AK-47.
Kirilenko is versatile and plays on both ends of the floor. He might not be as quick and athletic as Iguodala but he has long arms and can still do as good of a defensive job against most wings, especially when using his length to effectively close out shooters.
There are still some hindrances here though. First of all, adding Kirilenko doesn’t directly plug the hole at shooting guard, and only further crowds an already deep frontcourt. The way I see it, the Nuggets would have two options to go with if they added Kirilenko:
1. Let him come off the bench behind Danilo Gallinari.
2. Focus on small-ball and start Danilo Gallinari at the four, having Faried either come off the bench or explore what his market value is for potential trades.
Personally, I’m not entirely opposed to the second option, but landing Kirilenko wouldn’t be easy. Considering his age, he’s likely looking for one last big contract, which is probably more money than the Nuggets would be offering. Additionally, the Nuggets love Faried, and the franchise seems to be heading in a direction where Brian Shaw would rather allow guys like Faried, JaVale McGee and Evan Fournier big minutes in order to improve, rather than adding a veteran forward that would hamper their development. Kirilenko doesn’t really solve the spacing issue, either.
If we cerebrate along the premise of Fournier starting next season, adding Landry wouldn’t be too bad of an option. In a lot of ways, Landry is a poor man’s Paul Millsap. He loves operating out of the post and is quite versatile down low. He is strong, which makes him hard to effectively front, and can also face up and either drive past his defender or pull up for a jumper. As we all know, the Nuggets currently have zero post-up threats, so signing Landry would make sense as he could also play a similar sixth man role for Denver which he has grown used to over the course of his career.
It would seem that the Nuggets are inclined to get Ellis, but if Tim Connelly and Co. are able to steer away from the iceberg the better option could be to allow Fournier to start at the two-guard spot, perhaps try to keep Corey Brewer and just add veteran shooters who can earn a spot in the rotation. The Nuggets have already missed out on some of the top free-agent targets, so rather than opting for a mediocre solution Denver might as well sacrifice some games and see what they can mold their young players into.
Guys like Randy Foye, Gary Neal and Francisco Garcia are all available and could merely be used for some additional scoring off the bench and spacing.
Basically, the remaining market is thin right now, especially with the limited amount of money the Nuggets can spend. Losing Iguodala hurts a lot and you can’t really replace his value and importance with anyone currently available.
But while the free-agent market is somewhat depressing, it’s not like Denver’s hands are completely tied. The remnants of what Masai Ujiri built are still there. The Nuggets still have a deep roster with a lot of really talented players that could potentially be used as trade bait somewhere down the road. And yet, one thing is certain: Denver is definitely not done making roster changes this season, whether it involves free-agent signings or trades.
Who would you like the Nuggets to sign? Share your thoughts/frustrations/suggestions in the comments section below.
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