After a turbulent 2013 offseason which raised more questions than answers about the future of the Denver Nuggets, last Thursday’s trade deadline represented a sort of mid-term examination for their young front office. The test was not only to improve the roster, but also to clarify the team’s goals and plans moving forward, and provide at least a glimmer of hope for a future more promising than this increasingly frustrating season would seem to suggest.
And now that the deadline has passed, with the Nuggets making two trades – Jordan Hamilton for Aaron Brooks and Andre Miller for Jan Vesely – it’s time for us here at Roundball Mining Company to take measure of the front office, evaluate their deadline moves, assess how the new regime has done up to this point, and discuss what they need to do from here on out.
Five of your RMC writers give their take after the jump.
The trade deadline ended up being pretty dull, and the Nuggets didn’t do much to spice it up. They made the absolutely necessary moves, but not much else. Andre Miller was finally liberated in a deal which will save them money next season, but unless you’re excited about a potential Jan Vesely and Anthony Randolph pairing, it’s not a deal that will thrill the casual fan.
Denver also desperately needed to get a healthy point guard on the team, and ended up with Aaron Brooks. The initial rumors suggested that the Nuggets were after Beno Udrih, so landing Brooks can be seen as a moral victory on the front office’s part. In his NBA career Brooks has shown that he can heat up and put up some nice scoring performances, but he’s essentially just a rental to fill the void left behind by Nate Robinson.
In the end, the Nuggets weren’t as aggressive as a team in their situation should be. Moving Kenneth Faried was an option, and will continue to be something the front office will likely consider this summer. If Denver ends up in the lottery, which almost certainly will be the case, they could perhaps use Faried to move up in a top-heavy draft.
It’s easy to be mad at the front office for not dropping a bunch of guys and tanking the season, but there weren’t that many potential deals out there that would actually have radically changed the Nuggets’ outlook on the future. Other than Faried, the team has a bunch of interesting players, most of which are on cap friendly contracts, who can be moved at virtually any time. The front office addressed the most imminent needs, and hopefully we’ll see some more drastic changes in the offseason.
Like most teams, the deadline came and went with a bit of a whimper, albeit an expected one, for the Nuggets. Their must-do moves by Thursday at 3 were trading Andre Miller away and acquiring a point guard, and they accomplished both goals. The Miller trade costing Denver a second round pick is not ideal but they acquired some cap relief and cleared a wasted roster spot. As for the physical return of Jan Veseley, I highly doubt his Nuggets tenure extends past this season.
As for Aaron Brooks, he’s not good at a ton of things besides shooting and his ability to actually play point guard is a tad questionable but he’ll take a much needed minutes load off Foye and Lawson (when he gets back) and the cost of Jordan Hamilton – who’s been out of the rotation for a while – is minimal. Ultimately Denver did what they had to do, did it relatively efficiently, and did little more. The Nuggets’ on-court situation becomes less dire with the point guard situation solved, but Denver didn’t really get any better or worse by any meaningful measure. The true mettle of this front office will be tested in the draft and the ensuing weeks thereafter.
With a pair of trade deadline moves the Nuggets finally completed a transition that’s been in the works since 2009. The last of the old, slow point guards (Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter) is off of the roster. Though Aaron Brooks is a slight downgrade from Nate Robinson and a big downgrade from Ty Lawson, he allows the Nuggets to play the same style – a high speed, paint-attacking offense in the half court as well as in transition – for a full 48 minutes every night.
Picking up Jan Vesely is like getting a free lottery ticket. The Nuggets saved some money and have a chance to evaluate a guy who is still young and may never amount to much, but could potentially blossom into a legitimate energy player. With three of the top six players in #NuggetsRank out for the season, the Nuggets had no chance to do anything worthwhile in the postseason no matter what moves they made. The best management could do was lay a foundation to build with a consistent philosophy next season: fast guards, athletic bigs, and energy at every position. Now it’s up to Kroenke, Connelly, and Shaw to follow up in the offseason.
What exactly is the Nuggets front office trying to accomplish? The fact that nobody within the organization has provided a clear answer to that question has plagued the team all season, and the failure of Kroenke and Connelly to make any significant deadline moves righting Denver’s wayward course is troubling. Not that they accomplished nothing. The salary structure was improved slightly, they made the essential Andre Miller dump, and landed a viable point guard replacement in Aaron Brooks. But these small scale measures accomplish little in addressing the bigger problems with the current roster.
If the FO is truly committed to Shaw and the system he’s trying to implement, they’ve done a poor job of providing him with the players he needs to execute it successfully. He wants to run his offense through the post, but he has no legit post players. He wants a hard-nosed defensive team, but the FO retained a host of sub-par defenders and gave Hickson the full MLE (also hampering flexibility). Additionally, the notion that Karl was fired in part for not doing enough to develop young players directly contradicts the FO’s decision to fill all the empty roster spots with veterans.
This litany of dilemmas could go on interminably. But it seems clear that last summer’s moves were made in desperation to stay marginally competitive, long-term plan be damned, and that the result has been entrenched mediocrity. Their inaction at the deadline both increases the urgency of making bigger moves this offseason, and ramps up the difficulty of doing so. They did little to rectify the deepest flaws in the roster, and – just as importantly – they’ve not only failed to get the fans (and perhaps players) to buy into their vision for the future, they’ve failed to make a convincing case that such a vision even exists at all.
In what turned out to be a dud of a trade deadline Denver did the two things they had to do. First they dumped Andre Miller, someone who hated the organization so much he waited until everyone was out of the team facilities to work out at night so he didn’t have to interact with anyone, and in return got an expiring contract that provides the relatively capped out Nuggets a few million dollars to play with this offseason. Then they finally got a healthy point guard on the roster giving them the ability to eliminate the 40 minute nights for Randy Foye and Ty Lawson for the price of a player that clearly wouldn’t ever fit in Brian Shaw’s defense first philosophy and was a free agent this summer who wouldn’t be returning to Denver anyway. It is hard to really knock the front office for getting rid of two players with no future in Denver while adding a point guard they so desperately needed and some salary relief.
What comes next is the million dollar question. Brian Shaw pretty clearly doesn’t care for the style of players on the roster at the moment and it honestly seems like the players are getting to the point where they don’t care for Coach Shaw. I think it will be hard to actually blow up this roster as, despite Shaw’s insistence on playing a different style than these players are meant for, the front office clearly holds them to a higher value than what they are probably worth. This offseason will be a big one in Denver, if Shaw can get a low post threat and some more size at guard things may turn around. If this roster returns basically intact it can get interesting.