Every now and then Roundball Mining Company receives a fan e-mail worthy of more than just a quick read and response. Last week such a letter was sent our way from avid RMC reader and loyal Nuggets fan, Joe Karlik. In his message (presented below in italics) Joe outlined three main moves he felt the Nuggets needed to make this summer to put themselves in a position of success this upcoming season. Joe kindly asked for our thoughts on these issues, to which we’ve obliged his request in the form of our latest Roundball Roundtable. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts on the following subjects in the comments section below.
1) Trade J.J. Hickson
How many power forwards do the Nuggets need? Faried established himself as “The Guy” in the second half of the season, developing an ability to put the ball in the hoop without an Andre Miller alley-oop. (I was very down on Faried early in the season and was an advocate of trading him, but he made great strides and now I think the Nuggets need to re-sign him.) Darrell Arthur is an important rotation player who is far more valuable than Hickson. And my optimistic personality thinks that Arthur will work hard on extending his shooting ability to the 3-point line which will make him even more valuable. And then you think about the ability for Gallo to play small-ball four. Although he does some nice things and brings energy, Hickson is far too inconsistent and redundant on this roster, especially with Faried.
Tom: Agree? No. Why? Hickson probably shouldn’t play more than spot minutes behind Faried and Arthur when healthy, and when injured he’s just taking up a roster spot and some cap room. But the Nuggets don’t need the roster spot or the cap room until next offseason, so why pay some other team to take him right now? (Other) Possible Targets: Wait for Hickson to be healthy and some other team’s power forward to be injured, and then trade him for an expiring contract.
Charlie: Agree? Yes. Why? I cringed seeing Hickson forced into a big role night after night while more effective players like Timofey Mozgov and Darrell Arthur watched from the sidelines. Hickson had a profound negative effect on most lineups and the Nuggets proved they have quality frontcourt depth after he went down with an injury. He could be hard to move but the Nuggets would be wise to balance out their roster by removing the most extraneous bits. Hickson could still make sense for a team like the Brooklyn Nets instead of continuing to provide redundant depth with the Nuggets. (Other) Possible Targets: Cap relief, draft assets or expiring contracts. The Nuggets will be better off admitting their mistake and moving ahead with a more-than-adequate front court.
Vytis: Agree? Yes. Why? I’m one of the biggest J.J. Hickson critics and was against signing him in the first place, so I’m all for having him off the team. However, he will be coming off a serious injury and at this point I don’t see the Nuggets getting anything for him. If they could load him off onto a team for nothing or even squeeze out a second-round pick, I’d be happy. But I think Denver likes him and won’t move him even though the Nuggets’ frontcourt is going to be very crowded next season. (Other) Possible Targets: Anything that doesn’t jeopardize the team’s future flexibility.
Joel: Agree? Yes. Why? I’m agreeing in principle because I do think it’s a high priority for the Nuggets to get Hickson off their roster. His signing was Connelly’s worst move thus far, and his contract and roster spot inhibit Denver’s flexibility in doing things like extending Faried and signing free agents. That said, moving a defensive nightmare with a torn ACL may be near impossible in the short term, and the Nuggets may well have better opportunities to flip a Hickson trade at the deadline after he (hopefully) has proven he can still play. (Other) Possible Targets: If Connelly can swing anything of value in return for Hickson it should be considered gravy. The “target” should be increased minutes for Faried, Arthur, and perhaps even Chandler at the four, and even if nothing more than cap relief is received in return the Nuggets should consider themselves lucky.
2) Trade Wilson Chandler
This is the one tradeable guy who might have value on the open market. His contract is rather team friendly, but on a team that is handcuffed because of so many mid-level contracts, his becomes expendable. I’m hot and cold on Chandler. There are times where he looks like a lock-down defender and legitimate third scoring option, but sometimes he gets so three happy and shoots the Nuggets out of games. He’s good depth at small forward, but personally I think Quincy Miller can develop enough to become the backup three.
Tom: Agree? No. Why? When Chandler played alongside Gallinari and Iguodala a year ago he gave opposing teams fits on both ends of the court. If Gallinari is healthy and the Nuggets can pick up an athletic, defensive-minded shooting guard in the draft, Chandler can again be an X-factor as a backup three and stretch four. (Other) Possible Targets: If the team decides to move Chandler, why not bring back Afflalo? The salaries are similar, and Orlando could have a crowded backcourt if they draft Exum.
Charlie: Agree? No. Why? Chandler is the most sensible trade chip on the roster but I can’t help thinking the Nuggets are dealing him from a position of weakness, much like they are with the injured Danilo Gallinari. Chandler still has a place on a Brian Shaw team and stands to be more effective if he can remain healthy. After missing training camp and being sidelined with various injuries all year, Chandler never got going. Denver should explore a Chandler-Gallo pairing before being desperate to part with one of their better assets. (Other) Possible Targets: A better player on a more sensible contract. There aren’t a lot out there readily attainable in a trade for the oft-injured but productive Chandler.
Vytis: Agree? No. Why? Again, it depends on what you can get for Chandler, but I don’t think you can get much at this point. He had a mediocre season, which means that a potential return in a deal would likely also be mediocre. I think keeping him around and letting him boost his market value could make him a more attractive trading chip in the future, especially since the last year of his deal is a team option. (Other) Possible Targets: A reliable two-way shooting guard wouldn’t hurt. Randy Foye did a decent job as a starter last year, but you probably need someone better to make the playoffs.
Joel: Agree? No. Why? I understand the logic behind the argument for trading Chandler, and I am definitely not opposed to trading him if a good opportunity arises. But as of yet I’m less than confident in the ability of Miller and Fournier to fill the ostensible hole left by Wilson’s departure. At this point it’s fair to say that Chandler was a disappointment last season, but to me that doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable –- he’s just less valuable than many of us thought he was. Alongside Gallinari in 2012-13 he was part of Denver’s best defensive lineups, and while it seems now he’s more of a bench player than a starter, nearly any NBA team could do much worse for a backup small forward. (Other) Possible Targets: It’s very difficult to name specific trade targets for Chandler when I don’t think he necessarily should be traded, so in lieu of that I will say that at least one of two prerequisites should be met: 1) He’s packaged with Denver’s first-round pick to move up in the draft so they can acquire a true impact player; or 2) whatever trade he’s involved in brings Denver back a competent backup three.
3) Get an athletic shooting guard in the draft
I think both Gary Harris and Nik Stauskas will be available at 11. Either of these guys would be a great fit in the starting lineup with Lawson and Gallo. I personally like the ability and potential of Stauskas handling the ball so Lawson can play stretches at the two. But I think Harris would be a great pick as well. The Nuggets have depth at the three, four and five, and moving Foye to the bench will then create depth at the point. Two guard is the biggest need. I still hope Fournier develops into the right-handed Manu, but it will take more than the small step he took from year one to year two.
Tom: Agree? Yes. Why? This is both an area of need for the Nuggets, and an area of strength in this draft. It’s up to the Nuggets’ scouts, executives and coaches to figure out which guy has the right physical tools and mentality to be the shooting guard of the future, and then mold him into that. (Other) Possible Targets: Nik Stauskas, Gary Harris, Zach LaVine, James Young.
Charlie: Agree? No. Why? It is imperative to keep an open mind about drafting at number 11. Denver is within range of so many good prospects and if past drafts are any indication, expect the unexpected when it comes to the lottery. It just so happens this draft is heavy on the Nuggets biggest need with so many good wing players. However, there are just too many unknowns in a deep draft and number 11 is simply no place to draft for need. (Other) Possible Targets: Tentatively, I’ll go Harris, Stauskas, Young and LaVine. Vonleh and Gordon are can’t-miss if something crazy happens and one of them slips. Saric or McDermott slipping here is also something the Nuggets must be prepared for. A wing should be the best opportunity here but it’s far from a sure thing.
Vytis: Agree? Maybe. Why? I don’t follow college basketball enough, so it’s hard to say. I’m aware of how good the top guys are, but it’s apparently a pretty deep draft as well. The smartest thing to do would be to keep your options open and take the best talent available. If it’s an athletic two-guard it obviously wouldn’t hurt. (Other) Possible Targets: N/A.
Joel: Agree? Yes. Why? First off, I will qualify my agreement by saying that, while I agree that shooting guard is Denver’s greatest position of need, I don’t think that athleticism is necessarily a prerequisite. Among twos who may be in Denver’s draft range, neither Gary Harris nor Nik Stauskas have off-the-charts athleticism, but both have other skills (defense in Harris’ case, shooting in Stauskas’) which could prove to be just as valuable, if not more so, to the Nuggets. The appeal of athleticism, and the potential upside it promises, is understandable. But it can also lure teams into drafting players like Evan Turner and Nick Young. (Other) Possible Targets: Nate Robinson and Aaron Brooks (even if he re-signs) are not long for the Nuggets. Among the fan discussions that I’ve seen, point guard is an overlooked future need. It’s not only at the two, but at the guard position in general that Denver lacks depth going forward. If he’s still unclaimed when Denver’s number comes up, Gary Harris appears to be their best option in terms of having the best combination of combo guard abilities, defense, range and basketball IQ.