One of my favorite moments of the 2012 adidas Nations took place just as the camp was wrapping up, as the college counselors completed their final scrimmages and prepared to move on towards their NBA goals. Arron Afflalo showed up and actually played in the final game, pitting himself against collegiate stars like Andre Roberson, Steven Adams, Ray McCallum and Isaiah Austin. Afflalo played with a cool, distinguished demeanor most of the game before taking over in the fourth quarter and overtime of what became an intensely competitive, high-level game. Andre Roberson showed tremendous growth throughout the camp and went out with a bang, scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting along with 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He had a chance at a last second tip-in on the final play of regulation, but wasn’t able to put it down and Arron Afflalo’s heroics sealed the 86-81 overtime win.
Dwight Howard showed up to the gym unannounced and right after the game concluded, he gathered Roberson and the rest of the college counselors to share his wisdom before they parted ways with each other and the adidas Nations team. It was amazing to see how hungry and appreciative Roberson became throughout the course of the camp, and especially how eager he was to soak up every little bit of knowledge he could even as the on-court work was over with. Roberson played with much more confidence in his final game and sustained a high level of effort throughout. Although I already interviewed Roberson on the first day of the event, I caught up with him one last time to see just what he was taking away from the experience.
It was great getting to know Andre throughout the adidas Nations, who you can follow on Twitter @FlyDre21. The 2012 adidas Nations wraps up tomorrow night for the championship round of games in Long Beach, CA. It will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports network, so check the local TV listings and be sure to tune in and watch if you can. As always, stick with RMC for more coverage when the event concludes on Monday night.
Thanks to adidas Basketball, ESPN and the TrueHoop network, I’ve been given the opportunity to cover the 2012 adidas Nations for Roundball Mining Company. For those unfamiliar with the adidas Nations, it’s a global tournament for the best players under 19, both here in the USA and internationally. It’s one of the most prestigious grassroots basketball programs in the world, where top high school talent and some of the best collegiate players in the country train under real NBA coaches.
There are a ton of Denver Nuggets connections in this year’s adidas Nations currently taking place in Southern California. Along with all of the other NBA teams, Denver’s scouting department has a strong presence here and Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt is part of the core group of NBA coaches instructing the college counselors as well as the high school athletes in attendance. Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo joins Alec Burks, Nolan Smith, Luc Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison as some of the adidas athletes who will act as NBA ambassadors to the program.
This is an exciting event featuring a ridiculous amount of talent from the next three NBA draft classes, and I strongly encourage any hoops fan to watch the championship game on Monday night, which will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network at 6pm Mountain time. RMC will be on hand to provide coverage throughout the event.
Here’s a few of the highlights from day one of the 2012 adidas Nations. (more…)
Although he already spent his rookie season with the Nuggets, Jordan Hamilton may be Denver’s most important new addition next season. New, at least, in the sense of being a regular rotation player who wasn’t in the mix in any meaningful way last season. Front office exec Masai Ujiri has already described Hamilton as “our rookie for next year” and it may be the case that the Nuggets organization views him as the replacement for Rudy Fernandez, or at least the player Rudy might have been for Denver had he not suffered a season ending injury.
In the 31 games Fernandez did play in, he averaged 23 minutes, and was primarily utilized (with varying degrees of effectiveness) as an offensive spark and energy player off the bench. With the anticipated healthy return of Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington to the rotation, and the re-signing of Andre Miller, who sometimes plays shooting guard alongside Ty Lawson, it’s difficult to imagine that Hamilton will get as many minutes as Rudy, or even crack twenty.
Even so, it does appear that the Nuggets intend to play him, which in turn raises the question of what kind of player we might expect J-Ham to be. (more…)
Nate Timmons and Ross Martin, also known as the esteemed Colorado Sports Guys, were kind enough to have me on their podcast Tuesday night. We discuss the Nuggets offseason, Summer League, Evan Fournier and more. If you’re not familar with Nate and Ross’ show, be sure to bookmark Colorado Sports Guys and follow them on Twitter.
You can listen to the latest episode featuring RMC on iTunes or the CSG website here. I come on around the 40-minute mark after the guys discuss Broncos training camp with Kirk of Mile High Report (which you should definitely check out as well).
The Denver Nuggets released their entire 2012 preseason schedule on Tuesday. The Nuggets will play seven games over twenty days, all against Western Conference opponents. Denver will open their preseason as the road team in a showdown with the Los Angeles Clippers at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, marking the first time any NBA game will be played on the Strip. Here’s the complete schedule. All times are Mountain and subject to change.
|October 6||@ L.A. Clippers||8:30 PM||Mandalay Bay Events Center (Las Vegas, NV)|
|October 12||@ San Antonio||6:30 PM||AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)|
|October 15||Golden State||7:00 PM||Pepsi Center (Denver, CO)|
|October 17||@ Portland||8:00 PM||Rose Garden (Portland, OR)|
|October 21||@ Oklahoma City||6:00 PM||Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)|
|October 25||L.A. Clippers||8:00 PM||Pepsi Center (Denver, CO)|
|October 26||@ Phoenix||7:00 PM||US Airways Center (Phoenix, AZ)|
The NBA’s big spenders will soon have to reckon with a much more punitive luxury tax structure. From the league’s implementation of the tax in 2003, teams have been required to pay “just” one dollar in luxury tax for every dollar in payroll that exceeds the tax threshold. This relatively soft penalty on an already soft salary cap will soon undergo significant changes. Cap guru Larry Coon describes the new luxury tax conditions under the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will kick into effect next year:
Starting in 2012-13, teams pay an incremental tax that increases with every $5 million above the tax threshold ($1.50, $1.75, $2.50, $3.25, etc.). Teams that are repeat offenders (paying tax at least four out of the past five seasons) have a tax that is higher still — $1 more at each increment ($2.50, $2.75, $3.50, $4.25, etc.).
The desired effect is that these heavier penalties will give pause to even the deepest pocketed, biggest spending owners such as the Knicks’ James Dolan, the Lakers’ Jerry Buss, and the Mavericks’ Mark Cuban, when it comes to dishing out big bucks on salaries. (Though many might point to this summer’s free agency period as evidence the dissuasive effect has been minimal so far).
With the Kroenke family at the helm, the Denver Nuggets have been in the upper strata of teams with wealthy owners. According to (more…)
Ever since Masai Ujiri robbed the Knicks back in February 2011 and in the process absorbed the talented young small forward duo of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets fans have debated which of the two rightfully deserves the most minutes and the starting nod from George Karl. While fans have always stated their opinion, nobody has made a structured argument — with facts and supporting evidence — until Roundball reader Daniel Lewis decided to just days ago. The debate will undoubtedly carry on, however Lewis’ piece is sure to breathe new life into this seemingly perpetual discussion.
If you’re a Nuggets fan who’s been online in the last 24 hours or so, then you’re probably already aware that there are two aspects of their 2012-13 schedule which have been getting the most attention. The first is that Carmelo Anthony will make his first return to the Pepsi Center on March 13, 2013, just over two years after his trade to the Knicks, providing the fans in Denver with their first opportunity for some cathartic booing. The other, much more ominous, is the extent to which the schedule is frontloaded with a surprisingly disproportionate amount of road games in November and December.
We are very happy to belatedly announce an addition to our group of contributors here are RMC. Denbutsu has been a longtime friend of RMC. He has displayed a very good understanding of the Nuggets over the years and we are highly confident he will provide some tremendous insights here at RMC going forward.
You may have already seen his first post on the need to make a trade to clear up the roster over the coming months.
You can see some of denbutsu’s previous work over at The Nuggets Den and you can follow him Twitter, @denbutsu, and while you are at it make sure you are following Kalen, @PrincePickaxe, and Charlie as well, @skitalicious.
Please join me in welcoming denbutsu!
What is the point of diminishing returns when it comes to roster depth?
This is a question the Denver Nuggets will most likely have to confront over the next few seasons, whether it’s sooner or later. Their much trumpeted youth and depth (see every 2011-12 season preview ever written) have indeed proven to be two of the team’s most valuable dimensions. Last season, when injuries to key players such as Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Rudy Fernandez might have depleted the team’s rotation, Denver was able to bring guys like Kosta Koufos, Corey Brewer, and most notably rookie Kenneth Faried up from the lower ranks to fill in the gaps and help keep Denver a winning team, a luxury many NBA teams would not have had.
Additionally, with many of its players on rookie or otherwise reasonable contracts, Denver’s payroll structure featured another positive aspect: financial flexibility.
But the Nuggets model of last season is not one that’s well built for sustainability. The flip-side implication of having a young, deep squad of talented players is that it will not be too long before they’re going to get paid. And as the clock has ticked forward from last summer to present day, we have seen many of those dominoes start to fall.
The Nuggets have had a busy year, procuring the contract extensions of Arron Afflalo, Gallinari, Koufos, Wilson Chandler, most recently JaVale McGee (who came by way of extending Nene). And another signing is apparently on the near horizon. Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post recently reported Ty Lawson as saying his extension – as perhaps the Nuggets’ highest paid player – is “definitely going to get done” soon. So, depending on whether Lawson is extended,, and if so for how much, by the start of the regular season Denver should have somewhere in the neighborhood of $62 million to $71 million in guaranteed salary* for the 2012-13 season.
That’s well above the $58.044 million salary cap and, in the event of extending Lawson, at least flirting with if not slightly exceeding the $70.307 million luxury tax threshold.
[Correction: Big thanks to LotharBot for clarifying Lawson's contract extension situation in the comments: "If Ty Lawson signs an extension, the higher salary will take effect next season, not this one. The 2012-13 season team salary, for the current roster, is going to be in the low-mid 60s."]
In contrast, at the beginning of last summer Denver had $38,674,414 in guaranteed salary on the books for 2011-12. Now, it isn’t really fair to compare this very low figure with the greatly increased 2012-13 projections above, as the Afflalo extension was a near-foregone conclusion, and whether Nene had agreed to extend or not, it was pretty clear that money would need to be spent on a big man. Yet even taking that into consideration, there’s no way to escape the impending reality that the financial flexibility the Nuggets possessed last summer has mostly disappeared, assuming the current roster remains mostly intact.
Which at last brings us back to the question regarding diminishing returns on roster depth.
Running with the Ty Lawson max contract scenario for the sake of illustrating the point (though I don’t necessarily believe he’ll get that much), the Nuggets will have committed as much as nearly $59 million in 2013-14 and $62.5 million in 2014-15 in salary to seven players (albeit some of this is not fully guaranteed due to Al Harrington’s contract). Meanwhile, those seven do not include young draft picks Faried, Jordan Hamilton, Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller, or Mozgov who, if retained, will be up for an extension next summer.
While nearly every one of these contracts may be fairly reasonable in its own right, as a collective they form a fairly hefty salary bundle comprised of a group of players which, young and developing as it is, has not yet produced any definitively transcendent star players. It remains to be seen if one or more of these players can truly break through to the next level, or to what extent the front office will be committed to adhering to a philosophy of building a team which has, in George Karl’s words, “a top-10 player at every position”.
But considering that there is a limitation to the number of minutes which can be distributed among this deep roster of players, many of whom seem to be on approximately the same tier, as well as the fact that the Kroenke family has in recent years shown a keen propensity for staying firmly out of luxury tax territory, it seems that the Nuggets organization could soon reach a point where something might have to give.
They may need to consolidate some of their numerous assets for a single more potent one – or in other words, make a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 trade to at once land a higher impact player and create more financial breathing room.
I suspect that if Denver does pull the trigger on such a move it won’t be right away. Masai Ujiri in so many words has already basically indicated they intend to keep the current roster intact: “Our existing roster we felt deserved to move forward and compete together. Those guys earned that right.” So I don’t expect them to do much more than perhaps cut Julyan Stone (whose unguaranteed contract and recent injury make him the odd man out by default) to clear a roster space for signing second round draft pick Quincy Miller.
At the very least, keeping the current crop of players around for a while longer will give the front office and coaching staff the opportunity to further evaluate their talent in order to clarify which players they value most highly as keepers. And for the time being, that’s probably a perfectly reasonable approach in terms of holding onto a small wealth of somewhat similar assets in order to allow the cream to rise to the top.
But the time for making some tough personnel decisions may be rapidly approaching. And the good news for Denver, despite its ever-increasing payroll, is that the large number of assets they hold in pocket translate into a different kind of flexibility: trade options.
So my humble prediction (and I’m admittedly not going out on too risky of a limb here) is that the Nuggets will basically stand pat through training camp and the beginning of the regular season, but will then seek to make some kind of deal by the trade deadline which will consolidate their talent pool and restore a little more financial flexibility over the next few years.
*(I based these salary estimates on a combination of figures from Storytellers Contracts and my own calculations based on news reports of the more recently signed players’ salaries. You can see how I got there here, here, and here. I’m no cap expert, and I made some assumptions (such as Miller replacing Stone) and used a bit of guesswork, so please consider these speculative at best. Feedback on this is more than welcome.)
The Nuggets wrapped up their 2012 Summer League season in Las Vegas Friday night with a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Jordan Hamilton was kind enough to chat with Roundball Mining Company after the game, discussing his overall experience, personal growth, and his expectations for next season.
Many thanks to Jordan Hamilton for taking the time. Follow Jordan on Twitter here.
The Denver Nuggets fell to 1-3 in Summer League play after losing to the Bobcats Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. There was a scary moment in the second quarter when Kenneth Faried went down hard after catching an inadvertent elbow from Quincy Miller, but Faried was back on the bench in the second half after receiving stitches.
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.
I caught up with Coby Karl following the Timberwolves win over Cleveland Cavaliers at the Las Vegas Summer League. I’ve always admired Coby as a player and he’s been one of the most professional guys I’ve talked to in Las Vegas. He was kind enough to chat with Roundball Mining Company on playing overseas, the Timberwolves, his relationship with George and more. Many thanks to Coby for interviewing with us.
I caught up with Corey Brewer at the Las Vegas Summer League Wednesday night and he was kind enough to answer a couple of questions for Roundball Mining Company. Corey’s in town to support his young teammates and work out with the ever-growing contingent of Nuggets players converging in the desert to witness some 2012 NBA Summer League action.