Chris Tomasson is reporting that the Denver Nuggets have agreed to a one year non-guaranteed $884,881 contract with Joey Graham, not to be confused with Stephen Graham. Graham has played with the Toronto Raptors for all four of his NBA seasons. He is a solid player and has played in at least 16 minutes a game in three of his four professional seasons.
Graham is a solid player who will not try to do too much. Graham is not a three point shooter having only attempted 50 over the past three seasons making only 14 and he does not appear to offer a specific NBA skill that will be useful to Denver.
With James White and now Graham on board Denver may be done shopping and as Tomasson writes the two “can fight it out in training camp for a possible roster spot.” Both are listed at 6′ 7″ and can play shooting guard or small forward, but Graham is considerably more bulky and the two are completely different types of players.
I may be barking up the wrong tree, but the fact that both of these guys have non-guaranteed contracts leads me to believe that if Wally Szczerbiak is still interested the Nuggets will have room for him. However, as of now it appears either White or Graham could be the backup small forward while the other will be looking for work.
Update: Tomasson is kicking butt today as he is also reporting that Coby Karl is heading to Cleveland despite George Karl pushing for the Nuggets to bring him in to Denver. All I will say is Cleveland is crazy if Coby does not break camp with the team.
The Denver Nuggets are under compliance. They have acquired James White from the Houston Rockets in exchange for the rights to Axel Hervelle (remember him?) and now meet the league minimum of 13 players on their roster.
White is a high flying shooting guard who has played ten career NBA games between stints in San Antonio and Houston. I have always thought of White as all athleticism and little game, but he did post some impressive numbers last year with the Anaheim Arsenal in the D-League including a 47 point 11 rebound effort on 18-24 shooting.
This is another high upside, no downside deal that the Nuggets are becoming known for. Hervelle was selected in the 2005 draft and played in Summer League one year for the Nuggets to little acclaim. It is clear he will never be an NBA player. White on the other hand has shown growth over the previous two or three seasons. His three point shooting improved to 36.8% and his free throw shooting to 85.6%.
With White landing in Denver it puts an end to the Flip Murray and Keith Bogans (who agreed to terms with the Spurs today) speculation. I suspect White will provide some scoring off the bench over the first seven games of the season during which J.R. Smith will be sidelined. However, could he also fill the role that Wally Szczerbiak was hoping to fill? I think White and Renaldo Balkman could provide a nice offense/defense combo off the bench at small forward. He is undersized, but can run the floor and hit the three. Sounds similar to Linas Kleiza’s old job description, doesn’t it?
To me the big question is can White play defense? Seeing as how he played for the Spurs and Rockets, two of the more sound defensive teams in the league, he should be at least competent. Should he prove to be anything more than that he has a very good chance to care out some minutes in the rotation.
If you are not familiar with what White can do check out the video below. Some of these dunks are just stunning.
It has been a while since I have posted anything and I apologize. I guess the good news is I really have not missed anything. Still, there has not been a word on this blog about J.R. Smith slated to miss the first seven games of the season, former Nugget Allen Iverson signing with the Memphis Grizzlies, the potential referee lockout, heck, I never even finished my player by player recap of the 2008-09 season.
I have made it through another hectic week of work, pieced together two potentially dominant fantasy football teams and I finally have some time to discuss the Nuggets.
Nuggets fans received some good news yesterday as it was announced Desmond Mason had agreed to sign with the Sacramento Kings (read about it at Cowbell Kingdom). The bad news for Nuggets fans is that it reduces their leverage with Wally Szczerbiak.
However, there are still several names on the list as the Nuggets have been linked with Rashard McCants, Flip Murray and now Keith Bogans, but I still think Wally is the guy who will end up in powder blue next season. With Chanucey Billups, J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Anthony Carter I do not see how McCants or Murray help this team. Chris Tomasson has an excellent article on Fanhouse outlining how J.R. Smith’s suspension (discussed below) is playing a role in who the Nuggets bring in to fill the 13th roster spot.
If the front office signs a player simply because the Nuggets will be short handed for the first seven games of the season, I think it is an overreaction. However, Tomasson reports that Denver offered Murray a minimum deal already. Murray is a nice player and I have no problem with Bogans either. Murray can score and Bogans is a very good defender, but what do you do with them once J.R. returns? Over the long haul Denver will be better off with a player like Szczerbiak who can really help for all 82 games than someone who will only provide a significant boost for seven.
Getting back to Wally, should Szczerbiak end up in Denver both he and the Nuggets are playing things cool. With the Nuggets’ commitment to saving every possible penny they are not about to toss Wally, or anyone else, a salary figure higher than they are willing to pay just to seal the deal. The Nuggets remain the best match for playing time and competitiveness. The only team who could I could see offering anything better than Denver would be the Lakers who have a couple of open roster spots and might not be planning on giving their spare minutes at small forward to Adam Morrison, plus it was announced today they will bring in.
I do believe Wally would be a very good fit in Denver, but if he ends up signing elsewhere, it is not the end of the world. It would actually clear up some playing time at small forward for Renaldo Balkman. I believe Balkman is at his best playing small forward as he struggles to defend many power forwards due to his slight stature.
Denver can also go small with J.R. or Afflalo sliding over to the three. Backing up Carmelo Anthony only assures you about 12 or 13 minutes of floor time anyway.
If the Nuggets sign Murray and Szczerbiak then I will be ecstatic, but they are serious about minimizing their tax payment and carrying more than 13 guaranteed contracts into the season is unlikely.
Training camp starts in less than a week and Denver has to sign someone. This cannot drag out much longer. Denver has options and the race may come down to which player will agree to play in Denver for the minimum.
The Least Popular Number 7 in Denver
For the third season in a row the Nuggets will be short a player to start the season due to suspension. J.R. will miss the first seven games of the 2009-10 season because of the reckless driving incident that resulted in the death of his friend and passenger Andre Bell. Smith was suspended by the Nuggets for three games to start the 2007-08 season because of the accident and last season Carmelo Anthony missed the first two games as punishment for his drunk driving arrest near the end of the 2007-08 season.
My initial reaction when I heard J.R. had been suspended for seven games was that it was far too severe. With the Nuggets likely locked in a tight battle for playoff position again those seven games could be very hurtful. Three of those seven games are back to back sets and the Nuggets will need all the fresh pairs of legs they can afford, even early in the season.
After reflecting on the situation I cannot argue that seven games is too severe. In fact, it is possible J.R. got off easy. I do not mean to keep dwelling on this, but a person lost his life because of J.R.’s actions. How can you say any amount of games is too steep a penalty?
I realize it is not the NBA’s job to punish J.R., after all he spent 24 days in jail isn’t that enough? On the other hand, who among us would still have a job, let alone a multimillion dollar paycheck waiting for us after incarceration?
Seven games is significant suspension, but is it excessive? I do not think so.
A Grizzly Outcome
I wrote a little last year about how interesting Allen Iverson’s free agency would be. I could not imagine him playing for a non contending team, but I could not imagine a contending team being interested in him.
Now he is a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.
I think I am a pretty astute observer of the NBA, but the Grizzlies would not have been a team I would have pictured AI playing for and honestly with players like O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph all wanting the ball, especially Randolph he really wants the ball, I have a difficult time envisioning the partnership panning out.
Iverson signed a one year deal and I doubt AI expects to finish that deal in Memphis. I believe he plans on coming out and proving that what happened in Detroit was not his fault. It was the Pistons that made him look bad, not his declining abilities. If he can play at the level he expects he can, there should be playoff caliber teams banging down the Grizzlies’ door at the trade deadline to add a player that can give them a major boost at a low cost.
I never doubted Iverson’s ability to score, but we have all been waiting for the day when his body would betray his spirit. The Nuggets clearly decided that he had reached that point during training camp last year and what we saw from Iverson in Detroit certainly made Denver look prescient.
Now that his free agency has played out I think what happens from here will be more entertaining than the process that brought him to of all places Tennessee.
Check out the coverage of AI heading to Memphis over at 3 Shades of Blue.
What’s Black and White and Sweaty All Over?
I refereed a few intramural games in college. There were three leagues, A, B and C. I refereed C league games. As you probably figured out A was the top competitive league and C was the recreational league full of people who may or may not have played before. You would think that the C league would be pretty laid back and easy to ref. Some of the guys on my floor played on a team called “Wish There Was a D League.” I am pretty sure they never got on the refs.
On some nights you had teams like my floor mates who just wanted to run around and were happy to make fools of themselves, but on other nights the participants seemed to think they were battling it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy and as a result I took quite a bit of abuse. I remember being glared at days after a game when a guy from one of the games I worked passed me on the sidewalk.
The whole point of this is I do not know who on earth would want to be a referee.
Right now the NBA and the referees union are heading towards a lockout and we are facing the specter of replacement referees. David Stern reportedly pulled out of negotiations on September 8 because the referees backed out on an agreement for pension reductions. The league has agreed to a reduced two year contract instead of the regular five year deal, which means the refs can get a better deal sooner as long as the economy turns around by then, and the referees have agreed to $2.5 million of the $3.2 million in reductions requested by the NBA.
David Stern consistently refers to NBA officials as the best in professional sports and brags about their accuracy. If they are truly only a few hundred thousand dollars apart, how is this deal not done? The union is promoting the idea that Stern is trying to make an example of the referees to try to send a statement to the players heading into their upcoming negotiations.
The NBA is moving forward with bringing in replacement referees and things have the potential to get a little ugly.
Whether we are talking about NBA referees or C league referees, they are whipping boys (and girls). I honestly believe the NBA referees have been doing pretty well the past couple of years. Even so, I am willing to bet the majority of fans would disagree with me. If fans are upset with referees that are supposedly the best, how much more upset will they be watching lesser officials?
I doubt the NBA will let this drag out until the regular season, but when you start posturing, if that is indeed what Stern is doing, disagreements can take on a life of their own. How tough will Stern look if replacement referees are a disaster and he has to cave to the union’s demands?
Chris Tomasson continues to keep us informed of what is going on in Denver and he has reported on FanHouse that Desmond Mason was in Denver earlier this week. From all accounts Mason is a tremendous individual and with the issues the Nuggets have had and are still having that is nothing to sneeze at. The fact that Mason ever played in the NBA at all is a miracle.
Mason made a guest appearance at the Alliance’s summer camp for burn-injured youth at the Timber-Lee Christian Center in East Troy, addressing close to 90 campers ages 7 through 17. His message hit home, because when he was 3 years old, he felt their pain.
His story originated 27 years ago when he was in the back seat of his father’s car. There was a radiator explosion in an adjacent car, and the radiator fluid flew through the open window of Mason’s father’s car and into the back seat, where Desmond was sleeping. He was scalded. His legs had sustained most of the burns.
Mason spent the next six months or so in a hospital, where he underwent skin grafts, plastic surgery and rehabilitation. His doctors told his parents that he would never be able to run again.
They obviously underestimated Desmond’s determination. Within a year, he was not only running, but playing football and basketball.
Mason not only told the children at the burn camp the story of his traumatic ordeal, but showed them his scars and said, “Look at me now!”
His young audience, according to one observer, was awestruck. Anyone else who witnessed his presentation probably was, too.
“I told them about what I had to go through when I was young and I got burned,” Mason said. “It was in the same situation, and it’s something that kind of messes with your head a little bit. Kids are so young, and they can be brutal and say whatever and make you feel like an outcast sometimes.
“When I visit these camps, I’m around people who are in the same situation I was in.”
Mason told the campers to enjoy their time at the camp, look past their painful experiences and focus on the future. And he stressed to them the importance of working hard and believing that they could accomplish anything they set out to do.
His story is inspiring and I hope he can continue to provide hope to children who have suffered from similar tragedies.
There has been some good discussion here on whether or not Denver should sign Mason. I will only add one thing and that is Mason’s career three point shooting percentage. 26.0%. Ouch.
I believe we can explain Mason’s presence in Denver by looking back to a visit by Rashad McCants. When McCants came to Denver last month it seemed like an odd story. The result of McCants’ trip to the Mile High City was that Anthony Carter realized that there were other players who wanted to play in Denver and he signed his contract soon after.
I believe Denver’s interest in Mason is for him to play the role of McCants in the hopes that Szczerbiak responds the way Carter did. I am sure the Nuggets are hoping to sign Wally to a minimum contract while Wally is hoping to get the $2.1 million balance of Denver’s mid level exception. The thing is both sides know the other side needs them so they are in no rush to act. The Nuggets desperately need a shooter to come in off the bench and there is no contending team with minutes available left for Szczerbiak to sign with.
I do not know what Szczerbiak’s starting salary will be. I would guess that he gets a big chunk, if not all of, the bi-annual exception, which is capped at $1.99 million this season. The bottom line is regardless of who else comes to town, I firmly believe Wally will be the Nuggets’ man.
The Denver Nuggets have made another smart signing as it was announced today that they have resigned Johan Petro. There has been no word of what the contract terms are, but I would guess that it is a one or two year deal starting at the five year veteran’s minimum salary of $959,111.
The Nuggets have done a very good job of managing their payroll this offseason. No one is going to write a book about Denver’s 2009 offseason although I cannot fault them for anything they have done. Today’s signing of Petro is the perfect example of developing a plan and then executing it.
Early in the summer the Nuggets had to decide whether or not they would extend a qualifying offer (QO) of just under $2.85 million to Petro. All of us knew at the time he was not worth that much, but the Nuggets really needed to have a player like Petro, a legit seven footer who can bang in the paint, on the roster. Denver could have done the safe thing and given Petro the QO. No team was going to top it and it would have guaranteed that Petro would return to Denver although at an overinflated price tag.
Instead of wasting money and as recommended here they made the calculated decision to allow Petro to become a free agent and take the risk that someone would offer him a little more money. I thought it seemed like the right thing to do and the gamble has paid off. Denver will retain Petro’s services at nearly only a third of the cost of his QO.
In addition to the savings they earned with Petro they have also resigned Chris Andersen at a very reasonable first year salary, replaced Dahntay Jones with the cheaper and more talented Arron Afflalo and instead of meeting Linas Kleiza’s salary wishes they are likely to replace him with the cheaper and more sound Wally Szczerbiak.
That is good business and that is how you build a sustainable salary structure. The transactions Denver has made are not front page news, but they are crafty and full of basketball wisdom.
Looking ahead the signing now opens up two questions, will Malik Allen be relegated to the bench and will Coby Karl be in training camp?
Last season the Nuggets had primarily a three man rotation between power forward and center with Nene, Kenyon Martin and Birdman. Linas Kleiza and Renaldo Balkman received the bulk of the remaining minutes at power forward. Before Petro was retained it appeared the Nuggets may have been planning on playing Allen as much as ten minutes a night. Petro is fully capable of filling that role and all three of the Nuggets other front court players can play power forward both offensively and defensively should they be on the floor with Petro. I suspect Petro will make Allen superfluous in the rotation, which I believe is a good thing.
From a roster standpoint Petro’s return may reduce Summer League Fan Favorite Coby Karl’s chances of coming to Denver. The Nuggets are only one player away from hitting the 13 player minimum roster requirement and as mentioned above that spot seems destined to go to Szczerbiak. I assume Karl the Elder will know if Stan Kroenke is willing to foot the bill for a fourteenth player or not. The answer to that question will determine if Coby is in Denver this fall.
Karl the Younger is undoubtedly an NBA player and will go to a team’s camp where he has a great chance to make the team. If Karl the Elder knows the Nuggets will not sign a fourteenth player Karl the Younger will go elsewhere, but if Karl the Younger is brought into Nuggets camp then I think that is a good sign that the Nuggets will carry a fourteenth player, at least to start the season, and Coby will be that fourteenth warm body.
The 2009-10 roster and rotation are taking shape and even though the Nuggets have not done anything dramatic, I think they are executing their offseason plans beautifully.
I love it when a plan comes together.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting (via Twitter) Anthony Carter has signed his one year $1.35 million contract to continue his career with the Denver Nuggets.
I questioned if Rashad McCants presence in Denver yesterday was intended to induce a fire under some free agent. I do not know of the two events are connected, but it would not surprise me if McCants visit did indeed scare Carter into action.
Before we get to the promised big man post I need to pass on a HoopsHype report that the Denver Nuggets hosted Rashad McCants today. I have no idea how on earth he fits with this team, but hopefully it was just a ploy to motivate another, more roster appropriate player to sign. I know I would take Coby Karl over McCants any day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.
With that out of the way we can now move on to bigger, and hopefully better, things.
At this point there is some significant fodder for the Nuggets to sift through in the big man bin. I still believe there are a couple of decent players who could help the Nuggets.
The first player I will focus on is Joe Smith. Smith, who was briefly a Nugget three years ago, never lived up to his status as the first overall pick, but he is a decently skilled big man who has the reputation of being able to consistently hit the midrange jumper. He averaged just below 20 minutes a game last season and with the Nuggets would fill the important role of keeping Malik Allen on the bench.
Smith can rebound and is a decent enough defender. He is getting old, but would still be a very solid contributor as the fourth big off the bench. Cleveland is reportedly interested in bringing Smith back, Both Cleveland and Denver would have three bigs in the rotation ahead of Smith, but the Cavs also have a bevy of other players who could steal minutes from Smith in J.J. Hickson, Darnell Jackson and a theoretically healthy Leon Powe. Denver has no one other than Rolando Balkman as a potential minute stealer. Still, the money will be equal and it is possible Smith will prefer to stay in Cleveland, but if the Cavs go in another direction, Denver would be the next logical destination.
The bad news about Smith is in 2008-09 he shot midrange jumpers about as well as Kenyon Martin (check the HotSpots data for yourself) and I know none of us where jumping for joy when Kenyon lined one of his catapult jumpers up. However, in previous seasons Smith did indeed knock the midrange shot down very consistently. Should the Nuggets call on him, it is possible he could bounce back and return to form, but there is also the possibility he could be washed up at the age of 34.
There is no way to know which it is until he steps on the court next season.
The other potential direction the Nuggets could go is a true center. A big body to match up with the Andrew Bynum’s and Yao Ming’s Chris Kaman’s of the world. There has been some interest in Marc Gasol amongst Nuggets fans, but I think there is a similar player to be had for much cheaper. You are going to scoff at first, but hear me out. I think at this point in the summer the Nuggets should pursue Aaron Gray.
Gray is a restricted free agent who played his first two seasons with Chicago. He is a middle class version of Gasol the Younger. They are both basically the same size, both have good hands and neither is particularly fleet of foot. Gray has good hands and nice touch around the rim, he sets good screens and provides a big target in the lane on the roll, he is a very good rebounder and can pass out of double teams just fine. Gray is not going to blow anyone away, but he could be had for cheap and would provide a true seven footer for George Karl to call on.
As I mentioned above Gray is a restricted free agent and that complicates things. The minimum the Nuggets could sign Gray for as a third year player is $855,189 and that is significant. According to the ESPN NBA Trade Machine (as good a resource as any for current salaries) the Chicago Bulls are $858,926 away from the luxury tax line. Should the Nuggets sign Gray to the minimum allowable deal the Bulls could match it and still be $3,736 short of paying the tax. Of course there is a chance that an incentive could push the Bulls over the line and there is the chance the ESPN numbers are not entirely accurate. Still, no team wants to flirt with the tax line in this economy. Not only do they have to pay the tax, but they lose out on the tax disbursement payment that is sent out to non taxpaying teams.
The Nuggets should take advantage of the Bulls proximity to the tax limit and sign Gray to an offer sheet. However, the Nuggets can sign him to more than the minimum without digging into any of their mid level exception. They can do so by utilizing their biannual exception. The biannual exception can be split up into smaller amounts just like the mid level exception can. I am sure the Nuggets have accurate salary information on the Bulls and would know just how much to sign Gray for to push them over the top. Whether that number is $862,622 or $950,000 the Nuggets can potentially make things very frightening for the Bulls.
Once again Gray would not be an exciting signing, but he has a solid feel for the game and is a legit seven footer, which is good thing. You do not want Gray playing 20 or heaven forbid, 25 minutes a game, but as a filler and big body to toss out against the other big bodies the Nuggets struggle with he is not a bad option.
I have no idea if the Nuggets are going to sign another big man, I sure as heck hope they do, but as much as the Nuggets could use a power forward who can rebound and hit open jumpers like Smith, I think they could use a true center in order to give them some flexibility even more. Right now the only players on the roster who could be considered centers are Nene and Chris Andersen and Nene is the only one who has any kind of back to the basket game.
If Gray cannot be brought to town then Johan Petro is probably next on the list of true centers to bring to town. Petro would have the advantage over Gray in defending a player like Dwight Howard, but he has no post game and is not as good of a rebounder as Gray is.
It is probably not a great sign when two weeks into August I am forced to blog about a player that no one has thought of as a player to target in free agency, but when you are scraping the bottom of the barrel, you can do worse than Aaron Gray.
There has been no shortage of recommendations for players the fans think the Denver Nuggets should sign. We know the Nuggets will have to sign (or trade for) at least three more players. I am working under the assumption that Anthony Carter is going to return to his regular one year, veteran minimum contract. To fill the other two spots the Nuggets will likely sign an offensive minded swingman and another big. Today we will poke and prod two shooters that the Nuggets are undoubtedly interested in and tomorrow we will investigate a couple of bigs that may be on the radar.
At small forward there are two players that have received quite a bit of attention, and they are Steve Novak and Wally Szczerbiak. Novak is the people’s choice, but it is unclear if the Nuggets have made contact with him or his agent. Szczerbiak, who was featured in an article by the wild and wooly Woody Paige in the Denver Post, probably has the inside track with the team and in the aforementioned article claims they had shown interest in him more than a month ago. Which player should Denver choose? I am glad I asked.
Both players can shoot, but does one have an edge over the other in that department? Szczerbiak has converted over 40% of his three point attempts in seven of his previous eight campaigns (trust me, I did the math for the seasons he played for more than one team). Novak does not have quite the track record that Wally does, but he did hit 47.9% of his threes in 2007-08 while playing for the Houston Rockets, but he only attempted 71 three pointers that season. Last year with the Clippers he drilled 41.6% of his three point attempts on a much greater number of attempts. Plus due to the fact he was playing with the Clippers, they were not all open looks.
At this point in their careers, I think Novak is the better marksman. On a team like the Nuggets where open looks will abound thanks to the talent around him I suspect he would have a chance at hitting 45% of his threes. Wally would capitalize on his chances in Denver as well, but I do not believe he would convert quite as high of a percentage as Novak would although the difference would not be significant.
However, there is more to basketball than catching a pass and shooting an open three pointer. When it comes to the other facets of the game I believe Wally has Novak beat. Szczerbiak has carried the offensive load in the past and has a more diverse arsenal to call on. That is not to say Novak is not capable of adding a midrange game, or a post game or a pull up jumper to his quiver, but Wally already has those in the bag. Neither player is asked to do much more than shoot, but you want to be able to trust someone to do more than dribble away from the defense and pass the ball to the point guard to reinitiate the offense, Wally is your man. As soon as Novak dribbles he is looking for someone to pass off to.
Defensively both players are underrated. If you ask most fans to rank them both on a scale of one to 100 you would probably get a lot of zeros. Actually they are probably both twenty-fives, thus the underrated tag.
Novak is very attentive and does a good job of being in the right place on the floor and ready to help. Szczerbiak is also attentive, but as on offense, he has just a bit more to offer. Despite being six years older than Novak, Szczerbiak is still a slightly better athlete. Plus he has some craftiness on defense that Novak is lacking. For example when the Cavaliers played the Nuggets in Denver this season Wally drew two charges and a third offensive foul when he was boxing out Chris Andersen. Believe it or not, the Cavs played Wally at power forward for a few minutes in that game and Szczerbiak actually guarded Andersen. Novak has three inches on Wally, but Szczerbiak plays bigger and he moves slightly better too.
Even though Szczerbiak would appear to be the better player right now I still have a difficult time endorsing him over Novak. Maybe it is the thought of having to type his last name over and over again. The tipping point in my mind is their respective contract statuses. Szczerbiak is an unrestricted free agent while Novak is restricted.
The most the Nuggets can offer Novak would be the $2.1 million they have left over from their mid level exception although they could also use their biannual exception that starts at $1.99 million. The question is would either one of those be too much for the Clippers to match? Los Angeles is over the salary cap by around $3 million, but they are nowhere near the luxury tax line. Of course Donald Sterling has the reputation of being cheap, but he has proven he will spend money when he wants to. The kicker is the Clippers have about $21 million coming off their books next season from players they are unlikely to bring back. Adding around $2 million a year for Novak is not nearly as costly for the Clippers as it would be for Denver.
I have no idea how much Szczerbiak is expecting to sign for, but I bet Denver could sign him for the veteran minimum. That would clearly not be possible with Novak.
I believe when all is said and done the Nuggets will sign Szczerbiak to be their shooter off the pine, but before I offer the deal to him, and despite the fact my head tells me he is the better player, I would like to see Denver make a play for Novak.
I say sign Novak to an offer sheet using their biannual exception and dare the Clippers to match it. I think it would probably be a futile gesture because I do think the Clippers would match that offer. The good news is at this point Denver will get one or the other. If Los Angeles does not match the offer sheet, Denver would get the shooter they need to replace Kleiza. On the other hand if the Clippers do match, Wally will still be available. Szczerbiak has waited this long, and as I pointed out previously, there are no other contending teams with playing time available to be had. Wally waited Kleiza’s contract situation out, he would have no choice but to wait Novak’s out as well.
The bottom line is in Denver the bottom line is the bottom line (think it over, it makes sense, in fact, that should be the Nuggets marketing slogan this season) and I doubt the Nuggets are interested in offering anyone more than a minimum salary. That means no Novak, but do not fret. Szczerbiak will be just fine playing a handful of minutes off the bench. It is not a signing to jump for joy over, but I would take Szczerbiak’s savvy and shooting any day over Kleiza’s one track mind. You can complain and grouse all you want, but Szczerbiak would provide another small upgrade for the Nuggets heading into 2009-10.
For those of you who are really down about the Denver Nuggets losing Linas Kleiza to Olympiakos (I hate having to spell words that look wrong when they are right) I have come to share with you the really hard to see silver lining.
First of all, the Nuggets front office has experience in cutting payroll by eliminating players whose contribution is not equal to their compensation. I can still remember the nonsense that was pedaled when the Nuggets traded Marcus Camby. Frantic people were screaming that he was the only player who cared about defense and the Nuggets were going to give up 120 points a game without him. These guys are experts on the players on their roster. If you and I can see the holes in these guys games, you know they understand even better who is more easily replaced.
Secondly, they should be able to gather a pretty impressive group of players for training camp. Players know Denver has to add at least two players and possibly a third depending on whether Anthony Carter signs or not. With every other contending team having filled out their roster they will have their pick of who is remaining. Players desperate for a job know the best combination of a quality team and opportunity to play is with the Nuggets.
Third, I am beginning to doubt that Denver will take on a mid to high salary player over the next couple of seasons, but with the payroll they have slashed over the past few days, they could be capable of adding some salary before the trade deadline. Plus, at this point, they still have a chunk of their mid level exception, $2.1 million to be exact, remaining to sign a veteran who is bought out later in the season.
Fourth, the Nuggets are good enough to duplicate their success from last year as is. I do not think the teams in the west have improved as much as everyone believes, but we can delve into that before the season starts.
Let’s wait and see what the final roster looks like before we throw in the towel on the season.
I have one more stat to throw out at you before we close the book on Linas Kleiza for 2009-10. According to 82games.com Kleiza was terrible in the clutch. When protracting Kleiza’s performance during the last five minutes of a game or in overtime where neither team is ahead by more than five points over a full 48 minutes the Nuggets were outscored by 40 points. Basically when games were close and Kleiza was on the floor, bad things happened.
Bret Bearup has made two references on his Twitter account (Twitter.com/TheDenverKid) that sound promising. Earlier this morning he mentioned working on the roster and tonight he mentioned he was making some calls. I would not be surprised if the Nuggets sign a player or two in the next few days.
Chauncey reaching out to J.R. Smith
According to Chris Tomasson Chauncey is going to spend three weeks in Las Vegas and try to talk some sense to him. Apparently Billups agrees with my assertion that Smith has some growing up to do and Chauncey does not want to grow old wondering what would have happened if he had reached out to J.R. Smith has bought a house in Vegas, a dangerous place for a young immature man with money if you ask me, and his first housewarming gift is Chauncey. Now Chauncey has a wife and kids and it is a serious commitment to leave them for three weeks knowing he is going to be away from them quite a lot in the near future. We all know people who are teetering on the edge of taking a serious fall in their lives and I am guessing Chauncey believes J.R. is close to putting himself in that position.
Finalizing the Hunter trade with Memphis
I have asked around about what the details were of the second round pick the Nuggets will receive from Memphis and no one seems to have a good answer. I decided to stop being lazy and do some research for myself and what I found was not inspiring. According to both the Real GM and HoopsWorld listing of picks owed Memphis has traded the Los Angeles Lakers their 2010 second round pick and they have pending conditional deals already awaiting their second round picks from 2011-13. All of those picks are protected from 31-55 so unless Memphis gets really good very quickly they are holding on to those picks. I do not know if they can place two conditions on one pick such as Denver receives their 2011 second round pick if it is between picks 35 and 54, but Houston will receive it if it is in picks 55-60. Since those two options are mutually exclusive I would assume that kind of condition would be acceptable by the NBA, however, it is entirely possible that the Nuggets will just be added to the list and will receive the Grizzlies 2014 second round pick as long as it is higher than 55.
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
Sprite and the NBA are conducting a nationwide dunk contest. They have narrowed the field down to ten and four of those ten will be selected to compete in the finals during All-Star Weekend. Go to NBA.com/dunk to view dunks from the ten semifinalists and vote for your favorite dunker to compete in the finals, but do it fast. Voting ends on August 24 so do not miss your chance to crown the people’s champion of the dunk.
Starting tomorrow things are going to get busy at work. I have been lucky to have a job where I can spend some time on the blog during the day if I have to, but over the next 18 months we are going to be working on a massive project and there will be many a day where I will not be able to get a post up when you guys want one. Hang in there with me and I will do all I can to keep giving you the coverage you all deserve.
Thanks for reading and I appreciate the fact that all of you choose to take time out of your life to check out Roundball Mining Company.
The Denver Post is reporting that Linas Kleiza will sign a two year, $12 million contract with Greek team Olympiakos. (Update: The contract is reportedly for $12.2 million and does have an opt out after one season.)
I cannot blame Kleiza because no NBA team was willing to pay him nearly that much, but as I pointed out previously, it only delays his restricted free agency to next summer, assuming he triggers his opt out clause after the first year of the contract.
Whether you love Kleiza or hate him, you have to admit that this hurts the Nuggets’ depth. I have no problem with Renaldo Balkman backing up Carmelo at small forward as an offense/defense combo like J.R. Smith and Dahntay Jones last season at shooting guard. Plus Balkman can fill in at power forward as Kleiza did when necessary.
Kleiza’s departure also saves the Nuggets an additional $5.4 million in luxury tax and salary and opens up another roster spot. I am sure the Nuggets would have preferred to have Kleiza to sign the qualifying offer, but with the trade of Steven Hunter and now Kleiza heading to Greece, Denver has saved almost $10 million in salary and tax payments, which is significant.
Assuming Anthony Carter returns the Nuggets now have to add two players to their regular season roster in order to field the minimum 13 players.