On November 9th, the Nuggets gave up 144 points in a loss to the Pacers after fumbling away a tough game in Chicago the night before. Regardless of fatigue, it was an embarrassing performance in which Indiana dominated throughout and made their first 20 shots in a 54 point third quarter. Tonight the Nuggets got their opportunity for revenge, with the Pacers on the second game of a back to back this time as their road trip comes to a close in Denver. After a slow start, the Nuggets pass the ball and shoot lights out behind Melo’s 36 points to pay back Indiana with a blowout of their own.
The Denver Nuggets have been to the playoffs seven straight seasons and have posted three straight 50 win campaigns for the first time as an NBA franchise. Despite the consistency they have displayed on the court, the front office is once again in a state of flux.
The Nuggets announced today Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman will not have their contracts renewed and thus will cease to be employed by the club at the end of August (Denver Post article, Tomasson article on FanHouse). This is no surprise as Warkentien has been granted permission to speak with other teams about their front office vacancies. Over the previous four seasons the Nuggets have had quite a few cooks around the fire. Warkentien, Chapman, Bret Bearup and George Karl have all had a say in personnel matters and do not forget Stan Kroenke ultimately determines what he is willing to spend which plays a considerable role in player personnel decisions.
Despite the crowded kitchen Warkentien was the head chef and he made a significant mark on the franchise.
The Denver Nuggets front office has pulled off another spectacular trade as they have acquired Arron Afflalo and Walter Sharpe for a second round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. That pick is slated to be the lower of the two second rounders the Nuggets currently own in 2011, their own and Portland’s. Unless both of those teams fall apart over the next two seasons that pick should be in the fifties.
When news broke that this trade was a possibility I figured Denver would have to give up the Clippers second round pick they own an option on in the 2010 draft. The fact they took on not only Afflalo’s salary, but Walter Sharpe’s salary too it lowered the price to what will likely be one of the final picks in the 2011 draft plus Detroit threw in $350,000 in cash. Denver was able to land a replacement for Dahntay Jones and a cheap end of the bench prospect in Sharpe for virtually nothing.
Over the previous three summers the Nuggets have acquired J.R. Smith, Renaldo Balkman and now Afflalo and Sharpe for nothing but second round picks, nonguaranteed contracts and/or trade exceptions. Obviously the Smith trade with Chicago was one of the best trades in recent NBA history. Balkman is a very intriguing player who will possibly fill a greater role in 2009-10 and now Afflalo is another rotation player that Denver has brought in at little to no cost. As much attention as the Chauncey Billups trade received it is smaller deals like these that can round out the roster of a contending team.
Afflalo is not a supremely talented player, but he is very solid. He is a very good defender and in his two seasons with the Pistons has adapted to the NBA three point line very well. His rookie season Afflalo only made 20.8% of his 48 attempts. Last season he more than doubled his three point attempts to 107 and despite taking more shots he nearly doubled his percentage as well to an impressive 40.2%.
The difference between the two seasons was Afflalo’s ability to hit the three from the left corner. In his rookie season of 2007-08 Afflalo was 0-9. In 2008-09 he shot 24-44 which equates to 54.5% (you will have to pick the criteria yourself to see his percentages as the URL does not update when you make your selection). Strangely, he only shot 9-31, 29.0%, from the right corner. The two shots are not exact duplicates of each other, but they are close and over time I suspect his percentage from the left corner will drop a bit while his percentage from the right corner will rise. Nevertheless, it is significant that he was able to show such strong improvement between his first and second seasons. If he can continue to improve, he will be a very good offensive weapon.
As we all know there is much more to offense than just shooting open jumpers. So far Afflalo has not shown much more than an ability to catch and shoot. He has not posted very good assist numbers, but I believe that is more due to his role as a catch and shoot player than an inability to pass. He does not have blazing speed, but is a decent drive a kick player. He can dribble with either hand and I believe can answer the call if asked to fill a more significant role on offense. The good news is with players like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Billups and Nene, Denver does not need Afflalo to come in and light up the scoreboard.
Defensively Afflalo is not great, but can certainly fill the role of the defensive oriented shooting guard. In Detroit he guarded point guards, shooting guards and even small forwards from time to time. He works hard and is very focused. He fights over screens well and has shown the ability to chase players around screens. The one thing he needs to work on is his strength at the point of contact as he tends to give up too much space when the offensive player bumps him to get a shot off.
Afflalo will never be a star, but he is the kind of highly competent player that championship teams need. He may never drive Chris Paul as nuts as Dahntay Jones did, but he has the ability to be just as good a defender game after game while providing much more punch on the offensive end.
There has been some great discussion the past couple days as to whether or not J.R. Smith or Afflalo should start. The good news is we do not need to have an answer for that question yet. While there is no doubt the Nuggets were much worse with Jones on the floor than J.R., I do not think that is a fair argument for keeping Afflalo out of the starting lineup. Afflalo is a much better all around player than Jones and I do not think he would be as much of a drop off from J.R. as Jones was. Personally I would start J.R., but it would not surprise me, especially if Denver loses Linas Kleiza, if Karl decides he needs Smith’s offense off the bench and Afflalo takes the court to start each half.
One interesting tidbit that was pointed out by reader Ky Davis is according to John Hollinger the player Afflalo is most like is none other than former Nugget stalwart Bryant Stith. I think most Nugget fans would gladly take a player of that caliber.
The one man who may be in trouble with the addition of Afflalo is Anthony Carter. Afflalo can provide that end of game defense that Karl craves, but until the Nuggets know they can count on Ty Lawson, Carter will probably still be in their plans.
In the next day or two look for some video of Afflalo to give you all a better idea of what he is capable of. Plus Afflalo is not the only player involved in the trade. Look for a post on Walter Sharpe, with rarely seen footage from the 2008 summer league, in the near future as well.
By the way thanks to those of you who emailed me news of the trade while I was fighting off rain and near hurricane force winds at Water World with my family.
The Denver Post is reporting the Indiana Pacers have come to a contract agreement with Dahntay Jones on a four year, $11 million deal.
All I can say to that is congratulations Dahntay. There is no way I would have given him that much money or that many years.
With J.R. Smith and Sonny Weems Denver has plenty of offensive firepower at shooting guard, but neither one is a defensive specialist. Smith has made tremendous improvement on defense over the previous two seasons, but he still has a way to go, primarily in the are of providing consistent focus from play to play.
What the Nuggets do from here depends on how confident they are that J.R. can continue to improve his defense and whether or not they trust Weems to contribute in his second season.
If Denver has doubts about one or both of those issues they will have to bring in a legit shooting guard who can defend. Players like Keith Bogans, Ime Udoka and perhaps Marquis Daniels, who may be out of the picture in Indiana with Jones now on board, are decent possibilities.
One player I would love to see come to Denver is Aaron Afflalo from Detroit. He is not a free agent, but with the addition of Ben Gordon there is not going to be many minutes available for him to get on the court. Afflalo can defend very well and increased his three point shooting to 40.2% last season.
On the other hand, if Denver is happy with their shooting guard duo of Smith and Weems, look for them to stand pat and spend their limited amount of money elsewhere.
The two big names on the Denver Nuggets’ summer league roster are Sonny Weems and Ty Lawson. It will be fun to see what Weems can do after lighting up the D-League and of course it will be a lot of fun to check out Lawson’s first taste of quasi NBA ball too.
Apart from those two there are a couple of intriguing names on the list.
Derrick Byars is a sweet shooting swingman from Vanderbilt who, if memory serves, was a second round draft pick by Dallas last season. Richard Hendrix is a big boy who specializes in scoring in the lane. He is a poor man’s Zach Randolph and I think he belongs in the league somehwere.
There are a couple of players who were on NBA rosters last season. From that category we have Kareem Rush who is an unrestricted free agent after playing with Philadelphia last season. Cedric Simmons was a mamber of the Chicago Bulls before getting shipped off to the Sacramento Kings in the trade that saw the Bulls acquire Brad Miller and John Salmons.
The big name we should have all seen coming from a mile away is none other than Coby Karl. Karl did a very good job last summer in Las Vegas so I expect him to look good again. He probably does belong in the NBA at the end of someone’s bench.
A couple of interesting things to take note of is Lawson is the only true point guard on the roster. Look for him to play almost every second he possibly can as he gets a crash course on how to play NBA defense. Karl would probably be considered the backup point guard (showcasing his versatility to the rest of the NBA?).
They also have three shooters on the roster on a list of nine guys, because shooting is an important skill to have.
|12||C.J. Giles||F/C||6-11||240||9/25/85||Oregon State||R|
|22||Coby Karl||G||6-5||215||3/6/83||Boise State||1|
|3||Ty Lawson||G||5-11||195||11/3/87||North Carolina||R|
|5||Cedric Simmons||F||6-9||235||1/3/86||North Carolina State||3|
Keep in mind that these rosters are fluid and they may add a player or two.
I do not expect any of these guys to make the regular season roster for Denver unless they are not abel to sign anyone in free agency and lose Dahntay Jones and Linas Kleiza. Perhaps hte best opportunity would be if Ronald Dupree can prove to replace Jones as the defensive swingman.
Click here to see the schedule. No news on TV or Internet coverage as of yet.
Update: Dupree and Hendrix are also playing for the Orlando Magic in the Orlando Summer League. If Orlando signs one or both to a contract they will not be playing for Denver.
We are a day and a half into the free agency negotiating period and so far only two players have been locked up as Detroit has verbal agreements with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva (didn’t Detroit win their title largely due to their stellar team defense?).
At this point the only news out of Denver is Mark Warkentien was in Los Angeles to talk contract with Chris Andersen. I do not think there is any doubt at this point that Birdman returns to Denver.
That leads up to a big question. Denver can sign Andersen for up to six seasons. Do you give Chris Andersen a five or six year deal? I say no. The primary reason is Andersen turns 31 in five days although he is certainly not your typical 31 year old big man.
Birdman set a career high for playing time this season having logged 1,460 minutes on the court. For his career he has accumulated 5,692 minutes. That may sound like a lot of minutes, but consider that over the previous two seasons LeBron James has played the fewest minutes of his career. However, LeBron has still totaled 6,081 minutes over those two seasons. LeBron has played almost 400 more minutes since November of 2007 than Andersen has played over his seven year career.
Even with Andersen’s low mileage you have to be wary of signing a player so dependent on his athleticism into his mid thirties. I think the perfect contract for Andersen would be a three year deal with a team option or non guaranteed fourth season.
As a sidebar, team options/non guaranteed seasons can be used as a de facto expiring contract and I think they give teams a great deal of flexibility. If I were a GM I would tack on an extra season to every contract that starts at $4 million a year or higher where only $250,000 is guaranteed. The player then gets an additional $250,000 and I get a potentially high value trading chip. Of course, you open yourself up to having some dead money on your cap so it would be important to make sure you only have two or three non-guaranteed seasons coming up at the same time, but that would be easily manageable. The benefit would far outweigh the cost in my mind.
Apart from meeting with Birdman the Nuggets have been very quiet. The only player I have seen them linked to consistently in published reports is Grant Hill. There is no mention of Denver being involved with Rasheed Wallace. San Antonio, Orlando and Cleveland are all hot for Sheed, but Boston has been the most aggressive suitor. It will be interesting to see what Wallace does. Boston is the only team for which he would not start, unless they decided to bench Kendrick Perkins, but they are probably the best fit as Wallace can do many of the same things Garnett does. Wallace would make Orlando much more traditional with Rashard Lewis moving back to small forward, but he would still give them the three point threat from the power forward spot. Should he go to San Antonio it would allow the Spurs to bring DeJuan Blair along more slowly and he and Duncan would be possibly the best interior defensive tandem in the league.
From a Nuggets perspective I think it would be most interesting if Wallace signed with Cleveland because it would put Anderson Varejao in play. Cleveland would probably want to bring him back, but I doubt he would want to back up Rasheed. Varejao is the kind of team defender Denver needs. He is always amongst the league leaders in charges drawn (2006-07 stats were the most recent I could find) and he is a great pick and roll defender. I am not sure if Denver would pursue Varejao, but the Nuggets have fellow Brazilian Nene on the roster and Varejao could probably be had at mid level exception money. Of course, Varejao would not be a full time starter in Denver either with Nene and Kenyon on the roster, but I think if Rasheed is in Cleveland he would want out.
I did stumble across a sentence in this article that says the Nuggets are interested in Channing Frye. Frye is not a great individual defender, but I do believe he can be effective as part of a solid team defensive scheme. The Nuggets are missing a big man who can consistently shoot from the outside and Frye would fill that role as the fourth big. He is also an underrated rebounder. Should the Nuggets swap Kleiza for Hill and Petro for Frye there will not be dancing in the streets, but I think those two players would be positive upgrades and both would come relatively cheap. Add in Ty Lawson and that is a pretty good boost in talent from last season.
Shifting to the Nuggets’ free agents, I think the silence surrounding Dahntay Jones, Linas Kleiza and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Carter is deafening. At this point I would be very surprised if Kleiza or Jones are back in Denver next season. If the Nuggets miss out on Hill I think LK is their fallback option, but I think they would probably still rather sign and trade him than keep him around.
I have read that Cleveland is interested in Kleiza and this morning I saw Indiana has made a call to his agent as well. The report that links Kleiza to Indy was same report also claimed the Pacers are looking at Jones and Carter too. If you are Anthony Carter how much more would the Pacers have to offer in order for you to move from Denver to Indianapolis?
Other big news includes David Lee losing almost all of his leverage now that Memphis has acquired Zach Randolph, which brings a possible sign and trade back into play. The Knicks probably do not want to add his contract to their summer of 2010 payroll, but they have offered him a four year, $32 million contract. Now Toronto is tossing their name in the hat although they are also looking at using their limited resources on a small forward such as Hedo Turkoglu or Trevor Ariza.
Speaking of Turkoglu, it appears Portland is going to add him to their stacked roster, but I am not sure how much of an upgrade that will be for them. Turkoglu does a lot of the same things that Brandon Roy does, especially at the end of games. I think Hedo definitely makes them better, how much I do not know. Dave at Blazer’s Edge looks at what Hedo might do or not do for Portland. What would scare me is if Portland adds Turkoglu and then pulls off a sign and trade for Andre Miller.
Ariza’s agent apparently is saying that the Lakers need to reward Ariza with a contract over the mid level exception. If they do not he claims Ariza will take someone else’s mid level offer out of spite. So far the Cavs have joined the Raptors as potential destinations.
Finally, we are getting some good comments from readers. One name that keeps popping up is Hakim Warrick. I believe the Nuggets are going to continue to bring in players who can play great team defense and Warrick does not fit that mold. Plus his qualifying offer is for just over $3 million and that is too much for what he would bring to the table.
Finally I will leave you with some big time breaking news from the Denver Post. Chauncey Billups is switching his uniform number from 7 to 1. J.R. Smith was number one last season, but will wear an as of yet undetermined number. Apparently J.R. just surrendered the number 1 to Billups without so much as a dinner at Sizzler.
With the 2009 NBA meat market known as free agency kicking off tonight at midnight eastern time we need to once again interrupt our individual player evaluations to look at what kind of options are out there for the Nuggets.
Before we get started, familiarize yourself with who is available with this team by team list of free agents.
A quick look at the Nuggets’ finances shows that they are already over the projected luxury tax limit of $70-71 million with the contracts of Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene, J.R. Smith, Steven Hunter, Linas Kleiza, Renaldo Balkman, Sonny Weems, Ty Lawson and the $3.0 million they owe Antonio McDyess based on the buyout they agreed to last season (all totaling roughly $73 million). That is ten players and you must carry a minimum of 13 players on your roster.
Now add to that at least $4-5 million to resign Chris Andersen and another million plus for Anthony Carter and/or Dahntay Jones. Suddenly they only have one or two spots with which to upgrade the roster and probably not too much financial wiggle room to play with.
Priority number one has to be to resign Chris Andersen. The question is how much will it cost? If Denver has to come up with $7 or $8 million a year to bring Andersen back it will be very difficult for them to afford to beef up their roster. However, in order for Andersen to get a big offer like that a team who wants him would have to be far enough below the salary cap to offer that kind of cash. So are there any teams who fit that mold?
Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Portland and Sacramento are the only teams capable of making a significant offer to any free agent above the midlevel exception. I think we can scratch teams like Atlanta, Memphis, Portland and Sacramento off the list because of either a lack of interest from the team in question or from Birdman in playing there.
That leaves Detroit and Oklahoma City. I think Detroit has quite a few players on their list before they get down to Andersen and most likely they will spend their money elsewhere. To me the only team to really worry about is Oklahoma City. They need a shot blocker and rebounder as evidenced by the fact they acquired Tyson Chandler from New Orleans at the trade deadline before their doctor nixed the deal. The one thing Sam Presti has to worry about is the money he is going to have to shell out for Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook in two or three seasons.
Ultimately, I believe the Thunder will not offer Andersen a big contract and that will allow Denver to only have to deal with midlevel offers from other teams. In fact as we saw with J.R. Smith last season teams usually do not bother even offering the mid level exception when the know it will be matched. J.R. did not receive any offer sheets last season and I suspect Birdman should not expect any this summer either. Why waste your time signing a player to an offer sheet when you know the team will match it as soon as the offer sheet showed up on the fax machine.
I expect Denver will be able to resign Andersen with a three year $15 million deal with a starting salary in the $4.0 million range. Maybe Andersen leaves some money on the table, but he would still receive over a 400% raise and keeps him in Denver, where he wants to be. Not all athletes feel a sense of loyalty to a franchise, but Denver not only gave Birdman his first chance to play in the NBA, they also gave him his second chance at real playing time following his suspension.
Birdman deserves a lot of attention, but Andersen is only one of six free agents the Nuggets have to worry about. Do not expect Jason Hart to return. Johan Petro has been allowed to become an unrestricted free agent which does not bode well for his return, although there is a chance Denver could bring him back. As we discussed yesterday look for Anthony Carter to return for one more season in Denver.
The two great unknowns are Linas Kleiza and Dahntay Jones.
Denver is expected to extend the one year, $2,705,724 qualifying offer to Kleiza although as of yet there has been no official word that they have. Kleiza quickly became a favorite of George Karl as he improved quickly in his second and third seasons. I was of the opinion that he was overvalued by the Nuggets, as well as other teams around the league, because his rapid improvement convinced them that his ceiling was much higher than it actually is. In his fourth NBA season he appeared to have plateaued. His three point percentage dropped, his defense is still lacking, he passes only begrudgingly and still rarely goes to his left. The one thing Kleiza does well is rebound. His rebound rate was comparable to Kenyon Martin’s (10.4 to 10.9). Kleiza can run the floor very well, but he does not do it consistently game to game and Denver’s slightly slower pace impacted his ability to provide an impact on that area of the game.
When looking at Kleiza’s roster spot one of the players that the Nuggets have been rumored to be interested in is Grant Hill. Hill played for less than $2.0 million last season and I think he would be a very good fit in Denver. Hill is just as good of a shooter as Kleiza, if not better, but offers a creative playmaking ability that Kleiza will never be able to match.
Apart from Hill there are not many options who would be as cheap and as effective as Kleiza. Trevor Ariza is an intriguing option, but I doubt the Nuggets would be able to pry him away from the Lakers. Some people have mentioned Ron Artest as a potential option for the Nuggets. It would be a bold move, but a risky one too. He displayed his combustability again in the playoffs against the Lakers and he would not come cheap. If Denver wants to bring him in, they would most likely have to offer their full midlevel exception in August or September when all of Artest’s other options have been extinguished. With the health of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in question, Houston may cling to Artest as their best healthy player or they may let him walk in order to restructure the team after the season.
It is certainly possible that Kleiza will not get any good offers and have to sign the qualifying offer. If that is the case, I would not be overly upset. However, if the Nuggets manage to sign Hill, I imagine they will pull the qualifying offer and Kleiza might be forced to play overseas in order to make any money.
The final question mark for Denver is Dahntay Jones. Jones is the player who is likely to increase his salary the most from 2008-09. Everyone saw him give Chris Paul fits in the playoffs. With his atrocious offensive game his price will not get too high, but if he makes much more than he did last season his salary will quickly exceed his usefulness. Rumors are that Boston is interested and I do not think the Nuggets will go too deep in the pocketbook to bring Jones back.
With J.R. and possibly Sonny Weems playing much of the minutes at shooting guard I am not sure Denver needs to spend much money on a third shooting guard. Plus a player like Hill could spend some time filling in at shooting guard as well. There are some other price efficient players that I think might be good additions to the Nuggets. Flip Murray was very good for Atlanta last season and he played for only $1.5 million. Plus he helped Denver by missing a game winning shot at the Pepsi Center last season so he clearly is pro Nuggets. Fred Jones had his moments with the Clippers at a bargain basement price and I think he is worth a look. My favorite option would be Shannon Brown. He is a restricted free agent and I doubt the Lakers would let him get away, but if they sign all their big salary free agents, it may decrease their motivation to pay him what it takes to bring him back.
If the Nuggets are not able to bring in Hill and/or Brown and they bring back Jones and Kleiza for bottom dollar, it will not be the worst thing in the world. What would be the worst thing in the world is if they combine to play 40 minutes a game again.
Whether Denver boosts their talent level at the swing positions or not, the one thing they must accomplish before next season is to add a quality fourth big man.
There are a couple of nice options available to the Nuggets. First and foremost in my mind is Rasheed Wallace who is an unrestricted free agent. Sheed saw most of his numbers fall off this past season, but I think a good portion of that was due to the fact he did not buy into the Pistons and their chances to succeed. Maybe the most startling thing about Wallace’s game was 89% of his shots were jumpers. However, Denver needs a big man who can shoot and Wallace is still a good post defender. I think pairing him back up with Chauncey on what I think would be a championship caliber team could squeeze another good season or two out of him.
The good news is Sheed might not cost an arm and a leg and Denver may be in a position where they do not necessarily need to be the high bidder to earn a player’s services. When the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals I wrote that it would make Denver a legitimate destination for players who want to win a championship. With teams like San Antonio and Cleveland reportedly interested in Wallace, if the Nuggets want to go after him it will prove a good test of that theory.
Wallace is not the only free agent that would fit well in Denver. Wallace’s former teammate, Antonio McDyess (unrestricted) would be a good option, if he could be convinced not to hate the Nuggets so much. It would be interesting to have a player who Denver is paying twice. They owe him $3 million as part of the buyout they agreed to with him last season and then if they sign him he would have a current contract on the books as well. What is the old science fiction rule, two instances of the same matter cannot occupy the same space? Perhaps if Denver signs McDyess the universe would collapse upon itself.
I have heard some Nuggets fans hot for Paul Millsap (restricted) and with Carlos Boozer deciding not to opt out of his contract today Utah will be in a tough spot should someone give Millsap a big offer. However, he is not coming to Denver. The only way the Nuggets could bring him on board would be via sign and trade and Utah will put a hit on Millsap before they send him to the Nuggets.
David Lee (restricted) is another player who has been linked to the Nuggets and rumor has it they had worked out a deal for him with the Knicks at the trade deadline but Karl did not want to give up Kleiza. Again, Denver would have to pull off a sign and trade, but with the Knicks looking to create as much cap space as possible for next summer they are not going to want to give Lee a big contract. Would a trade exception and a couple of first round picks get Lee to Denver?
Should the Nuggets fail to nab one of the high profile guys there are a couple of cheap options who could provide some assistance. You may laugh when you read this, but if Denver needs an emergency fill in on the cheap I believe Shelden Williams (unrestricted) would be a good option. He cannot shoot, but he is a big boy who can rebound and block shots. Channing Frye (unrestricted) is a big man who seems to play well with consistent minutes. He is a great midrange shooter and can rebound when he is asked to. One final player who may be of interest is Drew Gooden (unrestricted). He has become a very good rebounder even if he is still a bit rough around the edges.
If Denver does not bring in an exciting free agent all is not lost. They still have two big trade exceptions, $9.8 million (expires November 3, 2009) and $3.24 million (expires January 5, 2010), that they can use to basically buy a player or players from another team. If they cannot sign a free agent they want, they would certainly be able to acquire a player to help via trade.
The big question is will Denver spend what it takes to add to the roster? There has been some consternation that because they are already over the luxury tax limit and with the reduction in spending last summer that Stan Kroenke would not allow the front office to spend any additional money to augment the roster. Kroenke has paid the luxury tax before and I do not think he will say no now as long as doing so makes sense.
For anyone wondering how the world financial crisis is affecting Kroenke I think it is safe to assume he can spend as much money as he wants on the Nuggets. He seems to be taking advantage of the economic recession instead of hoarding his cash in mattresses. He spent over $60 million to increase his ownership in Arsenal of the English Premier League just three months ago. Does that sound like he is freaking out over his Walmart stock?
I think you can count on Denver boosting their talent level and spending the money necessary to do it. Sports Illustrated’s Scott Howard-Cooper seems to be convinced that the Nuggets are going to be aggressive in the free agent market. I expect the same thing. I am convinced Denver wants to make their playoff run a launching point for something better instead of a onetime high point.
Denver did a good job of targeting high energy, athletic and cheap free agents to build a team that can run and play solid team defense. Hopefully the Nuggets will continue to build a roster of players who can play great team defense, can shoot and play to win and not just for themselves.
Other free agents who I like (are either really good or would be cheaper than they are worth), but are either not going to change teams or Denver would have no interest in:
He was the only player in the NBA to start more than 35 games and average less than 18.4 minutes a game. There were eight Denver Nugget players who averaged more minutes per game than he did (nine if you include short timer Allen Iverson). On the other hand no Nuggets player seemed to frustrate opposing coaches than he did in the playoffs.
Well, if you read the title to this post you already know I am talking about Dahntay Jones.
When I found out the Nuggets had added Jones to their summer league roster last year I thought it was a big waste of everyone’s time. Jones was clearly a poor offensive player and had never been worth much on defense either. That is not a good combination. Jones took advantage of his time in Vegas and earned an invite to training camp thanks to his ability to play solid defense. He even scored a few points on offense thanks to his ability to get to the free throw line.
It seemed clear that Jones would not have such an easy time putting points on the board facing off against the increased talent level of the NBA. Fortunately for Jones the Nuggets had plenty of scorers, including explosive shooting guard J.R. Smith who played the same position as Jones. With the Nuggets looking to become more of a defensive squad there was a clear opening for a shooting guard who was dedicated to being a stopper.
George Karl knew the Nuggets needed a player like that too and Jones was one of only two players in camp who could fill that role with the other being self proclaimed Kobe stopper and former Nugget Ruben Patterson. I honestly do not know what the deciding factor was, perhaps Patterson at the age of 33 had lost a step or possibly Karl and Patterson still did not quite see eye to eye on some things, but the player with the defensive reputation was let go and Jones made the team.
Not only did Jones make the team, he found himself a regular starter as Karl was still not ready to hand the reins over to J.R. Smith who was not quite as interested in defense as Denver needed him to be.
As is the case with every mediocre player Jones had a few good moments and a few bad ones mixed in with a bunch of forgettable performances. Even as a player whose sole purpose on the floor was to play defense Jones was pretty inconsistent with his focus night in and night out. Plus he seemed a little too interested in shooting early in games as he forced shots on several occasions, probably because he knew after the first few minutes he would not see much more playing time.
Despite his special purpose there were only a handful of games where his defense was exceptional and those efforts largely came against point guards. There were two players in particular that he hounded above and beyond any others and they were Jose Calderon and Chris Paul.
Fortunately for Jones the Nuggets drew the New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the playoffs which gave him a chance to take on a marquee player under the national spotlight. Jones did a tremendous job defending Paul. He did such a good job that Byron Scott called him a dirty player, which I hope Jones took as a compliment. Jones did not do anything dirty to Chris Paul, he simply played him physically. He bodied him up and did not play intimidated. He also received plenty of help defending the pick and roll as Paul’s teammates pretty much made a bunch of nests around the court and started laying eggs. In a series where the Nuggets advanced out of the first round for the first time in 15 seasons and with Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony playing very well Dahntay’s play was one of the top storylines in the series.
Jones was much less important in the second round series against Dallas as Anthony Carter was a much better matchup against Jason Terry than Jones was. Jones went from playing 20.6 minutes a game against New Orleans (a number that was reduced by the wide margin of victory for Denver in four of the five games) down to 16.6 minutes per game against Dallas.
With Denver facing off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals it appeared Jones’ talents would once again be of great value to Denver as they needed someone to slow down Kobe Bryant. Instead of playing a bigger role as expected Jones saw his playing time decrease yet again, this time down to only 15.5 minutes a gam,e as he was largely ineffective against Kobe.
Instead of proving how indispensible he was Jones may have proven that the Nuggets can get along without him just fine.
Jones deserves credit for remaking himself into a capable defensive player. He certainly did not display much competency in that area during his first couple of go rounds in the league. He possesses the quickness and strength to be a good on the ball defender, but he is not great at chasing players off of screens, which is pretty important when defending shooting guards.
Offensively he is still almost completely helpless unless he has an unimpeded track to the rim. Surprisingly, Jones shot 64.7% from the three point line during the regular season, but he only attempted 17 three point shots. That percentage definitely carried the stench of flukiness especially after he shot 3-12 from behind the arc in the post season. Still he showed the discipline to only attempt corner threes, which is a sign he was not trying to do too much. His lack of scoring is only made worse by his below average passing ability and ball handling.
One thing that deserves to be mentioned is Jones certainly seemed to be a good teammate. He was always up and applauding when he was on the bench and even though he took a few more shots than necessary on multiple occasions he was mostly content to play defense and let others shoot.
As of July 1 Jones is an unrestricted free agent. Thanks to his defense against Chris Paul there is bound to be interest in him (Boston has already been tied to Jones in the media) and it may be his one and only chance to cash in on a long term contract.
I am not opposed to having Jones come back to Denver next season, but there is no way Denver should pay him much more than minimum money. He will undoubtedly want a multiyear deal and I have no problem with that as long as the annual salaries are low.
Karl has already made references to the fact that J.R. should probably be starting at shooting guard for Denver from here on out and as I have already written I think Sonny Weems is deserving of some regular playing time next season. Denver may not need a defensive oriented shooting guard as J.R. has significantly improved his defense each of the previous two seasons. By the end of the season I do not think there is a significant difference between he and Jones when it comes to guarding shooting guards. In fact when Denver played the Lakers it was Smith, not Jones, who did the best job between the two on Kobe.
Denver can afford to play a waiting game with Jones. Even though he is unrestricted I think they can let the market fall into place and see if he is affordable or not. They definitely should not be knocking on his door at 12:01 AM on July 1 offering three years and $9.0 million and I doubt anyone else will be either. However, if some comes forward and offers three years at $4.5 million (or less) I have no problem if Denver matches it to keep Dahntay in the Mile High City.
It is not fun to have to watch every dime that is paid to free agents, but one of the good things about being pressed up against the luxury tax level is it makes it impossible to overspend for average or below average players. We do not need to worry about Jones getting a Tariq Abdul-Wahad contract. That may not be good news for Dahntay, but it is good news for Nuggets fans.
The NBA has announced the schedule for the summer league games held in Los Vegas and the Nuggets will be playing six games. Games are played at either the Cox Pavilion or the Thomas & Mack Center. Games begin on Friday July 10, but Denver does not see the court until July 14. I am guessing the start times are Pacific.
Denver vs. San Antonio – 7:00 PM Tuesday, July 14 – Cox Pavilion
Denver vs. Washington – 7:30 PM Wednesday, July 15 – Thomas & Mack
Denver vs. Portland – 7:30 PM Friday, July 17 – Thomas & Mack
NBA D-League Select vs. Denver – 7:00 PM Saturday, July 18 – Cox Pavilion
Denver vs. New Orleans – 5:30 PM Sunday, July 19 – Thomas & Mack
The Nuggets have had some good talent on their summer league roster in the past, but it is difficult for even a good player to make the jump from summer league standout to earning a spot on the regular season roster. Last season Dahntay Jones was able to do just that and depending on what Denver does with players like Linas Kleiza, Anthony Carter, Johan Petro, Renaldo Balkman and Jones there could be a chance for someone to follow in Dahntay’s footsteps.
Jimmy Kimmel apparently has a segment called the Team Mating Game as a spoof of the Dating Game. Chris Andersen and Dahntay Jones go up against Amare Stoudemire and Grant Hill. Find out what Dahntay Jones’ favorite television show really is and how good of a teammate Steve Nash really is and what celebrity Grant Hill would love to get in the sack.