|Nene, C 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 10-14 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +25
The Raptors were extremely physical with Nene despite lacking anyone remotely capable of guarding him. Nene didn’t shoot particularly well and was fouled whenever he found himself in good position down low. He still had a solid 20 and 10 in 33 minutes behind improved free throw shooting. More importantly, he was a dominant presence on the floor and the Raptors simply had no answer.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-18 FG | 5-7 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 21 PTS | +14
Gallo’s scoring opportunities didn’t come as easy without Ty Lawson starting alongside him. He reverted to shooting too many threes and generally looking awful when trying to create for himself. Defensively, Gallo struggled defending the post but continues to show potential as a reliable team defender. Gallo’s grade gets a bump thanks to his ability to close out the game after Toronto made a late push against the Nuggets reserves to get back in it.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +16
Mozgov made a welcome return to the starting lineup and continues to develop into a more physical presence down low. He had his two finest blocks of the season and rebounded well for the minutes he received. He did struggle to work himself back into an offensive rhythm and mishandled a few too many passes. Nevertheless, Mozgov was a big part of the solid defensive effort that held Toronto to 12 first quarter points.
|Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 12 AST | 13 PTS | +18
Miller had too many turnovers, but several of them were due to Mozgov and Birdman being slow, out of position or just not ready to receive a pass. His erratic wandering on defense can be frustrating and the Nuggets did struggle to maintain pace with him running point. This is the first time Miller has been in the starting lineup at the point guard position and he produced outstanding numbers as expected. The luxury with Miller is that he’s more than capable and perhaps better as a fill-in starter.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 21 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +11
I’m not gonna dock Afflalo too much for struggling to ease himself back into the rotation after nearly a week off. He’s still taking questionable shots and not making very many of them. The bottom line with Afflalo is that he has such a positive effect on the Nuggets defense you can live with whatever he does offensively as long as he’s not a total black hole.
|Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 3-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -3
Harrington had a bad day. He came into the game with little energy and by the fourth quarter he was exhausted to the point of parking himself at the three point line with his hands on his knees and spectating. He played entirely too many minutes and made only one of five shots in the second half while struggling to make any sort of impact on defense. Buckets also got into a childish spat with Linas Kleiza and needlessly extended the game’s conclusion.
|Chris Andersen, C 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2
Birdman’s playing harder, I’ll give him that. His energy and his effort were sincere. Andersen continues to be a disaster guarding the pick and roll as he struggled staying in front of the smaller Raptors in the first half. Birdman wasn’t putting up numbers, but I did not think his performance warranted benching him in the second half. He was engaged and active, but Birdman is just not a reliable guy for George Karl right now and he seems to be losing the coach’s trust quickly.
|Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 1-2 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -5
Brewer had another confusing game. After launching 18 shot attempts against Sacramento he barely attempted anything, which I think is a good thing. He flew around the court with his usual energy creating chaos and extra possessions. Offensively, Brewer is scary and unpredictable and he’ll need to be a bit more consistent to gain more regular playing time off the bench.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 33 MIN | 9-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | +9
Thank God for Rudy. He looked great upon his return from an Achilles strain and his hot shooting singlehandedly held off the Raptors’ furious second half surge. Rudy also did a great job chasing the feisty Raptors guards all over the court. Bayless was able to shake him loose a couple of times but his offensive game was so brilliant it hardly mattered. Not only did Rudy handle the ball some as a backup point, he was fantastic off the ball – juking out Barbosa for one of the most poetic wide open threes of the season. Magnificent game from Rudy and all the more impressive considering he hasn’t played in quite some time.
|Kosta Koufos, C 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -12
The decision to pair Koufos with Harrington in the middle was a head-scratcher to say the least. Kosta didn’t receive any minutes in the first half and calling on him to stem the tide during Denver’s worst stretch of play might have been asking too much of the seldom used 22-year old. He had a rough go from the moment he stepped on the floor, immediately being hit with a questionable blocking foul and worsening Denver’s stagnant offensive attack. Defensively, the Nuggets completely fell apart with him on the floor and while you can’t put the blame solely on Koufos, Toronto seized total control of the game and it’s hard to defend the decision to bring him in.
Ryan Feldman of The Hoops Report: “Source at Nuggets draft workout on Wednesday told me Iman Shumpert showed off his crazy athleticism and nice mid-range jumper.”
My take: Shumpert is gaining some momentum with Nuggets fans as a popular J.R. replacement, and this showing should benefit his case. He tested out as basically the most athletic guy at the Combine and will likely rely on his supreme physical talent to up his draft stock. At a little over 6-foot-4 with a giant 6-foot-10 wingspan and incredible leaping ability, Shumpert will likely play the role of a combo guard his first few years in the league until he firmly establishes a position he feels comfortable with.
Vucevic, if you remember, was a guy I recently ranked 5th on the Nuggets Big Board but because of the similar traits to a Nugget already under contract — Timofey Mozgov — I stated that we should probably consider other prospects instead. Well, maybe I was wrong, as it appears he has continued his hot streak of performances under the watchful eye of NBA talent evaluators. It’s nice to know our front office is examining big men, as its a need we certainly should address in some form over the off season, whether it be through the Draft or free agency. The fact that Vucevic outperformed Williams is not a surprise, because keep in mind, this is the same guy who some scouts felt outperformed projected top-five pick, Enes Kanter, recently at the Combine.
The Jimmer quote just makes my head hurt to be honest. I’m not a fan of coaches interfering with the job general managers and scouts do. I think coaches often times have motives behind their evaluations where as scouts and general managers simply evaluate talent. Though I’d agree that Jimmer wouldn’t be the ideal pick at 22 (he’ll be gone before then anyways so it doesn’t really matter), I also don’t think we should bend our considerations based on what coach Karl thinks of him. Last I checked, this was the same coach Karl that vetoed a Linas Kleiza for David Lee trade a few years back. Just sayin’.
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.
Over the past few days I have been fortunate enough to appear on Brian Doolittle’s NBA show in St. Louis called At the Buzzer on Sports Radio 1380 to talk about Carmelo Anthony’s future in Denver and I was a guest on Rapcast, the Raptors Republic podcast, to discuss Linas Kleiza and what he will bring as he takes his talents north of the border. In a nutshell Bryan Colangelo is selling Kleiza as a gritty player that will bring stout defense to the Raptors. Talk about setting someone up to fail. Kleiza is a skilled player, but a defensive stalwart he is not.
Ryan Schwan at Hornets 247 sought out the best trade offers for Chris Paul from the members of the TrueHoop Network. My four team masterpiece did not claim the top spot, but earned a gold star. Make sure you head over and check out the best Chris Paul trade proposals from a group of savvy hoops writers.
There were two free agent signings today that has a direct impact on the Denver Nuggets. Jermaine O’Neal signed with the Boston Celtics and Linas Kleiza is returning to the NBA after signing an offer sheet with the Toronto Raptors. The O’Neal signing is very disappointing, but the Kleiza offer sheet could open up a tremendous opportunity for Denver.
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.
I have been planning on writing about Linas Kleiza for about two months now. I never would have guessed that I would still be doing player season recaps in August.
There are a few Nuggets players who will get fans blood pressure up as soon as they hear his name and chief among them is Linas Kleiza.
Some fans will point to how he runs the floor, his ability to hit threes and his 41 point outburst as proof of his talent. Other fans site his porous defense, his inconsistency from behind the arc, his one dimensional game and the fact he seemed to take a step backwards last season as proof that he needs to go away.
Before we look at what Kleiza did last season, we need to consider what did not happen before last season. There were reports that the Nuggets were going to sign Kleiza to a four year, $25 million extension, but when it came time to make everything official nothing happened. After the lack of news made it obvious there was no extension Chris Tomasson reported that Stan Kroenke squashed the deal, but I think another factor was the imminent acquisition of Chauncey Billups.
Trading Allen Iverson for Billups saved the Nuggets a lot of money in 2008-09, but they committed to an additional $15.4 million in 2009-10 between Chauncey’s contract and the buyout of Antonio McDyess. It did not make good business sense to give Kleiza an extension when they knew they were on the verge of adding so much salary by bringing in Billups. The Nuggets did what any smart team should and chose not to negotiate against themselves and they correctly projected that Kleiza would probably not get an offer in the same neighborhood as a restricted free agent.
Kleiza was undoubtedly disappointed that the payday he had been hoping for and appeared to be within his grasp disappeared and understandably he started the season out slowly. With Carmelo Anthony suspended for the first two games of the season Kleiza had additional pressure on him to produce on offense. The result of the loss of his contract extension and the absence of Melo only averaged five points a game in the two games Melo missed and was a putrid 0-11 from three point land over the first three plus games of the season.
Starting anything 0-11 is not a good sign and Kleiza experienced a very up and down season offensively. There were some ups as including his first made three pointer in game four he went on to make 53 of his next 120 attempts, a conversion rate of 44.2%. He had an incendiary stretch from December 15 through January 7 where he hit 29 of 52 threes, 53.7%. Unfortunately, his 4-6 performance against Miami on January 7 was the high point of the regular season for Linas. From that point on he shot an atrocious 34-134, an embarrassing 25.4%. In fact, from February 6 through the end of the season Kleiza was 17-83, a heinous 20.5%, from downtown. After making two or more threes in 21 of the first 49 games of the season, he made two or more threes in only five of his final 33 appearances.
For a player who depends on the three to remain relevant it was bad news.
If you look at his 2008-09 shot chart Kleiza does his damage either at the rim or from behind the arc. Only 90 of his 646 attempts came in the nether region between the rim and the three point line.
The fact that Kleiza treats the realm between the arc and the hoop as if it was the Somme in July of 1916 bothers me (sorry, I have to start putting that history degree to some good use) and the fact that he has never developed a midrange game is disturbing. Instead of getting better, Kleiza was worse from midrange than the prior season. Out of his 90 attempts he only hit on 21 of them, 23.3%. In 2007-08 he made 41 of 113 attempts that were not layups, dunks or these which equates to 36.3%.
When Kleiza’s shot is not falling his one dimensional game becomes a no dimensional game. He is not a willing or capable passer, as pointed out above he does not have any kind of midrange game to fall back on and he was the one Nugget player who did not consistently raise his performance on defense. He did have acceptable defensive games here and there, but as a whole, he was by far the worst defender out of the Nuggets rotation players.
Looking at advanced stats it is even more difficult to make a case for Kleiza being a high quality player. Kleiza was a respectable 14th in rebound rate among small forwards and 21st in true shooting, but he was 27th in turnover rate and 57th in assist rate. Overall his well below average PER of 13.20 rates him 29th among NBA small forwards. In case you are wondering how he rates as a power forward, he would actually show up lower in every category.
The truly damning statistic for Kleiza is on display at 82games.com. The Nuggets are much better when he is on the bench than when he is on the floor. The Nuggets offensive efficiency with Kleiza seated in a folding chair is six points higher than when he is on the hardwood, 114.5 to 108.5. The Nuggets defensive efficiency does not fall off as drastically as their offensive efficiency does with Kleiza on the floor, but it is still worse, 108.9 to 106.7. Add it all up and the Nuggets are a total of 8.2 points per 100 possessions worse (they give up 2.2 more points per 100 possessions on defense and score 6.0 points fewer per 100 possessions on offense) with Kleiza on the floor than when he is off.
If you want to ignore all the statistical and visual data against Kleiza you can still try to make the argument that he still has a lot of untapped potential. I have contended all along that his potential has been miscalculated based on his surprisingly good play in his second season. Little was expected from Kleiza, a college power forward from Missouri who was drafted late in the first round. When he shot 37.6% from behind the arc his second year in the league it was only natural to expect similar boosts year after year. However, I have always believed that Kleiza hit his ceiling, or was at least very close to it, in 2006-07. If that is true, it is much easier to see why he has not built upon his second season and instead has almost been haunted by it.
The frustrating thing is it is nearly impossible to see something Kleiza added to his game for 2008-09. The only positive observations I can make about his play is that he did increase the number of times he drove with his left hand from zero to three or four and he became slightly more adept at tossing in the little running hook he likes to shoot when he cannot get all the way to the rim on one of his drives. Other than those two minor changes, it was mostly downhill.
And it was not just last year. If this was just a one year dip in his stats, I could perhaps get on the bandwagon that he still has upside to develop. However, it has been two seasons now since his breakout campaign and in both of those seasons he has regressed in at least one area of his game.
There is no doubt that the front office and George Karl like Kleiza. Denver has reportedly had the opportunity to trade him for players like Ron Artest and David Lee and have decided to keep him. He was the only Nugget player to play in all 82 contests. He played more minutes than Chris Andersen, Anthony Carter and Dahntay Jones. Even when he struggled during the second half of the season his minutes per game remained steady apart from a five game stretch in March where he was only on the floor for a combined 51 minutes.
By the end of the regular season it was difficult to build a case that the Nuggets should spend any of their limited resources on Kleiza. Then came the playoffs. I do not think there were any games that you could point to and say Denver would not have won that game without Linas, but he certainly shot the ball much better making 42.5% of his threes thus reasserting his offensive relevance. However, he did play in only 15.0 minutes a game and received the dreaded DNP-CD twice.
Fast forward to today and Kleiza is a restricted free agent. Despite the very real possibility that the Nuggets would choose not to match an offer nearing the mid level exception, not one team has made an attempt to try to pry him away. In fact only two teams have even shown interest in him. The Cavs, who have signed Jamario Moon to play small forward when LeBron is resting, and Toronto, who just signed Hedo Turkoglu to a massive deal last month. I guess I should say that there have only been two NBA teams that have expressed interest in Linas. Reportedly Greek powerhouse Olympiacos has an offer on the table to bring Kleiza to Europe.
Kleiza started playing up the European option as soon as his contract extension disappeared last October. I have no doubt that he will make the leap if the money is high enough. The problem is, as Josh Childress has discovered, going to Europe may make you more money in the short term, but it only delays your free agency issues to the next summer. Even if he goes to Greece and lights up every team he faces, he will still be a restricted free agent with the same one year, $2.7 million qualifying offer awaiting his return in 2010.
At this point the Nuggets seem content to call his bluff as there has been no indication that they have offered him a long term contract. There is a possibility that they have had sign and trade discussions with other teams, but if they have, I have not heard a peep about it.
In the end I think Kleiza gets a chance to earn his freedom and a bigger payday next summer by taking the qualifying offer. In this market $2.7 million is a nice contract, regardless of what you had hoped to get (check out item ten of this post, NBA jobs are drying up).
If Linas does come back to the Nuggets, he will get minutes and open shots. The front office likes him and George Karl likes him. Even if he ends up signing the qualifying offer and returning at the cheapest possible price, Denver has already invested heavily in him if only by holding onto him instead of trading him for a more talented player when the opportunity arose.
Even though it may be the worst case scenario for fans and player alike, look for Linas to be back in Denver launching line drive threes and attacking the rim with his right hand next season.
There have been a great many free agents who have been named on this site as players one or more of us would like to see the Denver Nuggets pursue. Out of all the players who have been bandied about the Nuggets have not signed…not a one of them. In fact, the Nuggets have only been mentioned in discussions for two that I can remember, Grant Hill and Channing Frye.
The market is thinning and players I thought the Nuggets might have been able to go after in August on the cheap are getting snatched up. Players like Drew Gooden, who received a much nicer deal from Dallas than I expected him to get, and even Ike Diogu are getting snatched up left and right. Today Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Cavaliers have offered Leon Powe a contract. Powe is injured and likely will not suit up until after the New Year. I was hoping he might be a guy the Nuggets could have looked at signing not long before the season, yet he is up in the free agent queue before we hit August.
The bargains come out of the woodwork after everyone else has spent their money and we have reached that point. The only teams who have not used their mid level exceptions that still appear willing to do so are the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. The Nuggets did a pretty good job in late July last season signing Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Dahntay Jones and trading for Renaldo Balkman all after the twenty-fourth.
I think we can all agree that the area the roster is in most need of a boost is the fourth big man, no offense intended there Malik Allen. There are still a bevy of big bodies available, but not just any large man will do. We do not need or want Pavel Podkolzin. The chances of the Nuggets nabbing a player who can pull off a Chris Andersen resurrection type season are slimmer than Andrei Kirilenko, but it is still a possibility.
I have already mentioned Shelden Williams in previous posts as an option for a bargain basement big who can rebound as well as anyone having posted a rebound rate of 17.3 or better in two of his first three seasons. As a point of reference Birdman led the Nuggets in rebound rate last season with a 17.6. Williams’ biggest problem is he does not have great hands and has little offensive game. With the lineups the Nuggets can put on the floor I do not think a lack of scoring from their fourth big will be overly damaging.
A player that intrigues me who I have not mentioned as of yet is Ryan Hollins. Hollins is a very active, although slight, big man. He is not a scorer, but does have very good hands and brings great energy. Above all, he is long, athletic and only 24 years old. The bad news is he is a restricted free agent whose rights are owned by the Dallas Mavericks. The largest first year salary the Nuggets can offer anyone is $2.1 million and I suspected the Mavericks would match that in a hear beat. However, the Mavericks have painted themselves into the corner after signing Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas. They now have the maximum 15 players under contract. Greg Buckner does reportedly have a partially guaranteed contract, I do not know what date that contract becomes fully guaranteed, but I have seen in a couple of places that the guaranteed portion of his salary is $1.06 million. The Mavs may want to hang onto Buckner though as a de facto expiring deal as it is only partially guaranteed for 2010-11 too.
If Denver signs Hollins to an offer sheet Dallas would have seven days to either waive/buy out a player or pull off a two for one trade to clear up a spot in order to match the contract. Mark Cuban has certainly shown his willingness to spend is back and he may bite the bullet and pay 16 players this season. Then again, he might decide that Hollins is not worth it. Also, the Mavericks have James Singleton and Gerald Green as free agents from last season who they may be interested in retaining. Hollins may be getable.
Moving further down the list we have Johan Petro. Petro showed flashes of competence and I have yet to hear his name surface in any rumors…at all. Denver should be able to get him at a significant discount from his qualifying offer of $2.85 million.
After Petro we get down into the Mikki Moore/Brian Skinner/Sean Marks/Stromile Swift territory and that is a place I do not want to go although each of those guys have at least a little something going for them (Moore – energy, Skinner – beef, Marks – smarts, Swift – athleticism).
The only other “big man” I would be interested in for Denver is Steve Novak. Novak is 6’10”, but there is no way he can be considered a big. The only evidence we need to prove that is to look at his 6.2 rebound rate in 2008-09. As a comparison J.R. Smith posted a 7.7 rebound rate. Case closed. However, Novak does one thing that gets your attention, drain threes. He broke into the Clippers’ lineup in January and hit some very big shots over the second half of the season. He had a four game stretch in March where he made 24 of 40 attempts including two 7-11 games.
In my mind Novak could be a cheap replacement for Linas Kleiza, he does not run the floor like Kleiza does (although Kleiza frequently does not run the floor like Kleiza either), but he is a much better three point shooter and I think would be a nice end of the rotation specialist. Novak is a restricted free agent, but no one knows how much Donald Sterling will green light to keep him in L.A. My guess would be not much especially if the Clippers sign Allen Iverson or Ramon Sessions.
While it is frustrating to watch the other teams in the west adding players to their rosters, there is still hope for the Nuggets to add a meaningful piece to the roster so do not lose hope.
We need better from the Denver Post
After going eight days without a peep about the Nuggets we get this. The headline of the article is “It’s Down to Kleiza or Carter.” Chris Dempsey never says anywhere in the article that the Nuggets can or will only sign either Kleiza or Carter. They might retain both or they might let them both, but apparently the headline writer has it all figured out.
The sad thing is Dempsey is the one that is made to look bad as his article is branded by the inaccurate headline.
Editor’s note: Summer league may be over, but that does not mean we have to let it go. Bret Bearup, Mark Warkentien and George Karl were all interviewed during Denver Nuggets games. I was able to get very low quality recordings of the interviews so crank the volume on your computer and enjoy.
After listening to Bret Bearup we are moving on to Mark Warkentien, the front man for the Denver Nuggets management team. I listened to a great many interviews that were part of the summer league game broadcasts and I think Warkentien was the only guest who actually stayed after the end of the quarter and kept talking. He is definitely a gregarious guy and the announcers were clearly impressed with him.
I thought Warkentien’s comment that Coby Karl is better on a good team than a bad team was interesting. The Nuggets are clearly a good team. It was also good to hear him say that they have demonstrated that the organization is not afraid to make a big move and they will pull the trigger when the right deal comes along. I also got a kick out of how he insisted that Linas Kleiza when it seems pretty clear that they could have signed him to a modest long term contract by now. He also really talks up Afflalo, and I believe with good reason.
Another very interesting comment Warkentien made was how the Camby trade was an investment in Nene, which we all realized at the time, but also how when Denver passed on Ron Artest two seasons ago, he mentions that it was an investment in J.R.
Of course, the highlight was the dissertation on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Huntsville Flight.
The third and final interview featuring George Karl will post this afternoon.