Interesting headline over at RealGM and the Denver Post
Though Denver is expected to be one of the best teams in the NBA this season, Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien said the organization would not be hesitant to make a deal to improve the team if the circumstances warrant doing so.
“We’ll see where we’re at,” Warkentien said. “I think one thing, and history’s proven it, if we indeed have slipped and we get to that analysis, I think our group has proven that we’ll take the driver out and give it a big swing.”
In addition to accomplishing the priority of re-signing forward Chris Andersen, the Nuggets made a series of small moves during the summer to maintain the continuity of the team. Some fans were a bit antsy that the Nuggets didn’t bring in a big-name free agent ala San Antonio, which added Richard Jefferson or the Lakers, who added Ron Artest.
But the Nuggets have made big moves in the past. The last two being the Chauncey Billups trade last season, and the Allen Iverson trade two years prior to that. But Warkentien stresses that the Nuggets are not just satisfied right now, but confident with what they’ve done and where they stand in the Western Conference.
“We’re in a good spot,” Warkentien said. “If we get stuck, Big Bertha’s coming out. Big Bertha’s still in the bag. We’ve swung that stick before. Institutionally, we’re not afraid to make a move. We’ll pull the trigger.”
Big Bertha? Link
Anyway, let’s re-focus, Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien says that the Nuggets are not afraid of making a big move should they need to.
One question: Can they make a big move?
Let’s scroll down the list of the Nuggets assets, starting with:
Contracts and Cap Flexibility
- Miniscule expiring contracts — just Anthony Carter + Malik Allen + Renaldo Balkman (final year of rookie contract) totaling $4.7 million. At 125% plus $100,000 that makes a small bit under $6 million in expiring contracts.
- Bad contracts — Kenyon Martin
- Solid contracts — Nene, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups
- Good contracts — JR Smith
- Two rookie scale contracts — Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson
- Nuggets will be a 50 win team for the next two years and virtual playoff lock in the West. They do however have two key players with long injury histories (Martin, Nene). Also, they face an uncertain future once Chauncey Billups’ contract expires given Billups’ advanced age so their draft picks beyond 2011 could be interesting assets to hold.
- The Nuggets are owed a protected Charlotte Bobcats draft pick (Ajinca pick two years ago). It’s protected through the top 12 for 2010, top 10 for 2011, top eight in 2012, and top three in 2013, and then becomes unprotected in 2014. Since the Bobcats are only a mediocre team this is a fairly valuable draft pick.
How many players do the Nuggets have under the age of 26 and who are they?
- Six players — Ty Lawson, Johan Petro, Arron Afflalo, JR Smith, Renaldo Balkman, and Carmelo Anthony.
- Carmelo Anthony is a proven All-Star in the league and shouldn’t be considered a prospect. He’s already established himself.
- Johan Petro has little to no value at this point. If he did, someone else would have signed this summer when he was a free agent.
- Arron Afflalo has a small amount of value shown by his summer trade.
- Renaldo Balkman is in a worse situation than Afflalo, but not as low as Petro, so he has poor trade value too.
That leaves Ty Lawson and JR Smith as the Nuggets young prospects. JR Smith has very good value due to his talent, potential, and contract. Ty Lawson has decent value as shown by his draft slot in this year’s draft.
- Chauncey Billups — It’ll be very difficult to improve the Nuggets talent by trading Billups straight up for someone else due to Billups’ advanced age.
- Nene — Difficult but not impossible to improve on by trading.
- Carmelo Anthony — The Nuggets will not trade Carmelo so it’s not worth discussing. If they did, there’s a fair chance that they could improve their ball club. Anthony has excellent trade value.
- Kenyon Martin — Martin has very poor trade value.
- Chris Andersen — It would be difficult to trade up by moving Andersen.
So in terms of talent relative to trade value amongst the Nuggets more senior players only Carmelo Anthony shows good prospects in the trade market and given his talent that’s clearly a very risky trade. Nene is the only other possibility but an unlikely one at that given his injury history, contract, and reputation.
Let’s repeat the question, what do the Nuggets have in the coffers to swing a big trade should they need it?
Not much … let’s see where we are:
- Expiring contracts — almost none
- Young Talent — JR Smith + Ty Lawson
- Good Contracts — JR Smith
- Valuable Players — Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith
- Draft picks — smallish value in their own picks and very good value in their Bobcats pick.
If the Nuggets were creative they could package JR Smith, some expiring contracts, some filler if needed (contract wise), and perhaps some draft picks to land a star with a big paycheck.
Outside of that, it would be difficult for the Nuggets to swing a big trade that would improve them substantially in the immediate future.
The Nuggets are who they are. They don’t have a lot of possible moves on the horizon and will have to depend on internal improvement in order to continue moving forward.
- JR Smith is their best hope here. If he can continue to progress the Nuggets could find that other star talent that they sorely need.
- Carmelo Anthony and Nene still have room for improvement too. For Nene, that would becoming a perennial All-Star while for Anthony the next step would be becoming a legitimate MVP candidate. Both are relative long shots in the grand scheme of things, possible but unlikely.
Given the Nuggets poor possibilities in the trade market … JR Smith is their best hope for becoming a Championship caliber team in the immediate future.