Note: Please forgive me for being a little behind on the timing of this post. I was busy getting the new site up and running, which I think will be well worth it for all of us.
Early in the season Bobby Jones was part of a group of players from the Nuggets’ bench that was so effective everyone was trying to come up with a catchy nickname for them. Now Bobby is looking for work.
The Nuggets release of Jones upsets me for more than one reason. You may want to know why it bothers me that the Nuggets cut a player who was averaging 3.3 points, 1.3 rebounds and had a PER of 9.01. Well even if you do not want to know why it bothers me, keep reading because there are a few issues that all collide here.
The main problem I have with the end of Jones’ tenure in Denver was that he should not have been viewed as a dispensable member of the team. He was not a player who put up big numbers. He was never going to be a scoring champion or have his own shoe contract in a non third world country. What he was though was a young player who showed signs of being a quality role player.
Most people underestimate the importance of having a player or two at the end of the bench who not only are unselfish, but can contribute to the team at the same time. Every team has scrubs who are unselfish. You can find guys all over the place who can restrain themselves from jacking up shots as soon as their sneakers hit the floor and the clock is actually running.
However, for one of those players to be able to do more than stay out of the way is rare. Those types of players are the role players that contending teams must have. Sure they can make a shot here and there, but their real value is in drawing a charge, deflecting a pass or making the correct rotation after a defensive breakdown.
I believe Bobby Jones was one of those guys. He was an asset that was deemed to be expendable simply because he did not play.
A good portion of the blame for his release falls on George Karl for not getting him on the floor enough. Teams do not waive guys if they are contributing to the team. When Jones played, he made an impact consistently, but as his minutes dried up so did his perceived value. Karl did not give Jones the chance to grow into the player he can be. He always said nice things about Bobby, but when it came time to actually give him time, Jones did not get to see the floor.
Jones is not a hot prospect that gets most people excited, but he is in just his second year as a pro and has only played 67 games. His abilities were evident when he had the chance to play and he deserved to play more in order to continue to learn the game and grow into that valuable role player the Nuggets could use.
There is of course another side to the Jones transaction. Basketball is a business and the primary reason Jones was sent packing was the money. His small beans contract was about to become guaranteed and thus cost the Nuggets about an additional million bucks between his remaining salary and the luxury tax.
The Nuggets have a huge payroll, third in the league as a matter of fact. Let there be no doubt that Stan Kronke is willing to shell out the schillings to have a good team and as a fan I appreciate that like I appreciate a great bacon double cheeseburger. However, Jones was sent packing to save what amounts to just over one percent of what the Nuggets will spend on player salaries and tax payments.
Rich people can become rich in one of two ways. They either come up with an idea no one else has thought of, and make it work, or they save every penny they make until they all add up to something. OK, there is a third way and that is to inherit part of the Wal-Mart fortune, but while Stan is willing to pay the price to take a shot at having a contender in Denver, he knows the value of one million dollars and honestly, it is hard to say no to saving a million dollars even if you are not the penny pinching type.
There is a flip side to that coin and that is every basketball team has assets. Money is only one of those assets. Another asset is the players they hold the rights to. Draft picks, salary cap space and expiring contracts are other assets a team has at their disposal.
Every single one of those assets has some value. Obviously, some are more valuable than others, but no team is good enough to be able to give an asset away for nothing unless that asset is Penny Hardaway, then you really should dispose of it with a clear conscience. Jones was the best kind of asset, the kind that somewhat unexpectedly falls in your lap. When the Nuggets traded Reggie Evans to Philadelphia for Steven Hunter Jones was added as the oil that greases the gears of almost every trade, cap filler.
The Nuggets were fortunate that the cap filler could play. Now that he is gone, they took what was a fortunate situation and decided to turn down the potential reward which was having a quality asset basically handed over to them.
From the financial standpoint one thing that most of these teams have not figured out is that something that may cost you one or two million dollars this season can save you several million down the road. Phoenix is the best example. They have been selling their draft picks for the past three years in the guise of saving money. Had they spent those assets (draft picks) wisely, they would have had cheap young players that may have allowed them to replace their higher priced assets with more cost effective ones.
Denver may end up in a similar situation here. Bobby Jones would have earned a pittance by NBA standards over the next two or three years. Now the Nuggets have let him go to save some money right now. What about in a year or two when they have to spend their midlevel exception to plug a hole Jones could have filled? Heck, what about this season? They are now down to 13 players on their roster. A couple of injuries, by the way Chucky Atkins is hurt again, and they are going to have to sign someone else. That additional player will reduce the savings they made by waiving Bobby Jones making his removal an even worse decision.
Again, do not get me wrong, I am not claiming that Bobby Jones is some great player. I do believe he will be a quality player for a good team down the road. For him not to have a place on the Nuggets because he was not utilized by the coach and the owner wanted to shed a small fraction of his costs was short sighted and a poor use of one of the limited assets the Nuggets possess.
The best run teams do not waste assets and the Nuggets just tossed one away.