Speaking with the Denver Post's Chris Dempsey, Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien says: "If we get stuck, Big Bertha's coming out", alluding to a big move if the team struggles this season. I don't doubt Warkentien's willingness to make such a move, but if the Nuggets November 3rd trade exception expires...how many clubs are left in the bag?
When Warkentien mentions "Big Bertha," I assume he's referring to the Nuggets $9.8 million trade exception received as a result of several moves, including last November when the Nuggets brass astutely shipped Iverson to Detroit for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh "Magnet" Samb (who will eventually be a great trivia question down the road: can you name all three players the Nuggets traded A.I. for?). Meaning, the Nuggets can circumvent the NBA's trade regulation of salaries having to be within 125% of each other by tacking on up to $9.8 million to make a trade work for a high-priced, impact player.
Sounds good, right? The catch is that that trade exception expires one year from the date of the trade. In this case, November 3rd, which is two weeks from today. I simply can't imagine the Nuggets playing so poorly by November 3rd that Warkentien would pull out "Big Bertha" while he's still eating leftover Halloween candy. Moreover, the Nuggets seem to be back to fiscal prudence, having made lateral moves over the summer to keep the team Western Conference Finals-caliber while not adding the players (read: salaries) needed to best the Lakers. And thus, I suspect that November 3rd will come and go without the Nuggets exercising that hefty trade exception unless a can't-miss, once-in-a-lifetime, you'd-be-an-idiot-not-to-make-this-trade offer comes along.
All is not lost on the trade exception front, however. Lest we forget that Warkentien has two other "clubs" to deploy, courtesy of the Chucky Atkins trade from last January and the Steven Hunter trade over the summer. The Atkins trade left the Nuggets with a $3.24 million trade exception in its wake, expiring on January 5th, 2010. And the Hunter trade brought back $3.7 million to Denver in trade exception funds. In keeping with the golf club name analogies, I'll call these exceptions "Billy Baroos" ("Caddyshack" fans will get the reference).
While you certainly can't do as much with a $3.24 or $3.7 million cushion as you can with a $9.8 million cushion, these two exceptions - which cannot be combine to acquire one player, but can be combined to acquire multiple players - give the Nuggets brass the flexibility they need to make a substantive move should the season start coming off the rails for whatever reason. Something none of us foresee at this juncture.
So to recap, I wouldn't read into Warkentien's comments too much and I expect "Big Bertha" to stay in the bag. But maybe we'll get to see a "Billy Baroo" or two used before the season is over. Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy...