This season was all about redemption for the Denver Nuggets. Haters hated and proceeded to eat their words with the rest of the doubters as they witnessed our run to the WCF (I won't name names). Alas, the ride reached a bittersweet ending with a harsh loss and a realization the Nuggets were not yet ready. I guess it's time to be thankful and sentimental, but football season's not here yet and I think it's worth a look at the ingredients of the Nugget's offseason. I'll present some of the issues and leave an open thread for ideas and opinions
As a recent Hollinger article points out, the Nugs will be hard pressed to repeat the financial wizardry that avoided the luxury tax this year. There is a lot of money tied up in the core of Chauncey, Melo, Kenyon, JR and Nene. Add in Naldo, Weems, and the money owed to McDyess. To top it all off, Steven Hunter will most certainly excercise his player option for 3.7 mil. There's simply no way to cut cost without trading someone, or replacing all of the free agents with minimum contracts.
The Nuggets won't trade Melo, Chauncey, or Nene. That leaves Kenyon, the untradable one. Seriously, we are stuck with this and doomed into paying the tax a bit or rebuilding. Given the playoff success this year, I'm hopeful that Sir Stanley won't mind dipping a bit into luxury tax hell for another run. With these limited options, it's either that or begin blowing it up. I don't see that happening, but that means the Nuggets must be prudent and try to get better on the cheap as much as possible.
Check out this article for a breakdown of all the contracts.
Restricted - Johan Petro and Linas Kleiza
Unrestricted - Anthony Carter, Chris Andersen, Dahntay Jones, Jason Hart
Obviously, resigning Birdman is the priority. He will receive more than a few offers and possibly command the full MLE. The more I think about it, this move will tell us if the team is in cost cutting mode or eyeing it's first championship run. The Nuggets must do all they can to retain Bird. The only reason I could see letting him walk is to acquire a star power forward with a big contract using the trade exception (more on that later). Even then, it makes more fiscal sense to keep Birdzilla home.
I don't see AC or Dahntay back here unless they want to sign for the minimum again, which they won't. I could see Hart coming back on the roster for the minimum though, and I wouldn't be against it. As for Kleiza and Petro, I have no idea - they have qualifying offers of 2.7 and 2.8 mil. Neither really had a role on the team this year. Kleiza is only useful to us if he is given a concrete role as the 6th man, primary scorer off the bench. I'd love to hear you guys sound off on LK and Petro, I don't know if either one is part of the solution for this team going forward.
Needs / Wants and Other Stuff
The Nuggets have Charlottes future first round pick which is protected for top 12 in 2010, and becomes unprotected in 2014. If nothing else, it's a valuable trade chip to sweeten a deal. They are also sitting on a trade exception via the Camby trade, which was somehow extended through the Billups trade. I don't know how this works and I need some help. But basically, the Nuggets can take on a bigger contract for free through a trade, if they so desire. The front office could use this to do something unexepected, I just don't know who they would go after. Any input on this is welcome, as I don't understand the trade exception fully.
We also have the 34th pick in this years draft, fourth pick in the second round. The Nuggets could use it to fill a roster spot but don't have to sign anyone with it. Knowing George Karl, whoever we select would not play anyways, so it's a wash. In this draft, I doubt anything much will come from this pick.
The Nuggets should look to acquire a backup PG and a big man to play behind Nene. Ideally, we get a young, quick PG to learn under Billups who can rack up assists, something Chauncey can struggle with. It would also be nice to have a defensive 7 footer who can help Nene battle the taller big men he has had problems with. We can discuss who to go after in the comments, via free agency or trade. I'll throw up some of my own ideas later