Denver Nuggets 2011-12 NBA season preview

Will Nene Hilario, Ty Lawson, and Arron Afflalo get a shot to continue things in Denver in 2011-12?

The annual CelticsBlog season previews extravaganza is back! I have been following Twitter like a madman, hoping and wishing that I'd see, "BREAKING NEWS" in a tweet and we'd be back in NBA business. But for now, the dread has set in. I'm still looking ahead at what the Nuggets might be doing if there were a season, or if there were not a season. Let's take a look ... 

 

Team name: Denver Nuggets

Last year’s record: 50-32

Key free agents: 

Restricted - Arron Afflalo ($2.9 million qualifying offer), Wilson Chandler ($3.09 million Q.O.), and Gary Forbes ($963K Q.O.).

Unrestricted - Nene, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, and Melvin Ely.


1. What are your team’s biggest needs this off-season? 

Well, if there is an actual season - the Nuggets will need to field a complete roster. As of now, the Nuggets have just four players that do not have contracts overseas - Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Chris Andersen, and Kosta Koufos. In addition to that, the Nuggets have three players that have contracts overseas with opt-out clauses - Danilo Gallinari (Italy), Ty Lawson (Lithuania), and Timofey Mozgov (Russia). And the Nuggets have one restricted free agent, Wilson Chandler (China), who does not have an opt-out clause if the NBA season does get underway. 

With roughly $35.7 million tied up in salary for the 2011-12 season, in 10 players, the Nuggets have some decisions to make. Rookies Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton need to be signed ASAP once the new collective bargaining agreement is made and that will bring the Nuggets up to 12 players under contract or with cap-holds in place. Decisions must be made on restricted free agents Afflalo, Chandler, and Forbes and I’m not totally sure how Chandler’s salary cap figure will effect the Nuggets moving forward with a new CBA. 

This writer still hopes Nene will be re-signed and moved to power forward, but after Nene turned down a $50 million extension - his future in Denver is certainly uncertain. 

After the Nuggets take care of their rookies and their own free agents, there likely wont be a lot of room to add other pieces. In a doomsday scenario … if Afflalo and Smith are not brought back, the Nuggets will need to find a quick replacement at shooting guard and if Nene isn’t re-signed - the Nuggets will have a large gap at the power forward or center spot as well.  


2. What are the team’s biggest strengths & weaknesses, so far?

The Nuggets will miss out the most on a shortened or missed training camp. With so many new faces and young players, this team really needs time to mesh. The Nuggets were a deep team last season, after they made the big trade with the Knicks, and no matter what happens moving forward - there will be at least three new faces in town (Miller, Faried, and Hamilton) that need to get familiar with their surroundings. 

As we saw last season in the playoffs, the Nuggets biggest strength was also their biggest weakness: depth. With the plethora of depth came a lack of a go-to-guy in crunch time for Denver. The team looked lost in certain situations and without guys like Afflalo being around (health) to lead the team, we saw Denver wilt under the pressure. 

I’m very curious to see how George Karl handles his new cast of players and if he can find the trust to play guys like Faried and Hamilton and lean on big men Mozgov and Koufos. Nuggets Nation is excited for the young players that are in place and with a re-building or re-tooling squad, it’ll be good to get guys as much playing time as they’ll need to gain confidence as the season wears on. 


3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?

If there is no season, the Nuggets will have oodles of room under the salary cap as Andre Miller’s deal comes off the books ($7.8 million in his last season) and Gallinari ($5.58 million Q.O.) and Koufos ($3.2 million Q.O.) will both be restricted free agent, along with all the free agents listed above. I don’t know how restricted free agents’ rights will be handled, but hopefully the Nuggets will retain the rights for Afflalo, Chandler, and Forbes. 

The good news, the Nuggets will have enough dough to go out and sign Dwight Howard. The bad news, he likely will get more than just an offer from the Nuggets … maybe.


4. If you could make one change in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), what would it be?

If I could make one change to the new CBA - it would have to be actually printing it out and getting the damn thing signed already! How difficult is this process? Just divide up the millions or billions or trillions - throw some my way - and let’s play ball! 


5. Will the Denver Stiffs be moving to China? 

If there is no season, the biggest question becomes: How will we get our basketball fix? Well, with three current and former Nuggets signing in China, it makes sense that Andrew, Jeff, and I get our passports stamped and head overseas to see some familiar faces. 

 

 

 

 

 

Nate_Timmons on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons
ntimmons73@yahoo.com 

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