The 2010-11 Exit Interviews: The Free Agents

As I've done in years past, I'll again be taking a look at the season that was and what the future holds for the individual players for the Denver Nuggets that made up the 2010-11 roster. We'll start things off with the upcoming free agents, a lot of them, and I'll be including Nene in the mix - even though he has yet to decide whether or not to opt out of the last year of his contract.

 

The Free Agents:

 

Kenyon_martin_medium 
Kenyon Martin: 6'9'' 240 lbs.
2010-11 salary: $16.5 million
Age: Turns 34 years-old on Dec. 30, 2011.

Recap of the 2010-11 season: 8.6 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game in 48 regular season games. Martin missed plenty of games this season recovering from another off-season knee surgery. Once he returned his minutes were carefully monitored and he missed a few games as precautionary measures. When Kenyon was on the floor he was a factor in helping the Nuggets make the post-season. After the Carmelo Anthony trade, Martin was seen more for his leadership role with the team and was a steady presence on the team. K-Mart's number dropped did drop this season however - for the first time in his NBA career his points dipped into single digits - but his field goal percentage was up as his shot attempts were down (from 11.6 attempts over his career and 48.2% shooting to 7.5 attempts and 51.1%). So one could make the point that Martin was more efficient and allowed others to handle the scoring load - which is a good thing for his skill set.    

Will Martin be back in Denver next season? Without Martin the Nuggets under contract (minus Nene) are of the average age of 25.7 years-old. That's a pretty young squad. The veterans on the team under contract include: Chris Andersen, 32 years-old, and Al Harrington at 31 years-old. While those two know their roles with the team, they are not the kind of leaders that teams can lean on. One of Martin's best assets is his ability to be a vocal leader with the Nuggets, but he has also had moments where he has lost his cool on the court and cost the team in key moments. With father time waving Martin in, his injury history, and his limited offensive abilities I wouldn't be surprised if the Nuggets let Martin walk. The roster is begging the Nuggets to re-sign Nene and play him at power forward, but will the team move in that direction? We'll find out if that's the plan as we find out where Martin signs.  




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Nene Hilario: 6'11'' 250 lbs.
2010-11 salary: $11.3 million
Age: Turns 29 years-old on Sept. 13, 2011

Recap of his 2010-11 season: 14.5 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game in 75 regular season games. In many respects this was Nene's finest season. He was the Nuggets best post player on the offensive end and a solid defender as well. Rebounding has never been Nene's strong suit, but his is a good rebounder at times and would benefit greatly from not being the biggest man in a powder blue jersey and sliding over to power forward. Nene's biggest struggles came late in the season when he could no longer connect consistently from the foul line. Over the last three seasons Nene has shot nearly 71% from the free throw line in the regular season, but this post-season he was a miserable 27-48 or 56.2% against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was as a bizarre a thing as I had ever seen and something that hopefully Nene can move past. 

Will Nene be back in Denver next season? Free agency is set to open July 1, 2011 and Nene must decide before then if he's going to opt out of his contract that will pay him roughly $12 million next season or not. The Nuggets cannot afford to lose the big man from Brazil and must figure out a way not only to keep him, but for him to sign an extension as well. Nene is in the prime of his career and has been a rock for the Nuggets. Over the past three seasons Nene has only missed a combined 12 games. He has been vocal this off-season about not being appreciated by the Nuggets organization and may need that extension to show the Nuggets brass is willing to commit to him long-term. As a steady post-scorer and defender, the Nuggets need Nene to make a playoff run and to have a shot at contending for a title. The big man has made a home in Colorado and should stay with the team for his entire career. 




Jr_smith_medium
J.R. Smith: 6'6'' 220 lbs.
2010-11 salary: $6.03 million
Age: Turns 26 years-old on Sept. 9, 2011

Recap of his 2010-11 season: 12.3 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 2.2 assists per game in 79 regular season games. During his five seasons with the Nuggets Smith has averaged 13.6 ppg and has primarily been a scoring presence for the squad. Smith's shots per game were down from the 2009-10 season from 13.8 per game to 9.9 last season. J.R. will probably never shoot a high percentage because he is a volume scorer who takes chances with his offensive game. At just 26 years-old Smith showed that his game is still on the rise and added a pretty steady mid-range jumper to go along with his long range game and above the rim dynamics. J.R. looks to be a good teammate and loves to get the crowd involved in the game. At Pepsi Center it could be said that Smith is the crowd's new favorite player as he was routinely received to loud cheers upon entering the game. Once again his production was up-and-down and when the Nuggets needed someone to step up and be the teams scoring machine, Smith didn't fill the void - whether it was because he wasn't on the floor at times or because he didn't score the way he can were both issues. 

Will Swish be back in Denver next season? Rarely do teams have two shooting guards who are capable of starting. For the past two seasons the Nuggets have had two starting quality shooting guards in Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith. If the Nuggets pay both guards they would likely make a combined $12-$16 million per season. I would think that if a team comes calling with a nice contract and an opportunity to start that Smith will have played his last game with the Nuggets. It's obvious that George Karl and Smith don't have a good relationship so for Smith to re-sign with Denver would be an odd thing - why torture yourself? If Smith walks then the Nuggets will lose a talented scorer and passer. J.R. does have it pretty good with the Nuggets too - he's asked to come off the bench and be an offensive weapon. If he takes a starting role it'll mean more responsibility on the floor. 




Arron_afflalo_medium
Arron Afflalo6'5'' 215 lbs.
2010-11 salary: $1.95 million
Age: Turns 26 years-old on Oct. 15, 2011

Recap of his 2010-11 season: 12.6 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, and 2.4 assists per game in 69 regular season games. The reason J.R. Swish might be expendable to the Nuggets is because of the emergence of Afflalo. His point production is up from 8.8 ppg in his first season with the Nuggets to 12.6 last season as his shot attempts were up from 7.1 per game to 9.1 attempts. His shooting percentage up from 46.5% to 49.8%, his three-point shooting down a touch from 43.4% to 42.3% but his makes up from 1.3 to 1.5 per game. His free throw shooting up from 1.2 attempts and 73.5% per game to 2.4 attempts and 84.7% with is minutes up from 27.2 per game to 33.7 per game. Everything about Afflalo's game screams to re-sign him long-term and let him run with the shooting guard position for 35 minutes a night. With that kind of time there isn't much left for a backup and a high-priced one in J.R. to boot. 

Will Afflalo be back in Denver next season? This one is the biggest no-brainer of the bunch. Afflalo is still developing his game and has been hard at work since his days at UCLA. His work ethic should leave Nuggets Nation at peace as he talks on Twitter about working to get better. Afflalo is due for a big raise as he made just under $2 million last season. His asking price should be in the $6-$8 million range per season and the Nuggets should go ahead and pay it for 4+ seasons. Just starting to enter his prime, Afflalo could and should be trusted to anchor the shooting guard spot for years to come. Teams should be lining up to sign Afflalo, but his restricted status and his relationship with the Nuggets might be enough to keep serious offers away. Lots of people don't see a "star" when they look at Afflalo, but his importance to the Nuggets is greater than most know. 




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Wilson Chandler6'8'' 225 lbs.
2010-11 salary: $2.13 million
Age: Turns 25 years-old on May 10, 2012

Recap of his 2010-11 season: With the Nuggets: 12.5 points per game and 5 rebounds per game in 21 regular season games. With the Knicks: 16.4 points per game and 5.9 rebounds in 51 games. Chandler's game suffered post-trade in a Nuggets uniform. His minutes down from 34.5 per game in New York to 30.6 with Denver. His shot attempts and percentages down as well. If you follow Chandler on Twitter you can see he's a pretty interesting character. He missed some games with the Nuggets due to his chronic ankle injuries - and one can't know how those injuries will affect the 24 year-old going forward. Grant Hill lost nearly four seasons worth of his career because of ankle injuries - not to say that Chandler will follow that path but it is something the front office has to be concerned about. 

Will Chandler be back in Denver next season? 
Talk before Chandler came to town is that he didn't want to leave New York. The Michigan native was happy back east and might want to return there. If he stays in Denver he'll likely be a backup to Danilo Gallinari and the expected bench scorer the Nuggets will need. If he goes back to New York he'll likely be backing up Melo. Wilson could go a different route and try to find a starting gig and at just 24 years-old there should be teams looking to sign the talented forward. Losing both J.R. and Chandler for nothing would be a major loss to the franchise. The Nuggets have to figure out a way, if they lose both guys, to turn the two young talents into something via trade. I don't expect Chandler to be back with the Nuggets next season, but with his restricted free agent status and teams that might be wary of his ankles and playoff performance - he could be with the Nuggets for at least another season. 




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Gary Forbes6'7'' 220 lbs.
2010-11 salary: $473,604
Age: Turns 27 years-old on Feb. 25, 2012

Recap of his 2010-11 season: 5.2 points per game and 1.8 rebounds per game in 63 regular season games (11 games started). Yes, Forbes was a rookie last season but he will be 27 years-old at the tail-end of the 2011-12 campaign and that my fellow Stiffs is a little old for a guy trying to cut it in the league. Forbes showed an aggressive style when he was on the floor and liked to attack the rim and showed he could shoot the ball a little bit as well - though not truly on a consistent basis. He connected on 45.4% of his field goals and 32.8% of his three pointers to go along with a low 67.8% from the foul line. Forbes would be a great 9th or 10th man for the Nuggets and a guy who could play some minutes when an injury pops up. 

Will Forbes be back in Denver next season? 
Forbes will have to again fight to make an NBA roster, but he showed enough last season that he should be back in the NBA and on a roster somewhere. I would like to see the Nuggets re-sign Forbes and he could be useful to the team if they do lose J.R. as Gary could be Afflalo's backup - no problem. Above anything else - Forbes needs some job security. If a team is dangling multiple year deals at him he needs to sign one as his future in Denver is anything but certain. 




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Melvin Ely6'10'' 261 lbs.
2010-11 salary: $1.22 million
Age: Turns 34 years-old on May 2, 2012

Recap of his 2010-11 season: 2.3 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game in 30 regular season games. 

Will Ely be back in Denver next season? 
Ely showed he still has some game and was a serviceable big man for Denver in spot duty last season. With Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos, and Chris Andersen all under contract and with the "center" labels on their position cards it would appear the Nuggets don't have much use for Ely. I would surprised to see him back on the roster as the Nuggets will likely need to focus their attention on smaller players and younger players. 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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