It's never too early (or too late - in this case, freakin' lockout) to speculate about what your Denver Nuggets will look like, if there is a season this year.
Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post posed an interesting question in his Wednesday blog post. In reacting to the recent one year contract Wilson Chandler signed in China, Dempsey is simply wondering - how many Nuggets are left to field a roster?
Yes it's a little early/late to be thinking about this sort of thing, considering we don't know who the Nuggets will sign when the lockout ends, or what kind of contracts the players will be able to sign. Yet, Dempsey brings up an interesting point. With Chandler gone for the season, the (likely) departure of Kenyon Martin, the J.R. Smith situation up in the air, and Nene Hilario's decision to test the free agent market, this team is very much in flux ... if not terminally uncertain at this very moment.
Let's tackle these issues one-by-one (assuming we have some sort of season):
J.R. Smith: His situation, as always, is complicated. An antagonistic, borderline dysfunctional relationship with coach George Karl contributed to a helter skelter playoffs where the best, and worst of J.R. was on display. To be quite honest, I don't think the Nuggets can afford to let him go, at this point. The Nuggets will be deficient of offensive playmakers now that Chandler wont be here. A marriage of convenience needs to be worked out between Karl and Smith. And I am strangely optimistic that it can be done. It makes too much sense for the Nuggets and J.R. to remain together and right now the team may have no other choice.
Nene: If you pin me down, I'd say there's a 75 percent chance Nene does remain a Nugget, maybe it's my Weekly Optimism talking, but hear me out. I just don't like the way the whole thing transpired down the stretch for Nene. His reasons for wanting to explore free agency are his own, but they seem to be weighted heavily on the "feeling wanted" side. Those things go away quickly when faced with imminent financial reasoning. In my heart of hearts I just think Nene wants to feel loved. Show him some love Nuggets fans.
Kenyon Martin: The writing is on the wall for this one I'm afraid. I suppose I was one of the few who actually like Kmart and his game. He was let down by his knees and a poor attitude for the early part of his (albeit bloated) contract and that killed him in people's eyes for the rest of his years here. Yet, during his time he instilled an attitude that, quite frankly, most Nuggets players did not possess. The times I met him in person he was quite nice and personable. For all his faults I grew to admire Kmart in a way. I'll be quite sad if he goes.
Cap Space: One thing that is not fuzzy, the Nuggets will have tons of cap space to play with once the lockout is over, regardless of the salary cap projections. Currently the Nuggets sit at somewhere in the $28 to $29 million territory (without re-signing Nene and J.R.). What will the Nuggets do with all this cap space? Will they go out and sign some free agents that were not part of the 2010-11 Nuggets? Will they sit on some of that money and wait for young players to develop? Your guess is as good as mine. My own paranoid fear is that they will hover at the cap floor (if there's a big gap between the ceiling and the floor) and take the approach of their neighbors in the Pepsi Center - the Colorado Avalanche. Let's hope I'm as wrong as wrong can be.
It seems apparent the Nuggets will re-sign Arron Afflalo. Ty Lawson is locked up for another two years on his rookie deal and has a qualifying offer for the 2013-14 season ($3.6 million). The Nuggets have Danilo Gallinari under control for another year and seem to want to put the proverbial eggs into the big Italians' basket. Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos are still on the roster. Chris Andersen (wherever he is) is still around, so is Al Harrington (not saying this is positive or negative). Gary Forbes seems to be intent on improving his game during the offseason and hopefully will be back with the team as well (has a qualifying offer just under $1 million). There could be potentially some great things shaping up, but due to this infernal lockout we aren't able to see things with any certainty. And that's a very frustrating thing.
So Nuggets fans? What do you think the Nuggets biggest priorities of the offseason are? What do you think they will/ should do?