Good evening fellow Stiffs,
Before I begin giving my two cents and hoping to hear everyone else's, I want to just quickly thank Andrew Feinstein, Nate Timmons, and all of my other stiffs who have taken to this blog to post thoughts and ideas about our beloved Denver Nuggets.
Now this most recent first round exit feels especially painful in some respects, but also leaves me more hopeful for the future of this Denver Nuggets squad than perhaps I have ever felt before. But in order to deal with some of the disappointment, I have thought a lot about what this team's prospects are for this next season. I want to focus on what Masai and Josh should do in the draft in June, which (if any) free agency deals they should explore, and who some potential trade targets for the Nuggets could be. One of the things that give me such hope and excitement for the upcoming season is the amount of flexibility with the payroll we have. Masai and Josh have done wonders giving the Nuggets freedom to explore any and all possibilities that may arise before next season tips off.
The Nuggets have two players that I personally feel need to be resigned before any other moves are made. Priority #1 absolutely must be reupping Ty Lawson and keeping him here in Denver for the long haul. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was at times frustrated by Lawson's inconsistent play, and angered by his lack of aggressiveness when clearly the team needed him. But with that being said, I still believe that Lawson is the most vital piece to this Nuggets team going forward. In GK's system, having a PG who is fast and can almost single-handedly control the pace of a game is essential. Ty is the engine that makes our Denver Nuggets go, so losing him after next season is simply out of the question. If the last six games of this Lakers series are any indication, than Ty Lawson is a sure-fire all star in the making.
Now onto everybody's favorite (and least favorite at times) Nuggets big man, the mercurial Javale aka "Pierre" McGee. From the moment he arrived in Denver through the waning moments of the Game 7 loss against the Lakers, I am not ashamed to say that Javale McGee absolutely confounds me. There are times where he looks like the type of all-star caliber player that the Nuggets brass sold us after moving Nene's insufferably bad contract. But then there are also times where McGee looks like every bit of the player that the Washington Wizards!!! could not wait to rid themselves of. I am all for continuing the McGee experiment in Denver, as Nuggets assistant coach Melvin Hunt seems to believe he can get the most out of McGee's clearly massive potential. However, if the figures we are hearing about what McGee expects to earn in his next contract are correct ($14 million per year!?!?) than I say we let him walk. Masai and Josh have done an admirable job of allowing the Nuggets to be both buyers and or sellers once the summer arrives, and overpaying for a player like McGee who is not necessarily essential to the future success of this team, seems to be counterproductive to everything the front office has done since the Melo trade.
Here is a depth chart for all of the Nuggets who were on the roster as of the end of game 7 (including Bird, Wilson and Rudy)
PG: like I said before resigning Ty for the long-term has to be a top priority this offseason. At the backup spot I would be open to having Andre back in Denver, as he provides almost a perfect balance in what he brings to the floor and what Ty brings. But I honestly don't know about how he will continue to produce, and while his veteran presence was certainly vital during the playoffs, I think Ty used Andre too much over the course of the season as a crutch for when Ty was feeling passive or didn't have it going that night. If Ty is to develop into the star we all hope and expect him to be, maybe its better if Andre goes.
Possibilities at Point Guard:
Goran Dragic (UFA): Young PG who plays solid D, may have problem coming off the bench
Delonte West (UFA): Not really a PG, but hard nosed defender who could play either Guard spot
Jeremy Lin (UFA): Yeah right
Kendall Marshall (Draft): Probably don't need another non-scoring threat at the PG spot (see Julyan Stone)
Damian Lillard (Draft): Would have to move up to get him, great scoring ability
Tony Wroten (Draft): Another possible steal in the 20s (a la Kenneth Faried) could end up being best PG in class
SG: Arron continues to improve his game each and every summer, coming in a more complete player for the season. While Afflalo started slow this year, I still believe locking him up was a good move by Masai. I don't really know what to make of Rudy. He played sparingly for the Nuggets this season as he was dealing with nagging injuries all season long, and seemed to be wildly inconsistent when he was on the floor (both statements really could apply to all Nuggets this season). Finding another consistent scoring threat on the wing is something that a team with the current construct of the Nuggets must consider.
Possibilities at Shooting Guard:
Dion Waiters (Draft): Tough, hard nosed guard who played coming off the bench in college
Austin RIvers (Draft): JR Smith 2.0? Who knows. He has all the skill offensively, but often selfish. Also questions about ability to defend 2s at the next level.
John Jenkins (Draft): SEC all-time leader in 3pt field goals. Limited athleticism & defensive ability (low upside)
Jeremy Lamb (Draft): Huge enigma coming from Uconn. Showed flashes of being Top 3-5 overall talent, inconsistent jumper, seemed to "go through the motions" from time to time
SF: Perhaps the toughest position to make decisions about for Josh and Masai. Gallo and WIlson are both starting quality SFs in the NBA, so having both of them is a great luxury. Where it becomes a problem is how to find minutes for spark-plug Corey Brewer and soon to be 2nd year swingman Jordan Hamilton. As much as I appreciated Brewer's effort and energy he brought as a Nugget, I'm not sure there is a place for him on this team next year. Gallo and Ill-Will are going to gobble up most of the minutes, and Jordan Hamilton deserves a shot to see what he can do. He was another guy so-called experts felt was a steal at the late pick the Nuggets ended up getting him at in the Andre Miller-Raymond Felton deal. Not sure if there is really a need to add any pieces at this position, as part of the bigger picture of this franchise seems to be developing either Gallo or Ill-WIll into an all-star.
PF: One word....Manimal!!! What else is there really to say about this spot on the Nuggets squad this year. What Faried managed to do for this team is nothing short of incredible. Going from not even sniffing the floor in blowouts, to frustrating and at times outplaying the so-called best frontline in basketball for 7 games. Gotta give Al Buckets his due as well. After an...off year last year to put it nicely, Big Al rebounded and established himself as one of the the best bench players in the NBA, while also stepping up and assuming a role as a leader in this young and inexperienced Nuggets locker room. Again, not sure if there is really a pressing need at the PF spot going forward, especially with the abundance of centers on the Nuggets roster.
C: As much as it pains me to say, it appears the days of Chris "Birdman" Andersen in a Nuggets uniform are all but over. Its a shame, and a mystery quite frankly, how Bird fell out of favor with GK so quickly. Bird actually had the 2nd highest PER of the four Nugget centers, but alas Bird's energy and infectious attitude have been replaced by the Manimal. I personally like the idea of a McGee/Mozgov duo going forward as both are extremely young with plenty of room to develop. My only concern about the Nuggets frontcourt as a whole going forward is, Where is the back to the basket scoring going to come from? Javale McGee's chamberlain-esque sweeping skyhook? Mozzy's slow motion jump-hooks? While Harrington can supply just enough of a back to the basket threat for the Nuggets now, I believe they need somebody consistent who know how to get off a quality shot with a defender playing behind them in the post.
Some trade possibilities I have seen posted on here have been the likes of Josh Smith, or Chris Bosh, or Tyreke Evans, or even Amar'e Stoudemire. I personally don't like the fit of any of those players for the Nuggets. Smith and Bosh are both late 20s big men who want to shoot jumpers, not bang in the post. Tyreke has underachieved each year since his rookie season. And if I have to explain why I don't want Amar'e Stoudemire, than feel free to stop reading the post and never visit this website ever again. The truth is, with so many tradeable assets and payroll flexibility I'm not sure at this point who would be good trade targets for the Nuggets. But if I have learned anything over the past two season, it's that Masai and Josh will leave no stone unturned, and if there is a trade out there that could make this team better and improve our chances of competing for an NBA championship, that duo will find it.
Thanks to anybody who suffered through reading this entire post. Feel free to leave and comments, and as always GO NUGGETS!!!!