Now that the Nuggets' acquisition of Andre Iguodala is official (as part of the larger Dwight Howard-to-the-Lakers mega deal), the pundits have weighed in and are in universal agreement that Masai Ujiri and the Nuggets have struck gold once again.
If we've learned anything in the past 24 hours, it's that no Nugget is safe on Masai Ujiri's roster.
Less than a year removed from signing handsome contract extensions to both Nene Hilario and Arron Afflalo, Ujiri has sent both players packing in separate deals. In a mid-season trade, Nene netted Denver it's center of the future in JaVale McGee and Afflalo - along with veteran Al Harrington - helped bring All-Star and Olympian Andre Iguodala to Denver, where he will presumably anchor the starting two-guard spot for the next two seasons. And with Ujiri amnestying Chris Andersen earlier this summer, only point guard Ty Lawson remains from the pre-Carmelo Anthony trade version of the Denver Nuggets. (Technically, Andre Miller was here with Melo, as well, but was re-acquired last summer after departing in the Allen Iverson trade back in 2008.)
Ujiri, ever the wheeler-and-dealer, has made Denver incrementally better yet again. Just as McGee will prove to be an upgrade over Nene at center, Iguodala will soon prove to be an upgrade over Afflalo at shooting guard. Will trotting out a lineup of Lawson, Iguodala, McGee, Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari - backed up by Timofey Mozgov, Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Anthony Randolph and Corey Brewer - be able to overcome the Nuggets' brutal, road-heavy early schedule this season? With Iguodala on board, the Nuggets definitely have a better chance now.
As I said to Mile High Sports' Renaud Notaro while visiting on his radio show last night (I was on right when Peyton Manning first took the field for the Broncos, great timing), the Iguodala acquisition shouldn't be a huge surprise to Nuggets fans. Nuggets head coach George Karl has been high on Iguodala's game for years, going so far - allegedly - as wanting the Nuggets to trade Melo for the rangy shooting guard from Philadelphia years ago. And I know Ujiri has been an Iguodala fan for a while, too, although I certainly didn't see Afflalo - especially after his splendid post-All Star Game play last season - being shipped out for him.
In reading the many reactions to the trade (the end of the nauseating "Dwightmare", if you will), the NBA punditry world loves the deal for Denver. With one noteworthy exception. The Denver Post's Chris Dempsey astutely points out that Iguodala has an early termination option in his contract, meaning Iguodala could become an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season. Dempsey thus argues that Ujiri is gambling a bit here in acquiring Iguodala for a solid and still-improving Afflalo, who had a longer term deal in place. Ujiri made a similar bet when dealing Nene for restricted-free-agent-to-be McGee, so I guess we'll have to wait and see how Ujiri's newest gamble plays out.
Regardless, the Nuggets got better today. Better enough to contend for a top-four Western Conference seed and Denver fans should be excited about that. No superstar is walking through the Pepsi Center doors anytime soon, and Ujiri is making the most of the mid-market situation he finds himself in.
Unfortunately, by incrementally improving the Nuggets, Ujiri may have helped hand the Lakers the 2013 NBA Championship (pending the condition of Howard's back, of course). It's likely that the Lakers were getting Howard anyway, so the Nuggets were smart to help themselves in the process. But it's hard not to look at a roster of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace and Howard and not be thinking championship. For the Magic to take back Afflalo, Harrington, Moe Harkless and some meaningless first round draft picks for the NBA's best center is borderline criminal. Did David Kahn temporarily take over for Magic GM Rob Hennigan?
The Magic's inability to get moderately decent value for Howard should prove to be the Nuggets gain. Ujiri - along with team president and owner Josh Kroenke - has proven that he will do whatever it takes to improve the Nuggets roster, even jettisoning hard-working, earnest players like Afflalo and Harrington.
If I'm Ty Lawson, I'd be renting instead of owning right now.
On to reaction from around the league ...
Why the Denver Nuggets' acquisition of Andre Iguodala is one big roll of the dice | Nuggets Ink — The Denver Post
Chris Dempsey explains why Iguodala's early termination option could present problems for Denver in just a year from now.
Denver, Philadelphia, Iguodala all winners in blockbuster trade | ProBasketballTalk
Kurt Helin says that the Lakers certainly come out of this winners, but two other teams in this blockbuster four-team trade did well for themselves — and it was a win for Andre Iguodala as well.
Only a Lakers-bound Dwight Howard could keep the Sports Guy from writing about the Olympics - Grantland
Bill Simmons joins the chorus of pundits who loves the deal for Denver.
NBA offseason -- Grading Dwight Howard deal - ESPN
ESPN's NBA team hands out marks for each of the four teams involved in the Dwight Howard trade, and picks a favorite in the NBA.
Winners and Losers: Dwight Howard heads to Hollywood in Lakers trade - CBSSports.com
Matt Moore assesses the winners and losers from the four-way trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dwight Howard headed to Lakers in four-team trade - Sam Amick - SI.com
The Dwightmare is over.
Denver Nuggets acquire All-Star, Olympian Andre Iguodala | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE DENVER NUGGETS
Aaron Lopez gets Ujiri and Iguodala on the record in the wake of the trade.