What does the Nate Robinson signing mean for the Nuggets roster?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nate Robinson signing continues to bring more questions than answers to Nuggets nation.

While I was sitting in the Cox Pavilion watching the Nuggets take on the Raptors on July 18th I overheard a couple summer league employees talking about Nate Robinson being in the building. I turned around and asked the two women if they had indeed said Nate Robinson and where he was sitting. They pointed out that he was sitting courtside in a Yankees hat and white T-shirt.

After spotting Robinson I immediately had flashbacks from last summer when I saw free agent Anthony Randolph sitting with Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke in the stands. When I asked Ujiri and Kroenke about Randolph, they just smiled and claimed there were lots of basketball folks around at summer league. Coincidentally, the Nuggets inked Randolph to a deal on July 18th, 2012.

Robinson, who I briefly spoke with in Vegas, said he was in town to relax and watch some hoops. When I asked Nuggets GM Tim Connelly about the Robinson rumors he said the team was still exploring various options, but wouldn't name Nate as a target. Robinson watched the first half of the Nuggets vs. Raptors game, went over to the Thomas & Mack Center to check out most of the second half of another game, and then returned to the Cox Pavilion for the closing minutes of the Nuggets game where he sat just outside the Nuggets locker room area (which is a makeshift locker room tucked behind a set of bleachers). The writing was again on the wall at summer league.

Another free agent that has been spending time around the Nuggets is Denver's own restricted free agent Timofey Mozgov. The team is interested in the center's return and from the looks of it, Mozgov is eager to sign with Denver as well. So, this brings up some interesting questions.

1.) How can the team sign Mozgov when they are over the salary cap?

2.) What does the roster look like with Robinson aboard?

3.) What do these moves mean for Andre Miller or anyone else the team may look to add?

Re-signing Mozgov:

This is the easiest question to answer. The Nuggets are allowed to exceed the salary cap in order to re-sign their own free agents. Denver can sign Mozgov outright, they have three days to match any offer sheet he signs with another team, or Moz can sign and play for the qualifying offer which would be a one-year deal at $3.9 million (after the 2013-14 season he would then be an unrestricted free agent).

Clearing up the Nuggets roster:

An NBA roster has 15 available spots.

As it stands right now the Nuggets have 13 players on the roster under guaranteed deals: Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Nate Robinson (assuming he passes his physical), Randy Foye, Evan Fournier, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson, Anthony Randolph, and JaVale McGee.

The Nuggets have one player on a partially-guaranteed deal ($150,000 is guaranteed) for the 2013-14 season in Quincy Miller. His contract becomes guaranteed for the season if he's on the roster opening night.

So, with those 13 guaranteed deals plus Quincy, the roster is at 14 players.

Players without deals: Timofey Mozgov, Erick Green, Joffrey Lauvergne, Izzet Turkyilmaz, Chukwudiebere Maduabum, Sani Becirovic, and Xue Yuyang.

This is where things get a little sticky. Last season the Nuggets tendered Quincy Miller his offer sheet and came to terms on a deal. If NBA team's do not tender offer sheets to second-round picks before Sept. 6th then the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. If the team tenders a deal, but the player rejects the deal - the team is able to retain the player's rights for one-year.

I'm not sure if the Nuggets can tender an offer to Green if Mozgov is signed and the roster if full, but the Nuggets can keep Green's rights this way:

  • If the player is already under contract to, or signs a contract with a non-NBA team, the team retains the player's draft rights for one year after the player's obligation to the non-NBA team ends. Essentially, the clock stops as long as the player plays pro ball outside the NBA. Players are not included in team salary during the regular season while the player is under contract with a non-NBA team.

Perhaps Green could reach a deal with a D-League team or a team overseas and the Nuggets could keep his rights. So, that would take care of Green's roster spot or lack-thereof for one season. Again, if the Nuggets sign Mozgov the roster will be set at 15 players.

What do these moves mean for Andre Miller or anyone else the team is looking to add?

Again, with a full roster of 15 players, the Nuggets would need to make a trade in order to add anyone. The team could waive the partially-guaranteed Quincy Miller, but that move creates little-to-no cap room to sign anyone else and casts off a nice young asset.

Waiving a player: Any player in the NBA can be waived or bought out, but it comes with a price.

Guaranteed salary must be paid even if the player is released, and continues to be included in team salary after the player is waived. For example, if a player is waived with $10 million in guaranteed base salary remaining on his contract, then that $10 million will be included in team salary.

So, let's use Andre Miller as the example here. He's set to make $5 million this season for the Nuggets, so even if the team waived him, his salary would remain on the books for this season and for $4.6 million next season. It would probably be easier to trade Miller if the team was looking to move him, but according to Connelly they are not. Here is what he said in an interview on 102.3 FM ESPN Denver:

Here is how the waiver process works:

Waivers are a temporary status for players who are released by their team. A player stays "on waivers" for 48 hours, during which time other teams may claim the player and assume his contract. If no team has claimed the player before the end of the waiver period (which is always 5:00 PM Eastern Time), he is said to have "cleared waivers." The player's contract is terminated and he becomes a free agent.

You might get excited about the "contract is terminated" part, but don't - the Nuggets would still take the salary cap hit for the next two seasons and if Miller cleared waivers he would then be able to sign with any team he chooses for any amount of money he chooses (yes, the money he signs for can be taken off the Nuggets' book, but it's usually a league minimum deal).

Here is where things get a little interesting:

If a team makes a successful waiver claim, it acquires the player and his existing contract, and pays the remainder of his salary -- the waiving team is relieved of all responsibility for the player. There is a fee of $1,000, payable to the league office, for claiming a waived player. If more than one team tries to claim a waived player, the team with the worst record gets him.

If Miller was claimed on waivers it does sound like the Nuggets would be off the hook for paying Miller, but I do believe that they would still be on the hook for his number on the salary cap for the next two seasons (I could be wrong and his number might disappear off the books if he was claimed off waivers). Even if the Nuggets bought Miller out, his numbers remain on the books - like the Raptors and Marcus Camby (here).

Trade coming?

My guess would be that a trade is looming. Andre Miller was a bit outspoken last season on a 57-win team about his role with the Nuggets in an interview with Paul Klee. That was with George Karl playing Miller in every key stretch of just about every game - late in fourth quarters, running plays through him, allowing him to roam on defense, and the freedom to take whatever shots he liked. What might Miller do with a reduced role under Brian Shaw?

Miller's happiness or unhappiness aside, the value his contract brings could be enticing to another team. Miller essentially has an expiring contract. He is due $5 million this season and can be bought out for a certain amount on his $4.6 million deal for the 2014-15 season.

If the Nuggets coupled Miller's deal with another contract or two it could bring value back to the team. A team under the cap could trade for Miller by only giving up draft picks and that's valuable too (likely just a second rounder). But the biggest value would be in packaging Miller in some type of unforeseen deal.

We will see what the Nuggets do next, but don't be surprised if the team heads into the season with this roster intact, plus Mozgov.

The Nuggets are stockpiling pieces, but for what has yet to be seen.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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