Note from Nate Timmons: Some interesting thoughts here from Nuggets fan Greg Martino. Give it a read and share your thoughts below.
If there's one word I could use to describe this team and season, it would be weird. The Nuggets have lost 4 of 5, won 7 straight, lost 8 straight, and now again lost 4 of 5. Couple this inconsistency with a roster that has seen the rotation constantly in flux and a roster of players who do not fit the ideology of coach Brian Shaw, and we can understand why this team has been all over the place. It is all too apparent to all of us now that this team is in dreaded "mediocre" (as Richard Sherman would call it) land. The Nuggets are a team who would be lucky to make the playoffs, but certainly is not bad enough to secure a top 10 pick (Knicks? Can you help us out here?!). And so, I think the only real solution to this is to officially rebuild. I'll admit that I began the season as an optimistic fan, one hopeful that a big trade for a Kevin Love or Pau Gasol, and a healthy Gallo could maybe lift this team to a middle seed in the West, and maybe a playoff series win. But after Gallo's bad news, it is all too obvious that no trade for a big player is going to fix this Nuggets team. That being said, there are trades for upgrades available out there (Greg Monroe anyone?) who would fit Coach Shaw's play style much better, and could offer the Nuggets some salary relief. I'm going to outline some positives and negatives of this roster, and offer some possible trade solutions.
This team as we know it is VERY young. Without including Andre MIller, only Nate Robinson and Randy Foye are over 27 (Mozgov is next oldest at 27). And while guys like Hickson, Gallo, and Chandler may have reached their potential as a player, they are still very young and have several productive years out of them (well, maybe not so much Hickson, but you get my point). So the first step is to figure out which of our young players are worth holding on to, and which we should attempt to trade.
PG- Ty- His defense has been spotty at best, but this team is nothing without him, and he certainly is worth hanging onto for now.
PG- Nate Rob- He has a player option after this year, so may as well just hang on to him and keep a decent backup PG.
SG- Fournier- His confidence is as high as I can remember ever seeing it, and has shown flashes of being a worth rotation player or even a starter on an NBA team.
SF- Gallo- Trade value is way too low, and he has also showed flashes of All-Star level play, at least before this injury.
SF- Quincy Miller- He's extremely cheap, and although he is still very raw, Shaw likes him a lot. He was a predicted top 5 pick out of high school before he tore his ACL senior year.
PF-Darrell Arthur- He and Mozgov have been a really solid duo have the bench, and he seems to fit Shaw's mold of hard-nosed defense, coupled with a decent mid-range game.
C- Javale- Honestly, what could even get for him that would make a trade worth it? At this point the best decision would be to let Shaw try and fix this guy and make him at least a serviceable starter. This injury certainly has not helper the front office make any decision on him.
C- Timo- I was in the group of people that did not agree with resigning him this summer. But wow was I wrong! He has been arguably our second most consistent player next to Ty, and why he is not starting yet is beyond me.
So that right there is 8, with hopefully 7 after Nate Rob leaves in free agency.
PG- Andre Miller- Seriously what is taking so long?!?!
SG- Foye- There's way too many good, cheap shooters out there to just keep this guy around. He's on the backside of his career and serves little to no purpose in a rebuilding effort.
SF- Chandler- Yes he has been good this year. And yes, he may be our second best player. But at this point in his career he is who he is. An OK all around player, who could be part of a trade to send us back a better piece or picks. And with Quincy's emergence as a possible rotation guy, he becomes expendable when Gallo comes back. I have long been an Ill Will fan, but he just doesn't feel like a great fit for this team going forward.
SF- J Ham- He's a good shooter and decent rebounder, but he's sooo bad on defense (as is most of this team) that it doesn't make him all that important to retain. As of now, he's out of the rotation anyway.
PF- Faried- Fan favorite? Yes. But why the hell did Team USA give him an invite???!!!!!!! The guy has no offensive game, isn't a very good defensive rebounder, and is absolutely atrocious on the defensive end, especially against stretch fours. The only good defensive plays he makes are his occasional volley-ball block on someone. That's literally it. He is terrible with rotations, and it's becoming increasingly apparent that Shaw is not all that fond of him.
PF- Hickson- Just watch the last few minutes of the game last night against Portland and you'll see what I mean. He is a baaaaadddd defender, and never boxes out. He and Faried could quite possibly be the worst defensive starting frontline in the league, and I'm serious. Sure, his stats look decent, but he is just your run of the mill PF that could easily be scooped off the street. I'm not sure we could get much for him, so he may just be stuck on this team -____-.
PF- Anthony Randolph- Not sure why he even has been playing. Enough said. Best garbage time player on the team though!
So, our trade pieces at this point are Miller, Foye (Not until July 1st), Chandler, Hamilton, Hickson, Faried, and Randolph.
This team needs to have two goals going forward. Create some cap space, as this team is almost in the tax, yet may not even make the playoffs this year. And two, acquire young talent with high potential, or draft picks. I've seen several suggestions of trading for Greg Monroe, so going with that, I am going to experiment with a few deals using ESPN's trade machine.
Greg Moroe Trade 1: http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ktvnuvg
Why the Nuggets do it- Monroe is a talented young big who possesses the passing and high post ability that Shaw wants in his bigs. He is a huge upgrade over Faried, and although we lose Chandler, we also manage to unload Randolph. Villanueva is an expiring contract.
Detroit does this so that they can slide Josh Smith to the 4 with Drummond at the 5, and Chandler at the 3. Faried comes off the bench for them.
Greg Monroe Trade 2: http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ms99e7b
Nuggets do it: Same reasons, except the unload Miller now. Stuckey is a decent SG, who is on an expiring contract. If he were to play well, could possibly be a Free Agent target for us to resign.
Detroit: Same reasons.
For simplicity's sake, lets say the Nuggets agree to deal 2, and acquire Monroe and Stuckey.The roster at this point:
PG- Ty, Nate
SG- Stuckey, Foye, Fournier,
SF- Miller, Hamilton, Gallo (hurt)
PF-Monroe, Hickson, Arthur, Randolph
C- McGee, Mozzy
Looking at this roster, we maybe should try to trade Stuckey and Hickson/Randolph for a young SF. So lets experiment with adding a third team into the Monroe deal.
Denver now gets a young wing in MKG, and an expiring contract in Gordon. New roster:
SG- Foye, Fournier, Gordon,
SF- MKG, Miller, Gallo
PF- Monroe, Arthur, Randolph
C- McGee, Mozzy
I think this roster does not compete this year, but the future looks bright. Assuming Monroe is resigned (I believe he's restricted), the roster entering the summer is this
SG- Fournier, Foye
SF- MKG, Gallo, Miller
PF- Monroe, Arthur, Randolph
C- McGee, Mozzy
So now we need to try to trade Foye, while also acquiring a backup PG.
Now I'm going to make a lot of assumptions and pose hypothetical picks, trades, signings that I would personally like.
Lets say both the Knicks and Nuggets miss the playoffs. Denver gets NY number 7 pick (current slot), while trading their 13th pick to orlando (Iggy trade).
With that pick, Denver drafts combo guard Zach LaVine, a freshman out of UCLA who declares for the draft. This is NBADraft.net's report on LaVine: (http://www.nbadraft.net/players/zach-lavine)
NBA Comparison: Russell Westbrook
Strengths: At 6’5 LaVine is one of the top athletes not only of his class but in all of college basketball ... LaVine has the athleticism to win the NBA Dunk contest next year, his freakish leaping ability and smoothness is on a truly elite level ... Grew 5 inches in the last 3 years going from a short quick point guard to a player with the size to player either backcourt position ... Not your typical point guard by any means, but the prototype of the new NBA PG: strong, quick, and excellent in transition as well as half court situations ... His verticality and explosiveness are off the charts and he uses them to finish around the rim with powerful dunks but also to jump stop and elevate in a dime ... The long arms and skinny body are perfect for a wing but as a point guard he will have to develop his upper body and become stronger to handle the physicality of the PG position ... His game resembles Westbrook, great in transition, quick ... Defensively he has very quick hands but he relies a little too much on his athleticism to save himself ... Hard worker, seems a little shy, he impressed many people during summer workouts with UCLA where he could be the last gift of an impressive list of NBA players left by coach Howland.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t blow by people nearly as much as he should, too often he is satisfied with his jumpshot and although he has a far from perfect shooting technique, he’s fairly consistent with it ... He needs to learn to get to the basket in half court situations, and part of that is getting stronger, but he also needs to get tougher mentality ... Improving that aspect of his game will really elevate his game into the stratosphere ... His ball handling is great but his decision-making needs to improve if he is going to take his game to another level ... Consistency. He will have to learn to bring it every possession 100% ... Not a highly vocal guy, so if he wants to be a point guard, that is an area he should focus on improving ...
Notes: A late bloomer. Flew under the radar for most of his high school career but ultimately moved into the top 50 in his senior season ... Not has hyped as many of his colleagues from the dream class of 2013 but he has all the tools to become a great point guard/combo guard in the NBA, and may actually be the best incoming freshman prospect in the Pac 12 ... Measured 6'3 (in shoes) 167 lbs, with a 6'6 wingspan at the 2012 LeBron James Skills Academy ...
Okay, so maybe the Russell Westbrook comparison is a bit much, but you get the idea. This kid is a terrfiic athlete who could play alongside Ty, without being undersized (hallelujah!). Again, this is merely a guess on my part, the Nuggets probably won't even take him.
Come July 1st, Denver can trade Foye. So they do, and in return receive a future second round pick (doesn't really matter from who. Maybe Miami, considering their love for shooters lol).
So Denver's new roster, post draft:
PG- Ty, Green
SG- Fournier, Lavine
SF- MKG, Gallo, Miller
PF- Monroe, Arthur, Randolph,
C- McGee, Mozzy
Denver also gets Erick Green (last year's draft pick) back from Europe.
Now Denver must tackle free agency. Considering last year's results, this is scary.
Their contracts before resigning Monroe, add up to roughly $55 million (LaVine's rookie contract is about 3). So after signing Monroe to a size-able contract (lets say $12 million), Denver is up to $67 million. And that is a lot. And they only have 11 players. So there would need to be some tricky moves made. The tax line is about $72 million this year, so Denver needs to steer way clear of that.
Hopefully JaVale returns this year so we can make a decision on him. At 11.25 million, he appears to be way overpaid, but maybe Shaw can work his magic.
Anyway, Denver signs a few low cost backups, that I will just insert here for my personal liking. They have the mid-level exception, but in order to avoid the tax, they need to be careful.
PG: Shaun Livingston. He's been solid as a backup for Brooklyn, and could be had on a short 1 year contract for a very minimal contract IMO.
PF- Dante Cunningham. Average backup for Minnesota. Really just to fill the roster. Has a decent mid range jumper. Again, a one year deal.
Denver then also brings on a backup Center. Maybe they draft someone, or maybe it s free agent. Lets call him Center X.
So the totally hypothetical roster, which completely hinges on the Monroe deal is:
PG- Ty, Livingston, Green
SG- Fournier, LaVine
SF- Gallo, MKG, Miller
PF- Monroe, Arthur, Cunningham, Randolph,
C- McGee, Mozzy, Center X
There's 15. The cap would be close to probably $70 million. And although we would be capped out for a couple more years, a Ty, Monroe, LaVine, Gallo, MKG, (McGee) core could start something for us. Ty and Monroe are borderline all stars, and if our first round draft pick works, out, we could have some really good young players.
If you're still reading, thanks a lot. Again, a lot of this is hypothetical, but as the roster stands now, we are going nowhere. We need to acquire players who fit Shaw's play style more, and I believe my new roster heads in that direction. Please share your thoughts on this team, and if you have trades that you would like to see happen. I think the current Nuggets team has quality young pieces, we just have to sift through the mess of Faried, Hickson and Foye to find them.