What does the signing of Baron Davis by the Clippers mean for the Nuggets?
Most clearly it alters the Western Conference playoff race for next season. Golden State will struggle to keep up with the other playoff teams no matter who they spend their new found cap money on. The Clippers are now a threat and the projected lineup of Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Thornton, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman with rookie scorer Eric Gordon coming off the pine they will be an offensive force.
The Nuggets have struggled with the Clippers over the past three seasons and those struggles will only intensify now that the roster is much more talented.
Davis’ transition from Golden State to Los Angeles could also have a more profound and direct impact on the Nuggets. Because of the relatively small cap holds for the Warriors two key restricted free agents, Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, and the sudden removal of over $17 million in salary due to Davis Golden State now has almost $20 million in cap space to play around with. They have already offered Gilbert Arenas a max deal although Arenas will likely stay with the Wizards. You better believe if, or when, they miss out on Agent 0 they will go after someone else.
The question is who?
They love players who can get up and down the floor, hit the three and get to the rim. Anyone coming to mind? I would not be the least bit surprised if the Warriors offer J.R. Smith a big fat contract.
The Warriors will undoubtedly retain Ellis, especially now that Davis is gone. With the scarcity of quality point guards currently available they will probably pencil Ellis in as the starting point guard. That leaves a big hole at shooting guard. There are a couple of other options at shooting guard, but not many. James Posey will probably stay with Boston or sign with another contender. Ben Gordon is way too small to put in a backcourt with Ellis. Philly will not let Andre Iguodala go. Corey Maggette is an option, but he will probably want to sign with a contender as well.
Smith makes a lot of sense for the Warriors. He is young and can grow with Ellis, Biedrins, and Brandan Wright. He excels at the style they play which centers around three pointers, isos and scoring in transition. Most importantly the Nuggets cannot afford to go big to retain him. Should the Warriors get fed up with missing out on Arenas and Maggette they may just throw an offer sheet at Smith that starts at $10-$12 million just to make sure it is too rich for the Nuggets to match. Heck, if Golden State ends up close to $20 million under the cap they can sign both Maggette and Smith.
All I know is the longer the Nuggets let Smith twist in the wind the more likely a team with money that has missed out on their first or second choice will come calling. If the Nuggets think they can sit and wait for a team to sign Smith to the mid level exception so they can match it they will find themselves in some serious danger.
The bad news is if I can figure this out, you better believe Smith’s agent will be thinking about Golden State too. The Nuggets front office better get in gear or risk seeing the Smith situation get out of control.