The more I've been thinking about it ... the more I'm thinking that Linas Kleiza has played his last game as a Denver Nugget. Now that I've said that, the Nuggets will re-sign L.K. this week to spite me.
The NBA free agency period is a funny time and a lot can happen in the blink of an eye. Just look at what Hedo Turkoglu did this weekend by apparently agreeing to terms with the Portland Trail Blazers and then changing his mind and verbally agreeing to sign with the Toronto Raptors aka the team John Hollinger of ESPN said was L.K.'s "strongest suitor."
The NBA arms race is heating up and the big names are choosing new teams, like Rasheed Wallace committing to sign with the Boston Celtics today. And the Denver Nuggets might be getting closer to start making some of their own moves.
The Denver Post is reporting that a deal with Chris Andersen is moving along and after the Bird is caged then Denver will turn their attention to other areas of need. The Post is also reporting that Denver is attempting to backload Birdman's contract, as I expected, and his cap number for next season will hopefully be around $3 million, which would leave the Nuggets with somewhere around $2.6 million in MLE money leftover for another free agent.
An interesting tidbit from the bottom of the Post's Birdman story is that again I read how the Nuggets have talked, or are talking to, or gave a quick buzz to Grant Hill.
Denver is also in talks with the Suns' Grant Hill a possible free-agent signee, although Hill and his family enjoy the Phoenix community. Hill made around $4 million over the past two seasons.
If the Nuggets somehow come to terms with Grant Hill then Linas Kleiza's replacement will be known. The fact that Denver is talking to Hill makes me think that the front office is again on the right path. Championship level teams bring in seasoned veterans and Hill would be an asset in powder blue. But Hill's acquisition would come with some questions.
- Will Grant Hill take a reduced role to chase a ring in Denver?
- Will Hill's fortunate good health the past two seasons continue?
1.) Reduced Role? For his career Hill averages 35.7 minutes per game, including 29.8 mpg last season. Obviously Carmelo Anthony is the small forward for the Denver Nuggets (Hill's natural position at 6'8'' and 225 pounds), but I think George Karl would not be opposed to playing Hill alongside Melo at times as Karl did with L.K..
As we've seen with players like Michael Finley (when he joined the Spurs), veteran guys have reinvented themselves to be valuable bench players on winning teams, but it's a pretty big sacrifice and can be a bit difficult on the ego ... see Iverson, Allen with the Detroit Pistons.
And if Hill did decide to sign with Denver then I think that would be perceived by the rest of the league that the Nuggets are a team that is capable of winning a championship and worth consideration ... this is the exact thing that Antonio McDyess did not see when he was traded here along with Chauncey Billups.
2.) Health. Grant played in 70 games in his first season with the Suns in the 2007-08 season and last year Hill played in all 82 games for the first time in his career.
It was great to see Hill healthy these past two seasons after missing 135 regular season games between 2001 and 2006 (or 32.9% of regular season games missed.) Hill will turn 37 years-old in October and will be entering his 15th NBA season. So, his window is closing on that elusive championship.
Hill's still producing some nice numbers and is a very reliable shooter who can create his own shot. He's not a huge threat from long distance, but he's a capable defender and a guy with a good motor (excuse the NFL terminology.)
Grant Hill's stats from the 2008-2009 season:
12.9 points per game (18.5 career)
52.3% field goal shooting (48.6% career)
31.6% three-point shooting (27.8% career)
80.8% free throw shooting (76.4% career)
4.9 rebounds (6.6 career)
2.3 assists (4.7 career)
1.1 steals (1.36 career)
Hill's three-point shooting concerns me a little bit, but he did improve on his career numbers as he averaged 31.65% from beyond the arc during his two-year stint in Phoenix (still not a nice number as the average of a good three-ball shooter in the NBA is a lot closer to 40%). The Nuggets biggest competition for Hill seems to be the Knicks and the Suns. I don't see Hill seriously considering New York at this point in his career and the Suns seem to be in limbo with what direction their team is in. Mike Lisboa from SB Nation's Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun has an interesting piece up titled "No Franchise For Old Men" where he discusses how the Suns are not currently constructed to win a title right now and wouldn't mind seeing Hill in another uniform. Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr does not seem to be wanting Hill to leave however, as the The Arizona Republic reported.
"Grant is our biggest priority and that's why I'll be in Orlando," Kerr said. "He's an important part of our team and we'll make sure he knows that."
Hill only made $1.97 million last season with the Suns and he could have probably signed for a lot more elsewhere. Perhaps if Hill sees in Denver what he saw in Phoenix then he could prove to be a cheaper option than L.K., but would he be a better option as well?
While it would be awesome if Denver could sign Hill and bring back L.K. ... that isn't realistic.
All I know is that the NBA arms race is heating up and the Nuggets have yet to show us what they are stockpiling.