My dream is for the Nuggets to field a roster. Is that so wrong? As question marks surrounding the team grow ever larger, it's time to start asking just where this franchise is headed for the future?
I'll be blunt, I'm starting to get an ulcer over the upcoming Denver Nuggets season. In some ways this is a bit worse than the Carmelo Anthony trade situation last season. The Nuggets are more clearly at a crossroads now than they were when they traded Melo; simply because a massive portion of the roster is undecided. With J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Wilson Chandler in China and seemingly unavailable to the Nuggets to re-sign (until they complete their one year contracts with their Chinese teams in February or March), the team was already at a disadvantage.
Adding to all of that is the Nene Hilario fiasco. He is seemingly disgusted and feeling "disrespected" by the Nuggets and opted out of his final year on his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. And throw in another addition sigh: Arron Afflalo is also an unsigned restricted free agent. Well, Nuggets nation is so full of tension you could cut it with a knife. Trouble is, there are no easy solutions to the Nuggets problems. These problems have arisen both by circumstance and by some clumsy handling by team management.
Let me state unequivocally that it's my feeling the Nuggets management team anticipated a lower ceiling and floor to the salary cap. Based on the Nuggets bottom basement salary situation at the conclusion of last season I'd say that is a safe bet (and by the revelation that the Nuggets were one of the teams pushing for 47% Basketball Related Income share for the players.) By retaining (see extending) some of their players, the Nuggets could have safely made it to a lower cap floor without too much overpayment.
When the players surprised everyone and disclaimed interest, it changed the dynamics of the new CBA deal slightly. That will be discussed in further detail when the full agreement is revealed. However, a side affect of the players gaining concessions (and the big market owners agreeing to some sort of revenue sharing) could very well be the 85% cap floor rule (which will rise to 90% two seasons from now). This, essentially brings all teams spending in line with each other. It also prevents what has happened with the Nuggets sister organization, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche (super low payroll). It disallows disproportionate floor spending in relation to all other teams. Essentially it forces teams to invest their new found revenue (through owner revenue sharing and reduced player related spending) so they can't camp out and "collect" as it were. The NFL also adopted a high cap floor in their last CBA.
This has resulted in a bit of a quandary for the Nuggets. Do they spend on existing roster players (ie: give contract extensions and large bonuses to players already on the team) or do they go in to free agency and try to get up to the cap floor that way? The Nuggets have roughly $17 million to spend to hit the cap floor. Until the CBA is signed and players get to training camp on December 9th we simply will not know. The situation as it stands is fairly fluid.
Will Nene get over his hurt feelings and agree to an offer to remain in Denver? At this point it's doubtful. Nene's interview with Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears seemed to indicate that the chances of a return to Denver are slim. It's a shame. Even if the Nuggets were able to convince Nene that Denver is the right place for him; it's apparent that it will take more money than they initially offered him. It's also a shame that the Nuggets future seems to be so heavily dependent on a player who was such an enigma during his time in Denver. I don't like it. If Nene walks, much of Denver's ability to be dynamic on the offensive end disappears.
Afflalo is a restricted free agent, meaning the Nuggets can match whatever offer he may get. This is an important advantage because based on his interview with Zach Lowe of SI.com, AAA isn't too happy the Nuggets decided to leave his future up in the air prior to the lockout. This seems to be a similar complaint to his fellow free agent and former teammate Nene. This seems to be a way that Stan Kroenke prefers to do business - extensions don't come quick and easy from Silent Stan. Nene was offerend an extension at the last possible minute. AAA was left to chance and there's a very good chance that the Nuggets wanted AAA back, but only cheaper. The chances Afflalo re-signs here are good, but the hurt feelings have been made public again. Maybe it's time for Kroenke Sports Enterprises to re-asses their approach to handling players?
All-in-all, this is giving me an ulcer. All signs seem to point towards the Nuggets entering some sort of undefined rebuilding project. Just how extensive, we don't know. Nuggets Vice President Masai Ujiri spoke yesterday about Nene's free agency as well as Afflalo's. Since the CBA has yet to be made official he couldn't comment on the amnesty clause (being able to buyout a current player on the roster) or anything specific. So the waiting game continues.
It's odd, but I never thought that $17 million-$26 million in cap space was a bad thing. I guess there's a first time for everything.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78