As we move through the summer doldrums of no basketball, no football, no hockey, and some pretty disappointing baseball; Nuggets fans can at least look forward to an exciting NBA draft and free agency period. If the Nuggets make no moves - and they still very well could - they will wind up with the 20th pick, 38th pick and 50th pick in tonight's draft (5:00 p.m. MTN on ESPN).
Take a look after the jump for the latest on the upcoming NBA draft, potential Nuggets moves going forward and some links from around the NBA.
First, a calendar of upcoming events for all of us hoops fans:
28 -- NBA draft (5:00 pm MTN on ESPN).
29 -- Final day to exercise team, player, and early termination options.
30 -- 2011-12 salary cap year ends. Final day to sign a player to extension, final day to extend qualifying offers to a potential restricted free agents.
1 -- 2012-13 salary cap year and July moratorium begin.
11 -- July moratorium ends and new salary cap figures take effect. Teams can sign free agents, make trades, and extend contracts. Seven-day amnesty period begins.
13-22 - NBA Summer League (We'll have some live coverage from Las Vegas!).
16 -- First-round draft picks become free agents if not offered a contract.
23 -- Final day to withdraw qualifying offer to restricted free agent without player approval.
27 -- 2012 London Olympics open.
12 -- 2012 London Olympics close.
6 -- Second-round draft picks become free agents if not offered a contract.
1 -- Final day for a restricted free agent to accept a qualifying offer.
29 -- Final day of offseason. Roster size reduced to 15-player maximum. Final day to make sign-and-trade transactions, and to waive non-guaranteed summer contracts.
31 -- Last day rookie scale contracts can be extended, and last day option years on rookie contracts for the 2013-14 season can be exercised.
I'm really looking forward to seeing the flurry of trades (more!) and activity that is sure to result through the day and evening. However ...
While most of us are excited about the upcoming draft and the prospect of landing another player of Kenneth Faried's or Jordan Hamilton's quality (or better?), some thought needs to be given to another potential move that Masai Ujiri could make: player amnesty. Right now, the primary targets for the Nuggets unused amnesty clause have to be Al Harrington and Chris Andersen.
Though Harrington has turned into a decent sixth man off the bench for the Nuggets, he's clearly breaking down. Each of the last two seasons Al has suffered an injury as the playoffs approached, dealing with an Achilles tendon in 2011, and a partially torn meniscus in 2012. Due to be paid more than $21 million over the next three years, can the Nuggets afford to keep Harrington around if he cannot stay healthy? His contract is only 50% guaranteed for the last two seasons, so that may be a factor in the front office decision (meaning they could possibly buy him out of the last two years of his deal).
We might also have seen the last of "Birdman" Chris Andersen. Due be paid around $9.5 million the next two years, Chris was shunted to the end of the bench in 2012, and saw almost no playing time behind the very lackluster Timofey Mozgov and pedestrian Kosta Koufos. Whether this points more to his disturbing off the court issues or a steep decline in his playing ability, it doesn't bode well for Andersen remaining a member of the Nuggets in the 2012-13 season.
Regarding the Nuggets 20th pick in the upcoming draft, NBADraft.net had this to say (on June 26th)...
Denver Nuggets select:
Terrence Jones (6'9", 252lbs, 2 years at Kentucky)
Strengths: Jones is a 6’9 252 lb matchup problem who had 2 very good seasons at Kentucky … A southpaw with good agility, leaping skills, explosiveness and quickness for his size … Has the ability to make athletic plays in traffic … Definitely has more then enough physical and athletic tools to play SF and PF at the NBA level … Pretty strong and has put on at least 20 lbs since he was a HS Sr., showing his work in the weight room … Jones is a versatile threat who can score in different ways and has the skill set to play in many types of schemes … He is a big threat as a face-up PF, as he has the handle and athleticism to give many bigger PF off the dribble and put pressure on the D … Looks real fluid athletically, which is impressive for his size … Very good finisher around the rim, and makes good use of his 7’2 wingspan and nice reactive athletic ability
Weaknesses: Main question revolving around Jones is about his position, or lack thereof … Many don’t know if he is a classic tweener and how he can fit in certains teams style … Although a very good overall athlete, Jones’ isn’t truly exceptional in any way … He has some of the qualities of a true SF and true PF, but not some of the skills that are most important … Jones is a versatile weapon, but he doesn’t have one trait that really separates itself clearly from the others on offense and should look to polish up his entire arsenal … Really needs to shore up his jump shot and his mechanics … He does not consistently square his shoulders and arms, has a deliberate form, and is a very sporadic shooter from deep, even with his feet set … Jones lacks a mid-range game, everything is either right at the rim or from 3 … Doesn’t look to pass the ball much.
Overall: Jones’ size, athleticism, production and natural ability to be a matchup ploy make him a 1st round pick … He’s a very talented player with very good upside and he should be even better when he addresses the holes in his game (jumper, post footwork, etc) … He also has to show more maturity, and we can only hope that improves with age … He has the ability to be a very valuable weapon for a team, especially if used correctly …
I do agree that the Nuggets need to shore up the SF position and I haven't seen much about Jones elsewhere. He's certainly a big boy at 6'9" and 252, but where would he fit in with the Nuggets, who are already going to have Faried and possibly JaVale McGee crowding the paint? Without a midrange game, would taking him be a mistake given the Nuggets' needs for a stretch-forward?
My esteemed Denver Stiffs colleague and "mock GM" Nate Timmons selected Andrew Nicholson in an SB Nation Mock Draft. Nicholson seems to be a lanky PF with decent range, and has also contributed a great deal on the defensive end in his time at St. Bonaventure. A rotation of Nicholson with Faried and McGee would allow the Nuggets to open up the interior if he can consistently hit a 12 -15 foot jumper. Here's what NBAdraft.net had to say about Nicholson:
Andrew Nicholson (6'10", 234, 4 years at St. Bonaventure)
Strengths: A versatile power forward with a high basketball IQ … While he only has decent size for his position, his tremendous length allows him to play much bigger … Extremely efficient scorer, he has made himself into a reliable inside threat (shows a nice mini hook over his left shoulder, is able to utilize an effective up and under and is also dangerous with a turnaround jumper) … Possesses an intriguing face up game, he has good quickness and regularly shows his ability to work off the dribble … He always had the ability to step out and shoot with range, but became a deadly option from beyond the arc during his final 10 collegiate games (he made 19/30 from long range during that time)… For a big man, his stroke is very smooth, he shoots the ball with good balance and is able to get good lift.
Weaknesses: Even though his body has improved during his collegiate career, he needs to continue working on it … He still lacks the bulk and upper body strength to consistently battle inside and he has a hard time establishing low post position against stronger players … Gets bodied and coerced into off balance shots … Good, but not a great athlete … His motor is a bit of a question mark, he has a tendency to take plays off on both ends of the floor and especially down the stretch of games … A bit selective as far as running the floor in transition …
Nicholson seems to have the size and midrange game the Nuggets are looking to get out of their PF spot, but his relative low athleticism on a team that loves to run might end up hurting the Nuggets' transition game.
What's intriguing about this draft, particularly from a Nuggets fan perspective, is that the picks seem to be all over the place from readers to writers. While last year most if not all were salivating over the prospect of landing Kenneth Faried, this year, there doesn't seem to be any particular consensus. Some want Jared Sullinger, some want (Fab) Melo, some want John Jenkins, some want Royce White, some want Nicholson. The Denver Post's Ben Hochman seems to think the Nuggets are leaning towards Baylor's Quincy Miller.
One thing we all seem to agree on, though, is that Masai Ujiri, aka "Batman", is hard at work putting together the best possible pick scenarios for the Nuggets in this year's draft. Could we really see the Nuggets move up into the Lottery? How far up are the Nuggets looking to get? According to Bradley Beal, Denver might be looking to trade up to select him. It's amazing to me to approach the draft with a degree of excitement and anticipation after years of Kiki Vandeweghe and Mark Warkentien (though Wark did an average job, I suppose). Get ready for the draft today!
News and Notes:
Rockets send Chase Budinger to Timberwolves for 18th pick - At this point, how does Timberwolves GM David Kahn still have a job?
Budinger: .543 TS%, 110 ORtg, 109 DRtg
Webster: .542 TS%, 107 ORtg, 110 DRtg
He screwed up taking Jonny Flynn instead of Ty Lawson, he's squandered roster spots on the likes of Martell Webster and appears to have no consistent plan for the Timberwolves other than to surround shorter players who can't shoot or play defense with bigger players who can't shoot or play defense. Chase Budinger appears to have some talent, but is he worth the 18th overall pick in what most are calling a fairly deep draft? His game is virtually identical to Martell Webster's. Doesn't seem worth it to me. Nice going, Kahn. And the Rockets were active again yesterday too - they acquired the No. 12 pick in the draft in exchange for the No. 14 pick, with the Bucks.
Brooklyn Nets park massive sign in front of Deron Williams' house for his birthday - In what reeks of Ohioans' desperation to keep LeBron James a Cavalier, the Nets have parked a gigantic "happy birthday" sign in front of Deron's house for his 28th year of ball. Given that the Nets only have four players under contract - Anthony Morrow, Marshon Brooks, Jordan Williams and Johan Petro (yes, you read that right) - it seems that getting Deron some roster help might make for a better birthday surprise. Could we soon see Deron in a Mavericks uniform?
Brandon Roy making a comeback? - The Bulls, Mavericks, Pacers and Timberwolves are all interested in luring Roy out of retirement to play in the 2012-2013 season. Given the sordid and horrifying stories about the Trailblazers' medical staff (not to mention the sad ongoing story of Greg Oden), is it possible that the Blazers have simply destroyed two capable - and apparently NBA ready! - players simply because they were unable to treat them effectively? And yet, there appears to be no imminent audit of the Blazers' medical staff. What is going on in Portland?