Just a random observation from scanning the Basketball Insiders page on the Nuggets team salary (the guy who compiles this, Eric Pincus, is amazing. Does all the mind-bending cap number crunching so we don't have to). I noticed that the Nuggets have an interesting cap situation which will be very much in flux in the next couple of seasons.
While the Nuggets payroll, holds included, is around $74 million for this next season (projected). The Nuggets have 15 full roster spots with 16 players signed (obviously one or more of the non-guaranteed players will be cut before the season starts to reach the maximum roster allotment). For THIS season, three players start with non or partial guarantee contracts (Quincy Miller, Erick Green, Jerrelle Benimon). Where things get interesting is the remaining roster.
As of right now, the Nuggets have two officially designated "expiring" contracts this year (ie: no option available for the following season) These are Darrell Arthur and Nate Robinson. Additionally there are another three "option" contracts in the guise of Randy Foye (eligible for qualifying offer), Kenneth Faried (qualifying offer) and Timofey Mozgov (team option). These options are available for the 2015-16 season. Additionally Wilson Chandler has a partial guarantee (buyout) on his 2015-16 contract.
Finally, Arron Afflalo has a player option for the 2015-16 season.
All in all 8 of the 16 players under contract for this season could be, in a manner of speaking considered highly valuable on the trade market due to team friendly options or the Nuggets will be looking to extend, in the case of one.
First item of business is extending Kenneth Faried (early extension is available to him until the end of October). If the Nuggets fail to come to an early extension agreement they have the protective safety net of restricted free agency to get a deal done. So there's no real pressure on the Nuggets to get something done now.
The other priority would be Arron Afflalo, who has a player option at the conclusion of this season (otherwise known as an "early termination" option). This one is a bit up in the air and the Nuggets cap space will be tested a bit here. If the Nuggets decline all the options (and Faried hits restricted free agency) the Nuggets will have around $47 million in guaranteed contracts on the books for 2015-16 (inclusive total is around $73 million, counting Afflalo and Faried's options). The cap as it sits is $63 million and is almost certain to go up again this next season. So with the rise in cap you are going to be looking at roughly $20 million in cap space for the Nuggets IF they do nothing, reject options, and just take the cap space. While that scenario is unlikely (particularly in the case of Mozgov) anything is possible. The Nuggets will need space to re-sign both Faried and Afflalo (if he declines his player option).
This scenario likely opens up the Nuggets to trade some of their guaranteed 2015-16 contracts with an idea that would free up even more space. The Nuggets have many trade chips at their disposal if they so choose to go that direction, particularly under the guise of "expiring" deals that can be quite attractive ... particularly at the trade deadline. The Nuggets options are plentiful this season, with everyone aside from maybe J.J. Hickson ready to go at the beginning of the year.
There is one thing to consider for the future of the Nuggets, as well as every other NBA team. The league is very close to signing a new media right's deal that some have speculated will net over $2 billion per year. This will cause the cap to go up quite a bit. No one at this point knows how much the cap will rise with the new TV deal, but it's hard to see it NOT going up by more than we have ever seen. Any contracts on the books now (particularly in the case of Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari) may look like chicken feed compared to those that get signed in the next two seasons. These "albatross" contracts (cough, JaVale McGee, cough) may actually be quite reasonable. This thinking may factor into any deals the Nugget may end up making, particularly if a team has an eye toward the new TV deal.
Alot of things are going to change. The Nuggets will have interesting decisions to make about their team going forward. Maybe the narrative about the Nuggets being stuck in mediocrity premature hyperbole?