With NBA free agency set to open in a few days, let's break down the Nuggets' roster and what the team could do with various players on the roster.
The following salary information is from Basketball Insiders, and the Emmanuel Mudiay contract is based on Larry Coon's rookie pay scale from his salary cap FAQ. Also, we're leaving a placeholder for Nikola Jokic, who is expected to be signing with the Nuggets as soon as the new NBA calendar year opens.
|Darrell Arthur||Free Agent|
|Jameer Nelson||Free Agent|
|Will Barton||$1,181,348 *QO|
|Ian Clark||Free Agent|
|Emmanuel Mudiay||$2.5M||$2.7M||$2.8M||27% raise||34% raise|
From the above, the Nuggets have 15 players under contract and two unrestricted free agents. Of those 15 players, the Nuggets can make decisions on three of those players that are on non-guaranteed deals. If the Nuggets choose to not bring back the three guys on non-guaranteed deals, they will have 12 players on the roster and that leaves them with three open roster spots. Teams can only carry 15 players on their roster.
Let's take a look at the players the Nuggets must make decisions on.
Unrestricted free agents:
These players are free to sign with any team.
Darrell Arthur: He was a great locker room presence, but it's hard to seeing DArth coming back with J.J. Hickson and Joffrey Lauvergne on the roster. Arthur embraced Denver, especially the outdoors aspect (hiking and fishing), and has spent a good portion of his offseason working out at Pepsi Center (including Steve Hess' Red Rocks workouts).
Jameer Nelson: He opted out of the final year of his deal, which was scheduled to pay him $2.8 million. His return depends largely on whatever decision the team comes to with Ty Lawson. With Mudiay needing minutes as a rookie, it's hard to see Nelson wanting to return as a third string guard. Nelson could seek out a larger role with another team, but keep an eye on his return if the Nuggets trade Lawson.
*Ian Clark: Nuggets GM Tim Connelly said on air with Raj Sharon that Clark is expected to play on the team's Summer League squad in Las Vegas, starting July 10th. Clark, a point guard, is in a crowded backcourt with Lawson, Mudiay, and Erick Green being on the roster ... and Nelson potentially being re-signed. The Nuggets did not extend his qualifying offer of $1.1 million, according to league sources, so he's an unrestricted free agent.
Restricted Free Agents:
Restricted Free Agents have qualifying offers that the team must extend by a certain date. If the team extends the offer, they become RFAs - which will allow the Nuggets to match any offer one of their players signs with another team. If no offer is extended, the player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) and is free to sign with any team.
*Will Barton: The Nuggets have extended the $1.18 million qualifying offer to him, according to league sources, as he was one of their primary targets at the deadline (along with a first-round pick) when the team moved Arron Afflalo. Barton has already expressed interest in return to Denver, even makes it sound like it's a foregone conclusion that he'll be back.
The team has certain dates where they can choose to part ways with these players. Depending on the language of the contract, teams have to buy players out for specified dollar amounts. For example: Wilson Chandler had a $2.1 million buyout, but the Nuggets did not exercise that - instead his $7.1 million deal is now fully guaranteed.
Randy Foye: The Nuggets have until July 11th to decide on Foye's non-guaranteed $3.1 million deal, the final year of his deal with the team. Foye indicated in a phone interview with Denver Stiffs that he expects to be back, after talking with team officials. With the Nuggets unable to land a shooting guard prospect in the draft, Foye could well be back.
**Erick Green: He will be in a battle with Ian Clark for a roster spot with the Nuggets. Green has spent the bulk of his offseason in Denver working out with Steve Hess, and running on-court drills with the coaching staff.
**Jamaal Franklin: He has yet to find an NBA home, but the former 41st overall pick will get a chance in Denver to make the roster, and will play on the Summer League squad in Vegas. Franklin has also spent the bulk of his offseason in Denver working out at Pepsi Center, trying to make an impression on the front office and coaching staff.
Future Draft Picks:
The Nuggets own three first round draft picks, with protections, from the following teams.
New York Knicks 2016 Pick Swap (Carmelo Anthony trade): The Nuggets have the right to swap picks with the Knicks next season and that right is unprotected - meaning it conveys for the 2016 draft, no matter what. If the Knicks pick is the 2nd overall and Denver's is 3rd overall, Denver can take the 2nd pick and the Knicks would then have to send the 3rd pick to the Toronto Raptors from a previous trade. The Nuggets only get one pick, the better of the two (if they choose), and the other pick goes to the Raptors via the Knicks.
Memphis Grizzlies Pick (Timofey Mozgov trade): This pick is top-five protected and 15-30 protected through 2016. Meaning the Nuggets could get that pick in 2016 if it's 6-14. With the Grizzlies likely to re-sign Marc Gasol, they should again be in the playoffs, and that means the Nuggets won't get the pick in 2016. That same pick is top-five protected in 2017 and 2018, but unprotected in 2019. The most likely scenario is that Memphis conveys the pick in 2017, when it's only protected 1-5.
Portland Trail Blazers Pick (Afflalo trade): This pick is protected lottery protected (1-14) through 2017. Meaning the Nuggets get the pick this season or next if the Blazers make the playoffs. After 2017, the pick converts to two second-rounders; one in 2018 after a pick swap with the Sacramento Kings and the second in 2019. The Blazers could look significantly different this season. Consider the trade of Nic Batum to the Hornets (click here), and free agents LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Matthews, Arron Afflalo, and Robin Lopez and the makeup of that roster might be a lottery team when it's all said and done. With so much up in the air in Portland, that pick may not actually be a first-rounder for the Nuggets - pay close attention to how the Blazers offseason plays out.
Second Round Pick for 2016:
The Nuggets owe their 2016 second-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the three-way deal they made with the Washington Wizards in the Jan Vesely for Andre Miller swap.
We'll have a look at potential free agent targets later in the week.