According to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports, the Denver Nuggets have been in contact with LeBron James and will aggressively pursue a meeting.
With Jokic and Barton on board, the Denver Nuggets will turn their attention to one more free agent: LeBron James. The Nuggets have been in contact with James's agent and will aggressively pursue a meeting.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) July 1, 2018
The Nuggets know it's a long shot, but Denver's ultra aggressive front office wants a shot at selling James on a Jokic/Murray/Barton teammate trio--even if it's just for one year.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) July 1, 2018
In my column late last week, I laid out the steps Denver might take if they were to pursue Lebon. Step 1 was to call Nikola Jokic and get him to agree to his deal. Step 2 was to call LeBron James.
If the Nuggets do end up getting a meeting with LeBron, they will need to lay out a plan for Denver to compete next season with him on the roster. That means figuring out a way to free up enough roster space to sign him to a max contract slot in free agency. The Nuggets need to free up $35.665 million to sign LeBron to max money, because he would accept nothing less to sign in Denver. Currently, the Nuggets are over the salary cap by a lot, but because Jokic’s and Barton’s deals don’t kick in until July 6th, their cap holds are used in the signing process.
Here’s how the Nuggets can sign LeBron James.
In order to sign LeBron to a $35.665 million contract, Denver must bring their team salary cap number below a $66.235 million threshold.
Right now, according to Spotrac, the Nuggets have $105.874 million committed to 11 players in 2018-19. The cap holds for Jokic, Barton, and Michael Porter Jr. count for $24.277 million, adding up to $130.151 million. Denver gets down to that number by renouncing Devin Harris’ and Richard Jefferson’s cap holds.
That means, Denver needs to reduce their total salary commitment by $63.916 million
The first step Denver must take is to find takers for Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, and Darrell Arthur. If Denver can trade those players without taking any salary back, that will count for $34.146 million, leaving another $29.77 million to be deducted.
The second step, as it happens, is to find a taker for Millsap’s $29.23 million salary without taking any money back. That still leaves Denver about $460,000 short, but they can make up the difference with the inclusion of one of their prospects like Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Tyler Lydon, etc. They could also explore trading away Mason Plumlee’s deal for extra room.
Also, Mannix’s second tweet implies that Denver may be trading Gary Harris to free up space as well. It might be hard to trade Chandler or Faried or Plumlee. It won’t be hard to trade Harris, whose $16.5 million due next year would be a big chunk that would likely allow Denver to attach another salary chip for free. Harris is an important piece for the Nuggets, but acquiring LeBron would make it much easier to stomach his loss.
The path is difficult, but not impossible. Denver will have to include multiple first round picks to get off this amount of salary, and they will have to be creative where they send it, but it is possible to get LeBron James. That’s a fact.
It would be pretty incredible if LeBron even gives Denver a meeting. At one point, one of the greatest players in NFL history was without a contract. His name was Peyton Manning. He ended up in Denver and had a successful four years here, winning a Super Bowl, breaking records, and living the life as the biggest attraction in Denver.
LeBron James would be the same, only bigger.
I don’t know if the Nuggets are willing to do what has to be done to get LeBron to consider them, but if he feels like they are and says he wants to sign here, Denver will make the moves to make it happen.
Just imagine the LeBron-Jokic two-man game folks...imagine immediately competing for a championship...imaging watching one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen come to Denver and help one of the best young teams in the NBA grow and mature...it’s a vision I want to see become reality.
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