Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post is reporting that Nene will indeed opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. What does this mean to the Nuggets and Nuggets Nation? Click through to find out…


The implications of Nene opting out:

1.) The Nuggets retain Nene’s bird-rights, meaning they can offer him more money than any other team. But he can get that big money from the Nuggets with another team via a sign-and-trade.

2.) If Nene had stayed in his current deal, the extension the Nuggets offered would have kicked in after next season and Nene never would have tested free agency.

3.) Nene is now an unrestricted free agent and is free to visit, negotiate, and sign offers with any club he wants. Denver does not have a chance to match any offers.

Nene could still re-sign with the Nuggets and he might just do that. But now 29 other teams will be bidding for his services and his price may get driven up. How far? The open market will now determine Nene’s value.

This is pretty disastrous news for the Nuggets franchise as their one true “franchise” player is now going to become a free agent. I’m not sure if Denver will be able to keep Nene, but what suitors will he have? Most teams that would want Nene will likely have to come calling to the Nuggets’ front office for a sign-and-trade offer.

Nene has played all nine of his NBA seasons in Denver. The Nuggets have seen him through his battles with testicular cancer and ACL surgery. During his time in Denver he went from being a incredibly athletic power forward, to a center with an array of moves in the post and a nice jumper to boot.

This past season (2010-11) Nene averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds. For his career he averaged 12.3 points and 7 rebounds. Nene is an all to willing passer (2.0 assists per game last season and 1.8 assists per game for his career) and frustrated the fans with his willingness to pass up the easy bucket in favor of a kick-out pass.

There is no question that the Nuggets have a shot to retain the big man, but – like I stated above- the open market will now determine Nene’s value. This situation is the Nuggets worst nightmare, but it’s Nene’s agent’s dream. Big men in the NBA are hard to come by and the athletic Nene – who can score and defend – will be a very hot item in free agency.

The only question is what teams will come calling for his services? The Lakers could surely interest the Nuggets if they offered up Pau Gasol in a sign-and-trade deal. Nene instantly makes L.A. a bit younger and the Lakers would surely overpay for his services if they are really looking to shake up their roster. There is no question the Orlando Magic would love to pair Nene with Dwight Howard, but they don’t have much to offer up in a sign-and-trade and wouldn’t be able to grab the big man with their salary cap issues. The Miami Heat? Not with their money problems … but would they offer up Chris Bosh? The Celtics would love to replace Kendrick Perkins with Nene, but again – money issues. What about the New Orleans Hornets? Chris Paul needs a new go-to guy if David West bails, but would Nene consider signing down in the Bayou?

Well, what about the San Antonio Spurs? Tim Duncan‘s window for another title is closing fast and Nene would look good on that squad. The Spurs would have to clear up some space and move Tony Parker and/or Richard Jefferson to make it work. The Phoenix Suns might have enough assets to offer the Nuggets up a deal to try to get Steve Nash his last shot at a title. Would Denver take Robin Lopez or Marcin Gortat in some type of packaged deal? The Bulls didn’t have a lot of success with Carlos Boozer in his first year in Chicago, but I doubt Denver would be eager to add him.

All the contenders seem to have some issues with being able to sign Nene outright, and I doubt the Nuggets will want to move him for some of the problem players on those rosters. I don’t really see Nene wanting to sign with a non-contending team, but stranger things have happened.

This will surely be an interesting debate among Nuggets Nation. Some feel Nene is too soft and Denver could find better options down the road, rather than overpaying to keep Nene. I’m in the camp that would love to see Nene come back, but with the handshake from George Karl that he’d be able to slide over to power forward with the Nuggets.

I don’t know what Nene’s demands will be, but it would be horrible to see him in a different uniform …

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