Let me get this out of the way - despite the Nuggets winning near 50 games and them having a better season than their trading partner, the New York Knicks, I still think the Bockers came out on top of this trade. In the end, the Nuggets traded for one year of Raymond Felton, and unless they give him an extension, one year of Wilson Chandler. At 7.5 million and 3.1 million, respectively, both players represent reasonable to bargain prices for men of their caliber and production. However, I'd offset most of their one year loss of Felton with the one year of production Chauncey Billups will give New York. So in the end, the Nuggets traded Carmelo for one year of WIlson Chandler and whatever Gallinari and Mozgov will be. Lets say, best case scenario, that Gallinari goes from a one-legged, diabetic, toothless homeless man's Dirk Nowitzki to just a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki, and that Mozgov turns into not just the guy that Blake Griffin dunked on (I mean...the guy dunked on a CAR and Moz's facial was even more memorable than that). Two (best case scenario) potentially borderline all-stars, for Carmelo Anthony, a fringe 1st Team All-NBA guy? Who just dropped 46-16-7 on the Celtics? Yeah. I'll take Melo.
Regardless, this post is about the Denver Nuggets and what I'd do if I were their GM. Next season, they have the following salary obligations:
Nene: 11.6 million (player option)
Felton: 7.5 million
Al Harrington: 6.2 million
Birdman: 4.23 million
Gallinari: 4.2 million
Mozgov: 2.56 million
Wilson Chandler: 3.1 million (qualifying offer)
Aaron Afflalo: 2.9 million (qualifying offer)
Ty Lawson: 1.6 million
Kosta Koufous: 2.2. million
Total: 40.17 million
The following players have expiring contracts:
Kenyon Martin: 16.54 million
JR Smith: 6 million
Melvin Ely: 1.2 million
Gary Forbes: 473,000
Total: 24 million
1). Do not, under any circumstances, resign Kenyon Martin
K-Mart is a 33-year old undersized power forward who's had microfracture surgery on BOTH knees. For those of you that don't speak NBA, that means that the guy is an old, short guy with bad knees. I actually like Kenyon Martin - he's a good post defender who can shoot a 10 to 15 foot jumper. He's gone from total loose cannon to a total team player, albeit an insane one. But he'll try to command a 3 or 4 year deal in excess of 35 million - not something you want to do, because, well, he's an old, short guy with bad knees.
2). Lock up Nene
One of the most underrated players in the entire league. A bruising, 6'11" center who can also play power forward with at least 4 or 5 different post moves. He's a gigantic dude and an incredibly difficult cover. He is capable defensively and best yet, he's only 28. Not quite a franchise player, but he could be just as good as Zach Randolph (I can't believe we're in an era in which that's a compliment and not a sarcastic joke). I think a 5 year, 55 to 60 million dollar deal should about do it.
3). Resign JR Smith to a REASONABLE deal - if he doesn't agree to something around the 4-year, 28 million dollar range, let him walk
Well GM Masai Ujiri certainly doesn't want to lose the title of "Most Tatted Team to a Comical Effect" to anyone else, right? Seriously, look at Chris Anderson! Even when I had seen this picture, the first time I saw him in person with the new ink I thought he was wearing a Brooklyn-made turtleneck.
I actually really like JR Smith's game - but he's insane. He's a trouble-maker that vacillates between extremely lethal and efficient bench scorer to the guy that takes 35-feet 3 point shots with 23 seconds left on the shot clock when the Nuggets are up 2 with less than a minute left in the game. BUT the reason why I would sign him to a reasonable (only) deal is....Zach Randolph (I can't believe we're in an era in which everything comes back to Z-Bo). Randolph reminded me of JR Smith in his Portland, NYK and Clippers stints - absolutely zero discipline on both the offensive and defensive ends; making foolish fouls and costly turnovers at seemingly the crucial points of every other game; saying the exact wrong things in the press and conducting a personal life that would make Dennis Rodman say "yo...cool it dudes". However, something happened to Z-Bo - no, it wasn't living in a small market like Memphis (he started his career in Portland, mind you) or being the first offensive option (as he was in New York and with the Clips) - it was that he grew up.
Sometimes I'll go back and read things I wrote in college, or old e-mails I wrote to friends and you know what? I wasn't funny. I made bonehead references and unclever jokes. I wrote dramatically to no affect and I conveyed messages that had no real meaning. The point is that things that were funny when I was 23 just aren't funny anymore. I look back on what I laughed at and the value I placed in certain things and can only think about how dumb I was. This happened to Zach and look at him now. He's the best player on a good team and he just made $71 million dollars. I think JR can make the same leap - he just has to grow up.
4). Extend Arron Afflalo and give Wilson Chandler a one-year deal
Afflalo (U clap clap clap C clap clap clap L clap clap clap A clap clap clap UCLA FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT) isn't a star and he probably won't average more than 12 points during any season of his career. But he does all the little things right - he's the anti-JR Smith. He gets the most out of his talent, says all the right things, defends and makes great decisions. He could be a starter on a championship-caliber team, a good dude and won't cost much. 4 years, 20 million?
As for Wilson, I'd give him a one-year deal until they can find a better solution at small forward. If I'm coach George Karl, next season I'm going with:
PG: Ty Lawson
Bench: Harrington, Bird, Felton, Smith, free agents and draft picks
If you have Lawson for the next few years, as well as Afflalo, Gallo and Nene locked in, you want to lock in Chandler as well? I think not. That's a nice team, very capable of making the playoffs for a few years to come, but certainly not a contender. You have to maintain flexibility with the small forward spot.
Looking at this line-up, you know what the Denver Nuggets need to get over the hump? A high-volume scoring small forward, who can rebound to make up for the deficiencies of Gallinari. Yeah...they need Carmelo Anthony.
5). Be patient.
If I was Masai Ujiri, I would use their high teens picks to do the following - in this incredibly shallow draft, I'd try to pick up a couple of shooters. Then I'd use no more than 5 million to sign a backup center or PF to play with Nene and Birdman - a Joel Przybilla/Jeff Foster/Kurt Thomas type of player. As for any big trades or signings? Be patient. There isn't a franchise changing trade out there right now. The Nuggets have all of the complimentary pieces, they just don't have that one, very good player and scorer to put them over the top. Be patient Denver, your time will come. In the meantime, enjoy making the playoffs and scoring 120 a game. And still being the "Most Tatted Team to a Comical Effect" in the NBA.