What are the Denver Nuggets doing this offseason?

[Note: Originally Posted 07-02-2009 at 09:57 PM by DenButsu]

What are the Denver Nuggets doing this offseason?

To answer this question, you have to look first at what assets the Nuggets have, and the limitations they have to work around.

In free agency:
-no cap space
-MLE, most of which will almost certainly be used to resign Chris Andersen (Nugs exec Mark Warkentien is currently in L.A. negotiating with the Birdman’s reps).
-BAE, and of course can sign vets mins
-Linas Kleiza, restricted FA, was extended the QO because after his fairly disappointing performance last season, they don’t want to spend too much money on him. (Toronto is reportedly interested in him, if they pitch a steep-ish offer, I don’t expect the Nuggets to match).
-They didn’t extend the QO to their other restricted FA, Johan Petro
-Dahntay Jones, Anthony Carter, and Petro all come off the books. If any of them are willing to sign for short term minimum contracts, Denver will almost certainly have the inside track on re-signing them. If other teams offer more, they’re almost certainly gone. (There seems to be some interest around the league in Dahntay).

For trades:
-None of the following players are going anywhere: Billups, Melo, J.R., Nene, Lawson, K-Mart (the latter partly because he’s untradeable). This, plus the $3,000,000 still owed to Antonio McDyess from his waiver after the Billups trade, all adds up to $63,720,875 in guaranteed salary for the 2009-10 season, which gives you an idea of the kind of financial constraints they’re working with here.
-Players who could be traded: Renaldo Balkman ($2.1 million exp. w/ QO), Steven Hunter ($3.7 million expiring), Sonny Weems ($0.7 million), and potentially Kleiza if they S&T him. Obviously, not a lot to work with here.
-Exceptions: 1) a $9.7 million TPE from the Billups trade which expires 11/3 and a $2.5 million exception that expires 7/15.

So, obviously if the Nuggets are going to make any big moves this summer, their best shot is that $9.7 mil TE, and their second best shot is packaging some expiring and picks together. In either case, I don’t expect to see them move really soon on anything. First priority is re-signing the Birdman and probably either one or the other of AC or DJ. After that, I imagine they’ll probably be checking the trade landscape for cash strapped teams that are looking to shed salary now or by next summer, and targeting them for trades.

As a Nuggets fan, this is both an exciting and frustrating offseason. They already met one major need in the Lawson signing, and I think this really can’t be overlooked. Among all the players in the recent draft class, I think he was among the most NBA ready, and with a little help from Billups, he just might be able to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact for Denver.

On the other hand, the other glaring need for the Nuggets is to reinforce their frontcourt with a legit big. With Gortat going to Dallas, Sheed looking to Boston, Shaq to Cleveland (not that Denver could have contended for him anyhow), Charlie V to Detroit, David Lee potentially to Toronto – and so on – Denver’s options for making that acquisition of a big who can make an impact in their rotation are rapidly dwindling. And it’s hard not to panic about that when we see all these other teams making some bigtime moves.

But you never know what can happen. After all, the Billups trade didn’t go down until after the start of the regular season last year. So we’ll just have to resort to some anxious breath-holding, and try to wait patiently and put some trust in this front office that made some major strides last season in proving they can be pretty adept and crafty at moving some pieces around in unexpected ways that deliver surprisingly good results. For example, going from a team that was about $16 million dollars over the luxury tax threshold after their humiliating first round 0-4 exit at he end of the 2008-09 season, to a team that rolled right into the Western Conference Finals and played respectably there – after getting under the luxury limit.

So yeah, these are scary but hopeful times for Nuggets fans. I hope the F.O. knows what they’re doing – for now, they’ve already done enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt that they do.

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