State of the Cap: Denver Nuggets

Tue, 06/12/2007 - 12:20pm

By Josh Redetzke

2007/08 Denver Nuggets Payroll: $77.2 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $22.2 million over cap

The Good: Last summer, Carmelo Anthony signed a five-year, $75 million contract extension, cementing himself as the cornerstone of the Nuggets for a long time. It appears the Nuggets are in very good hands after Anthony nearly led the league in scoring at 28.9 per game. Sure, he missed some time because of that ugly brawling incident, but he also averaged 6 rebounds and 3.8 assists, a career high. Anthony’s game has matured to superstar level and he is exactly the kind of player you can build your team around. As he begins that pricy extension next season, let’s hope he can avoid more incidents.

Denver needed some help at shooting guard this year so they picked up castaway J.R. Smith for peanuts. The move paid off handsomely since Smith averaged 13 points and shot an excellent 39% from downtown. The Nuggets owe Smith just $1.6 million next season, making him by far the best bargain on the team. As long as he can recover from a recent auto accident, J.R. should be a key player.

See what happens when Marcus Camby actually sticks around for 70 games in one season? He wins the Defensive Player-of-the-Year award! Yes, for just the second time in his long NBA career, Camby played in 70 games and undoubtedly had his best season ever. For most players, it’s strange to peak at age 33, but the numbers don’t lie; 11.7 boards, 3.3 blocks, 11.2 points, and a personal best 3.2 assists per game. The roughly $8 million a year he’ll receive for the next three seasons once looked overpriced considering Camby’s rocky health. Now, it looks like a great deal, at least until next year’s injury kicks in.

After completely falling off the NBA radar for a long period of time, there were numerous Nene Hilario sightings this season. And you know what? He didn’t play half bad, putting up 12.2 points and 7 rebounds a game on 57% shooting while displaying a powerful post game. The only problem was that Nene started his five year, $60.5 million contract this season. That kind of money is usually reserved for star players, not complimentary big guys. But if Nene continues improving (and play a full season) he can earn his paycheck.

The Bad: The prize for worst contract in the NBA just might belong to Kenyon Martin. With four years and more than $58 million still left on his deal, it’s difficult to see how Martin can possibly live up to it. For one, he only played in two games this season, which means he was paid nearly $6 million dollars each time he stepped on the court. Last year, he missed 26 games and had the lowest numbers since he was a rookie. Factor in the bum knees and poor attitude and you can see why the Nuggets would love to get rid of him. Martin’s future in Denver looks awful and they’ll be stuck paying that high price tag.

The hustling Reggie Evans still has four years and $19 million left on his contract. He was signed to be a key reserve, and his 7 rebounds in 17 minutes a game were pretty nice. However, the Nuggets should be getting more for their money. Evans is a one dimensional player who doesn’t receive enough minutes to truly be a factor.

The Future: Denver saw a team desperate to trade their superstar and they jumped at the chance to add Allen Iverson to their squad. In the loaded West, teaming two of the league’s best scorers together could be a way for them to take the next step. Iverson played pretty well as a Nugget, easing his game back to make room for Carmelo by taking five fewer shots per game. With a strong frontline that features the Defensive POY, Denver certainly possesses a talented lineup.

However, in order to put this team together, Denver had to throw their salary cap in the crapper for the next few years. Iverson will be paid over $20 million each of the next two seasons, which means just five players will account for $64.5 million in payroll next year and $69.8 million the year after that. Considering the salary cap will be around $55 million, that’s not good. Iverson and Melo can really play, but are they good enough to overtake teams like San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix? Getting Iverson was a high risk, high reward maneuver. If they can win 50 games and go deep in the playoffs next season, it will all be worth it. If the team falls flat on their face, it will take a while to dig themselves out.

Free Throw: One of the casualties of Denver’s mile high payroll might be reserve Steve Blake. After coming over in a low-key trade with Milwaukee during the season, Blake played very well, setting up his high scoring teammates to the tune of 6.6 assists per game. Blake is the kind of role player this team needs, but since they are already in luxury tax territory, they probably can’t afford to resign him

Grade: C-

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