State of the Cap: Denver Nuggets
2011/12 Payroll: $28.8 million
2011/12 (Projected) NBA Salary Cap: $54 million
Roughly: $25.2 million under cap
Highlights: The best thing the Nuggets got out of the Carmelo Anthony trade, besides a huge amount of salary cap savings, was easily Danilo Gallinari. The 6’10” forward played well in Denver when he wasn’t hampered by injuries. He scored 14.7 points per game, grabbed 5.4 rebounds, and shot pretty well from beyond the arc. Gallinari is just 23 and shouldn’t reach his peak for a few more years. He may not become the next Nowitzki but he has the tools to be a really dangerous player down the road, hence the reason Denver wanted him included in the Anthony deal. Gallinari has one more year under his rookie contract and there is little doubt that this team wants to make him a key piece of their long term future.
Another player who factors into the Nuggets’ future is point guard Ty Lawson. He has been a pleasant surprise since coming to town in a seemingly innocent trade with the Wolves on draft night in 2009. In each of his two seasons, Lawson has shot over 50% from the field and 40% from the three point line, which is excellent efficiency for a young point guard. His assist-to-turnover ratio is quite good as well. Because of limited minutes, Lawson only averaged 11.7 points and 4.7 assists per game last season. However, he appears ready to take on a larger role and become the quality starter they need him to be. At only $1.6 and $2.5 million the next two years, Lawson is a huge bargain, especially if he lives up to the promise he has shown so far.
With no Carmelo Anthony, no Chauncey Billups, and Nene Hilario’s contract expiring, the Nuggets are suddenly WELL under the salary cap, a place they haven’t been in many years. The timing couldn’t be better considering the uncertain future of the new CBA. The team will have the flexibility they need to make whatever moves they want in the near future.
Lowlights: As part of the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Nuggets had to give up Chauncey Billups as well. At the time, it seemed logical because if you are going to trade your franchise player and rebuild, there is no need for a pricy, veteran point guard whose best years are behind him. The team got Raymond Felton in return who was only 27 and could have helped Ty Lawson man the point guard position for a few years. However, this summer, the Nuggets traded Felton to Portland for Andre Miller, a veteran point guard the same age as Billups. I’m not sure what Denver was thinking there. They did get the #26 pick in the draft out of it (Jordan Hamilton from Texas), but wouldn’t they have been better served with Felton instead of Miller? Felton is a lot younger and a much better shooter from the three point line. Denver must hope that Ty Lawson continues his ascent and becomes their true starting point guard of the future.
The longest contract on the team belongs to Al Harrington. With four years and $27.5 million left on the deal, it’s not looking so good. Harrington’s game is nothing to get excited about. He put up 10.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, shot 41% from the field, jacked up a lot of three pointers, and completely lost interest in ever blocking a shot again. Yawn. He looks like a good player in brief glimpses, which got him a few large contracts over the years, but there is a reason he has been traded 6 times in his career. Harrington’s stats are empty and he doesn’t exactly adhere to a team basketball philosophy. Unfortunately, he’ll still be highly paid for those empty stats.
Chris Anderson’s contract isn’t really breaking the bank, but I’m not yet sure if he is worth it. Yes, I know he is a decent shot blocker and he plays hard. Yes, I know he is fun to watch because he looks silly. And yes, I agree that he is a nice, little role player who can give you some good minutes. But honestly, is an often-injured role player who got just 16 minutes and 5.6 points a game last year really worth over $4 million? Anderson needs to get healthy and expand his role a bit more like he did a couple years ago in order to earn his money. That shouldn’t be hard for the Birdman to do.
The Future: It is a strange time for the Nuggets. They traded away their superstar, one of the best scorers in the league. They cut salary, got younger, and basically entered rebuilding mode. And yet, they are still a team that won 50 games last year and went 18-7 after Anthony was gone. So is this team really rebuilding? Not exactly.
They may be young and don’t have a bonafide superstar, but they are a more talented and deeper team than they were before. Wilson Chandler (who came over in the Anthony trade) and Arron Afflalo both played pretty well on the wings. Chandler is a decent rebounder and shot blocker while Afflalo really established himself as a great three point shooter and complimentary scorer. They are both free agents but Denver should be able to keep them at a decent price. They drafted rebounding master Kenneth Faried and picked up Texas small forward Jordan Hamilton in the Felton trade. Both are good prospects. Add in Lawson and Gallinari and veterans Chris Anderson, Al Harrington, and newly acquired Andre Miller and this is a pretty well-rounded team. They might even be able to add a star player of some sort after resigning a few of their own considering the cap space they have to work with. This roster looks to be in good shape.
Denver wisely extended George Karl’s contract for three more years. Considering the job he did towards the end of the season, it was well worth it. If these players continue to gel and listen to their veteran coach, they might do even better than 50 wins next year. At that point, Nugget fans will be left wondering “Carmelo who?”
No grade for the Nuggets?
hah yeah the whole point of these i thought was to give grades and they didnt give one for this
No J.R. Smith mention at all? He's a FA too and is in a weird spot with them drafting Hamilton.
He spelled "Chris Anderson" wrong, it's Chris Andersen.
Getting Andre Miller for Felton was actually QUITE smart. They get a future JR Smith replacement in Jordan Hamilton, and a heady veteran pg with a floor general mindset. Felton is the better talent, but is by no means the TRUE definition of a heady pass-first pg. They get the savy veteran pg who has a history of being a winner(even though he's never been a champ) at almost half the price for a single season. It really takes some of the load off of Tywon as Karl has gone on record before saying that he thinks Ty has 20-10 potential(more realistically 14-10) so not throwing him to the wolves entirely too early was the smartest thing to doIMO. Felton would have hindered LawsonIMO, and was ultimately traded away for addition by subtraction.
I had thought that Andre Miller's contract was a team option for 2011/12 so have Denver exercised this and will maybe then look to trade him on. If so then moving Felton on unless the only goal was to get Jordan Hamilton didn't make sense as Felton is several years younger than Miller and has a 2012/13 team option so his deal was virtually the same as Miller's. I'd assumed they had got Miller and would look to trade him on with the team option and get an asset in return. Miller would I assume then have been waived and gone to a contender as an FA.
The Nuggets insisted on Felton in the Melo trade and moved Billups who they could have brought out for $3 or $4 million this spring so if they have exercised Miller's option they have effectively spent an extra $4 million for a back up PG and to get Jordan Hamilton.
Miller will be a nice addition and is a good team man but $7.8 million for a back up PG is too steep for me and I'm sure if Miller ended up on the bench it would be with a real contender not a fringe one like Denver unless with the loss of Melo, Billups and perhaps Nene and K-Mart then Coach Karl wanted extra veteran leadership for a young team apart from Birdman and Harrington.
That having been said, Denver do have a nice core with Lawson, Gallinari, Chandler, Smith and the new draftees and can make an FA move or two depending what Nene does. David West could be a target if he regains fitness I would guess.
K-Mart could return especially if Nene moves on, although his best days are behind him and injuries could reoccur K-Mart could offer further leadership and help Faried to develop. A lot may depend on what sort of offers K-Mart gets but he's probably settled in Denver and has played under Coach Karl for a number of seasons so if the figures stack up on the contract then a couple of years deal at around MLE could be good for both sides.