With the Nuggets salary cap ranging around $73 million for the next season, and unless they can find takers for JR Smith and/or Renaldo Balkman there is a chance the salary cap could reach around $80 million. So expect the Nuggets to be watchers in this summer known as the Summer of LeBron. However, there is a slim chance that Denver does use the mid-level exception but not surpass it.
Top Tier Free Agents (Top 10)
- David Lee ($7 million): Current Team: Knicks, 27 years old – Lee put up gaudily numbers last season, averaging 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and was selected to his first All-Star game. He is also one of the best rebounder in the league, but his scoring was overstated due to the fact he plays for a Mike D’Antoni team. It would be hard for Denver to sign this former Florida star straight up, considering he will be demanding nearly $9 million a year, but an offer of JR Smith and Linas Kleiza’s contract could make a deal work. While Lee isn’t the type of player the Nuggets need, his energy and rebounding will help any squad.
- Tyrus Thomas ($4.745 million): Current Team: Bobcats – Thomas will more than likely cost more than the mid-level exception and for the Nuggets to get this young stud it will be in a sign-and-trade as well. And any sign and trade would cost Smith. Denver was trying to acquire Thomas’s services at the trade deadline and rumor is they will go after this 23-year-old power forward again. While he is rail thin, his defense has been compared to the likes of Ben Wallace, his offense is a difference story. It is still very raw, but he is young and it could improve. If he joins the Nuggets, he would have a solid mentor in Kenyon Martin, but the Nuggets will still be undersized against some of the top teams in the league.
- Jermaine O’Neal ($22.955 million): Current Team: Heat - Just a few years ago O’Neal was considered one of the top power forwards in the League. However, now O’Neal is rarely talked about in the same sentence as Tim Duncan or Dirk Nowitzki and team’s aren’t even talking about this 32-year-old. It is doubtful he will return to Miami, especially considering he was riding the pine down the stretch of the Heat’ first round matchup with the Celtics. O’Neal has seen better days, but he is still useful and him and Nene would make a formidable duo in the paint. O’Neal is also an underrated defender and is still a useful offensive player. It would also cost a sign-and-trade with Smith as well.
- Mike Miller ($9.75 million): Current Team: Wizards – Miller is the anti-JR Smith. A consistent and unselfish shooter, who takes smart shots (not dumb ones) but puts his teammates first (doesn’t call them selfish). Miller, a former sixth man, is a career .405 3-point shooter and shot over .50 percent from the field this last year. He could be the glue-player that the Nuggets need, a veteran that can hit timely shots and can score when they need him too. Not to mention he is one of better rebounding guards in the league. And considering he isn’t 6-foot-10 player, he’ll more than likely come cheaper than most big man.
- Brendan Haywood ($6 million): Current Team: Mavericks – Haywood has the size that the Nuggets need, he can hold down the low-post defensively and stay out of the way on offense. However, if the Nugs wants him they will have to overpay for him. Haywood talent level and inconsistent mentality isn’t worth the mid-level salary.
- Anthony Morrow ($1.029 million): Current Team: Warriors – Morrow is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, he is a sharp-shooter and a dangerous scorer. Not to mention he brings a team-first attitude and a consistent effort. He also has a tremendous work ethic and considering he is only 24 he could become a top player in the league. If the Nuggets are to land Morrow and have him replace Smith, it make look bad on paper but great on the court.
- JJ Redick ($2.839 million): Current Team: Magic – Redick doesn’t have the athletic ability or size to play 30 minutes a night. However, with his shooting and intelligent he has made a notch in the league and will be good role player on a playoff team. Redick has made an impression on the league and will probably get overpaid. While he would help the Nuggets, it isn’t likely.
- Ben Wallace ($1.306 million): Current Team: Pistons – Wallace continues to prove doubters wrong, and he was one of the few highlights for the Pistons this last season. He also was the Nuggets missing piece this last season and he isn’t out of the question this year. While he won’t cost the mid-level, the Nugs will have to pay more to get him because his No. 1 choice is Detroit. It helps that the Nuggets do have Billups and a similar squad as the Pistons, will he give the Nuggets a discount if it means a title-run?
- Drew Gooden ($4.5 million): Current Team: Clippers – Not sure anybody else in the NBA has played with more teams than Gooden. Currently he is on his seventh team, and he isn’t a bad player. He is one of the best rebounders (especially on the offensive side of the ball) in the NBA, he can also score with the best of the them. However, he is inconsistent and tends to lose concentration in some games. Not to mention he has a rebels attitude in the form of Dennis Rodman, if he was just as crafty as the Worm he would be a steal for any team. While the Nuggets aren’t the ideal team for him, he would really help with his scoring and rebounding off the bench. Gooden signed a team-friendly contract last season, one-year, non-guaranteed $4.5 million contract and if he is willing to sign a similar, yet, cheaper deal with Denver – he could be on his eighth team in nine years.
- Travis Outlaw ($4 million): Current Team: Clippers – Outlaw is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He has great athleticism, is a skilled shooter and is versatile enough to play in the post and at small forward. He wants the ball at the end of games and can usually hit clutch jumpers. If the Nuggets could sign him for below the mid-level rate, he’d be a steal and great sixth man.
- Brad Miller ($12.25 million): Current Team: Bulls – Miller game has deteriorated, but he still was a nice role player for the Chicago Bulls. He is a good passer, solid rebounder and can hit a mid-range jumper. Not to mention he is a skilled 7-footer, something the Nuggets lacked this season. Considering he is a true Center, he won’t come much cheaper than the mid-level exception.