It took two weeks for the Denver Nuggets to make their first move this offseason, and less than 15 hours and three moves later and the Nuggets have what looks to be their new roster for the 2010-11 season.
However, that is if you believe the Nugs ignored their two biggest need of size and a defensive intimidator. Newly acquired Shelden Williams could overtake the latter part, but Williams stoat 6-foot-9 size isn’t going to make fans forget about their wish to get bigger or that the Utah Jazz replaced Carlos Boozer with a much younger, bigger and more skilled Al Jefferson.
In an ideal world, prized free agent Al Harrington should make Denver better on offense and give the Nuggets one of the most dangerous benches in the NBA where he’d join the always dangerous JR Smith, up-and-coming Ty Lawson and the one they call Birdman (Chris Andersen).
However, this is reality and in reality Denver should start the season without two of their top three players in the post. With Andersen and Kenyon Martin on the mend, the Nuggets would start the season with Nene as their lone player taller than 6-10. So a team that was already undersized just got much smaller, which makes Denver an ideal candidate to play ‘Small-ball’ next season.
There are two very logical scenarios: 1) the Nuggets believe they made enough moves to compete next season and keep Carmelo Anthony in Denver or 2) the front office still have one more move up their sleeves and will take their time to get their (big) man.
Biedrins, Okafor, Gortat, oh my’
Lets just say Harrington was brought in to put the Nuggets bench over the top and Denver wants to make one more move to improve their play in the paint this next season.However, there are far and few big man on the block that fit the criteria that Nuggets fans are asking for.
- ANDRIS BIEDRINS has been the player the Nuggets have been most actively pursuing. The rumored deal that has been on the table is Martin’s expiring contract for Biedrins and Dan Gadzuric. The deal wouldn’t be able to be completed until August due to Gadzuric just getting traded to the Warriors.
Some of the media have said that Denver was the more aggressor team, while other media outlets have said Golden State were the more aggressor one. No matter what, Biedrins isn’t the sexiest pick but could be the best player available.
He is coming off of an injury-plagued season and his free throws were horrendous, but at 24-years-old Biedrins is much more skilled than many big man in the NBA. He is one of the best rebounder and a great defender, and even though he can’t shoot the ball he is smart and great moving without the ball.
His contract looks ugly on the outside ($27 million/3 years), but considering that the Dallas Mavericks are paying a 31-year-old Brendan Haywood $55 million over six years – Biedrins is looking more and more like a steal.
- EMEKA OKAFOR – Okafor has underperformed in the NBA after having a very successful college career. He has been solid on defense and has averaged a double-double in five of six seasons. But he hasn’t been able to match his 15.1 points he scored his rookie year. He also lacks heart, at least according to Larry Brown who dealt him to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler last season. And with the Hornets dealing with an outrageous salary and in dire need of cutting salaries to improve their squad, they could choose to deal Okafor (who is due $52 million/4 years) and over-the-heal James Posey ($13.4 million/2 years) for K-Mart’s expiring contract and Renaldo Balkman. Okafor would push Nene over to power forward and Posey could return to his former team as a veteran leader.
- MARCIN GORTAT – Dwight Howard’s backup has never averaged more than 4 points a game, but somehow he is due around $28 million over the four years. Gortat could arguably be the goofiest looking player in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play. He has good hands and is great on defense – especially against the pick-and-roll. Gortat also is a solid shotblocker, the rest of his game is unknown due to his lack of playing time. But with the addition of Harrington and the development of Lawson could make Smith expendable and lets just say he might be enough to make the Magic part ways with Gortat.
- ELTON BRAND – While this is very unlikely move for the Nuggets, it may not be as bad one might think. The Philadelphia 76ers could be the worst team in the NBA, especially if Evan Turner can’t overcome the struggles he faced in the summer league. If that were to happen, the Sixers could be in desperate need to clear salary cap and would be tempted to deal Brand and some future picks to get out from under his $48 million/3-year contract. While it is doubtful Brand will turn back into the 20/10 scorer he used to be, but his game is developed enough to make him a solid big man scorer, rebounder and defender in the NBA. Not to mention the chance that the Nuggets could get a top pick as well as Brand, makes the former Blue Devil and his contract worth the gamble.
2012 and beyond
More likely is the Nuggets don’t make any more major moves and they keep this team intact for one more run, which is not exactly a bad idea. The dearth amount of big man that are on the market or were on the market aren’t exactly great. And the majority of the Nuggets core have been together the previous two seasons and with the addition of Harrington (to go along with Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo) Denver has arguably its best squad in franchise history. However, despite how good this crew is, they are still at best No. 4 in the West
And for the Nuggets to advance out of the first round for the second time in three years, the team has to keep its egos in check, play a little defense and pray they are healthy enough for a playoff run.
If all goes right, Denver could find themselves in the Western Conference Finals once again or further. And arguably the best part, the Nuggets could have over $35 million worth of expiring money (with Anthony under contract) depending on what happens with the lockout.
Denver would have to spend money to resign Afflalo and Billups of course, but after that the Nuggets would have enough money to add a true big man. And next offseason there would be a plethora of talented big man who will be available next season. Just to name a few:
- Yao Ming
- Al Horford
- Greg Oden
- Joakim Noah
- Kendrick Perkins
- Tyson Chandler
- Troy Murphy
- Marc Gasol
- Zach Randolph
- David West
- Spencer Hawes
- Joel Pryzbilla
- Samuel Dalembert
- Carl Landry
Adding a true center like Oden, Yao, Perkins, Noah, Gasol or even Pryzbilla could push the Nuggets up into the top-tier teams in the League and make this legit champion-contending team that could compete with the Lakers and the Heat.