Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nuggets 2013-14 Mid-season Assessment (incomplete)

Incomplete review, needs proofreading and stuff, but I lost it while assessing front office, so deal...

Denver Nuggets mid-season report

Today the 2014 NBA All-Star will be played in New Orleans, and no representatives from the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets team will be participating.  As a matter of fact, no Nuggets player will be participating in any All-Star event throughout the weekend, i.e. dunk contest, skills, 3-point shooting. 

Lets break down the team, starting with the roster, and see why.

Point Guard
Everything about this franchise starts with Ty Lawson.  Ty’s four game absence from the line-up due to a fractured rib speaks volumes about his value to this team.  During that stretch, the team has lost all four road games (at NYK, Detroit, Indiana and Minnesota) by a combined 110 points. Even worse, they’re not even competitive.  It’s not just that Ty can bring the ball up the court and initiate the offense, but he is involved in the offense, taking high percentage mid-range shots and breaking the ankles of any defender on a whim.  When the offense goes a few minutes without a bucket, he takes matters into his own hands to create scoring opportunities.  Before his injury, Ty was also becoming more vocal on the court, getting into player’s ears when they make mental mistakes.  He has become that coach on the floor that every coach wants from their point guard.  Now if he could start making his free throws at a higher clip.

The other “point” guard was Nate Robinson aka “Lights” in the Pepsi Max commercial before tearing his ACL on January 29th vs Charlotte and missing the remainder of the season.  As a point guard, Nate is playing out of position.  “Well what position should he play? Is he a shooting guard?”  Perhaps.  When he gets the ball, his mindset is to score score score.  Nothing more.  His strengths are not running an offense or getting other teammates involved.  His offensive game is about beating his defender and anyone else in the way.  That being said, he’s a terrific bench player, and arguably one of the most exciting players in the game to watch.  But as a point guard, he limits his teammates to spectators and that is not what this team needs.

With less than 5 days left on this roster, it’s inevitable that Andre Miller is traded.  His pride spurred his outburst from the bench mid-game and will keep him from ever rejoining this team during its desperate need of a point guard.  Oddly, if he had shut up and been mature about the situation, he’d be starting right, leading this team.  People can blame Brian Shaw for cutting his minutes, but in this situation, it is Dre’s pride that keeps him off the roster.  Not to mention his matador-style defense.  More on Miller later.

Shooting Guard
Denver’s best offseason acquisition has been Randy Foye. Period.  While he is currently playing out of position as point guard due to injuries to Ty and Nate, he brings a maturity that this team is desperately lacking.  His defense is average, but he brings good floor spacing and a terrific outside shot.  Earlier in the season, his shot was not falling for a couple weeks, and he rightfully deserved to be a bench player.  But when it’s on, he fits this offense very well.  Foye will not replace Iguodala (the player he was traded for), but he’s a different type of player and carries a cheaper salary cap figure.

There is one word to describe Evan Fournier’s game so far this season: inconsistent.  Some nights, he’s got it going on: hitting 3s, eurostepping to the hoop, and solid on-ball defense.  Then he’s gone for the next three games and back in Shaw’s doghouse.  Most people would say it’s a matter of confidence, but Shaw has given him plenty of minutes even when he’s played poorly.  It’s a matter of maturity and developing into a consistent player.  He’s not there yet.

Small Forward
With immense talent, Wilson Chandler can take over games if, and it’s a big “IF”, he has his head in the game.  Too often though, he just stands on the perimeter, waiting for his defender to sag to the interior so he can get a pass and hit an open 3 pointer.  When he approaches the game in that capacity, his entire game sulks.  A perfect illustration of this point would be the February 2nd, 2014 game at Madison Square Garden.  Wilson had a chip on his shoulder since he was traded from NYK to the DEN, and started out the game aggressive, scoring 10 points in the 1st quarter.  But then he disappeared, scoring 7 points the rest of the game.  Similar to Fournier, Chandler must grow up and learn to bring it every night, every quarter.  If he does that, he has the ability to be an All-Star as well as contribute to a team that goes deep in the playoffs annually. 

With Danilo Gallinari out for the season, Quincy Miller has had an excellent opportunity to play extended minutes.  At times, he will appear aggressive and unstoppable.  But like almost every player on this team, he drifts and becomes just another player on the court.  Like Chandler, he has a nice perimeter shot and a terrific dribble-drive to the basket.  His body is long and thin, and he has the tools to develop into a great NBA player.  He looks like a more confident and aware player compared to last year, but has much more room to grow.

In November 2013, Denver’s front office chose not to pick up Jordan Hamilton’s $1+M option for next year, making him an unrestricted free agent after this season.  That decision buried J-Ham deep on the bench.  After all, what’s the point of giving valuable minutes to him instead of developing Fournier and Quincy?  When J-Ham has checked into the game, he’s taken an offensive mindset, showcasing what he does best= score buckets.  As one of the better 3 point shooters on this team, he also has a fairly decent drive to set up mid-range shots.  Of course, that’s about all his game has, and that’s why the front office chose not to pick up his option.  He can be a black hole with the ball and is a defensive liability.

Power Forward
The team’s deepest position is at power forward, and unfortunately no player has made a case to be the starting power forward of the team’s future.  The four players at this position are values with their combined salary costing the team $11.3M this year.  People contend that Kenneth Faried will be difficult to sign after his rookie deal expires, and forget he still signed through next season at only $2.2M.  The more alarming numbers of Faried’s career would be his numbers on the court.  Last year, he made his mark by rebounding and running the court in transition.  This year, his rebounding numbers are down 1.7 rebounds/game from last year due to fewer minutes, but his field goal percentage is the lowest of his career at .544.  While numbers can indicate there is a problem, the bigger problem is his defense.  Too often, he is a step late rotating on help defense, or he’s outmuscled in the post by bigger power forwards.  And he may be the worst pick and roll defender on the team, if not the league.  Yet he is still the most exciting, most likeable player on the team.  He brings good effort almost every game, and on the wings in transition, he flies.  His plus qualities are the reason why he will always be involved trade talk rumors.

If Darrell Arthur and Kenneth Faried could be morphed into one player, the team would have their power forward conundrum solved. Unlike Faried, Arthur is an exceptional pick and roll defender with a great 15 foot shot.  His game around the rim is very weak, rarely scoring in the paint and almost nonexistent on the boards. 

And if Arthur, Faried and JJ Hickson could be transformed into one player, the team would have a Hall of Fame player.  Hickson’s greatest attribute is his low post scoring, recently developing a nice roll to the basket off the high post pick and roll.  While the statistics show he is averaging 10+ rebounds per game, he is fundamentally not a good rebounder, never boxing out and giving up a half dozen offensive rebounds per game.  Even worse, his defense is frighteningly bad.  Yes, he is playing out of position due to injuries and matched up against opponents’ centers, but his defensive rotations are clueless.  Yet because he is averaging a double-double this season, fans think he’s great!  Surprisingly, he is only 25 years old, so he still has time to round out some of the mental parts of the game.

The fourth power forward on the roster is Anthony Randolph who is earning the moniker King of Garbage Time.  To be fair, Randolph plays more of a small forward’s game than power forward, but at 6’ 11” with long arms, he should develop a low post game that will keep him in the league for many years. 

The center position on this season’s team has been nothing short of a trainwreck.  Early in the season, Javale McGee was lost on the court, throwing ridiculous shots at the basket and not establishing himself in the post.  The best thing that could have happened to him was this leg injury which will give him a pass this season when the team does year end evaluations.  But it’s pretty apparent that he did not come to camp in shape, nor with any marked improvement from previous seasons.  Javale’s strengths need to be shot blocking and rebounding.  But he gets in foul trouble early due to slow recognition leading to late rotations to the ball, and spends most of the game on the bench.  He also needs to add some weight in his butt area for rebounding/boxing out purposes, so he doesn’t look like a new-born giraffe when the shot goes up.  Masai Ujiri took a really longshot gamble in signing McGee to a $10-12M/ year and it’s most likely not going to pay off.

On the other side of the payscale discussion, Timofey Mozgov is a quality bargain at ~$4.5M/year.  While he’s not developed into a quality starting center yet, he gives the team a shotblocking presence on the interior of the defense.  This presence allows players to direct their driving opponent to Mozgov who can redirect the shot or just contest it, and is a big deal when playing help-defense.  Offensively, he is developing some nice low-post moves and a short hookshot. Also he is not getting moved around in the low post.  Two years ago, he looked like he was playing on the balls of his feet and was getting muscled by players smaller than him.  He needs to work on avoiding foul trouble and continue to develop on this same course.

For the first two months, Brian Shaw deserved a pass.  He was coming into Denver with a makeshift roster of unfamiliar players.  Many of these players are from the young talent pool harvested from the Carmelo Anthony trade.  The situation becomes a rookie head coach leading a team of young players.  Like any rookie, mistakes were made and will continue to be made.  The Andre Miller tirade should have been diffused before it erupted.  Bench rotations leave fans and critics of the game scratching their heads.  Even starting lineups are suspect.  The players need to know their coach has their back, so when Shaw was ejected from a game for the first time in his coaching career, the team responded and blew out the Celtics, then OKC and Orlando in the next few games.  A calm demeanor and nice suit looks good when answering the media, but when your team feels alienated from the coach, it’s a recipe for disaster.  Because the team is riddled with roster deficiencies, Brian Shaw will get a free pass this year and that’s just not enough.  He has to be held accountable for the player’s development and growth.  Teach them to mature properly, become experts at their craft and build a winning mindset.  Much of that responsibility falls on the assistant coaches too.  We hear the verbiage from Shaw during post-game interviews, but we are not seeing it on the court.  Is 50 games too soon to judge?

Front Office
Who is Tim Connelly?  Looking at his track record, he has a penchant for being involved with losing organizations in Washington and New Orleans.  With no general manager experience and 36 years old, he was hired in June of 2013 right before the NBA draft, and as his All Star shooting guard was departing.  Since then he had to hire a new coach for the team, while frantically scrambling to fill the holes on a roster with the starting small forward and center out with injury for the majority of the year.

Here is where the dysfunction begins and where I lose it:
First, hiring a rookie coach to lead young players is a recipe for disaster.  No matter how enamoring Brian Shaw’s peers praise him, this team was not the right job for him. 

Second, trading away Kosta Koufos (a center) for a power forward, Darrell Arthur, was a dumb move because it forced Javale McGee in the starting lineup. That decision may have come from the owner, but if a GM is not allowed to make their own decisions, don’t take the GM job.  Javale has never shown any significant growth or the ability to be a starting center in the league.  Yes, that $10-12M/year albatross falls on Masai’s head, but Ujiri found a way to work out trades to dump dud contracts like McGee’s (see Nene and Afflalo).  Now we have three power forwards on the roster, so bringing in another power forward, J.J. Hickson, to a 3 year deal makes no sense, unless you want him to play center.  But it’s a well-noted fact around the NBA that Hickson struggles defending centers.  The decision of ditching Koufos really bites the Nuggets in the butt when Javale is out for the year with a fractured leg that will not heal.

Thirdly, after a visit to the Summer League in Las Vegas, Nate Robinson campaigns to have himself added to the team.  Since Randy Foye and Evan Fournier are already shooting guards on the roster, NateRob can be the back up point guard.  What about Dre Miller?  Why not bring in Chauncey Billups, local legend, at a cheaper price who can play point and shooting guard who can mentor some of the younger players instead of teaching them how to Instagram themselves like 12 year olds?

And now that the season is underway, the front office has done NOTHING to correct or build this team.  Now that Andre Miller has blown up and made himself unwelcome on the team, his roster spot is left to stagnate, putting more minutes on Ty Lawson as the team’s only legitimate point guard.  When Nate Rob goes down with an ACL injury, the team STILL sits on their hands instead of making a move to get something of value for Miller.  Nope.  “We’re trying to create leverage for compensation from a team that needs PG depth during their playoff run.”  Now Lawson has a fractured rib from playing 40+ minutes per game and should be out for ~6 weeks.  Foye is the team’s point guard which means Foye is overmatched vs other point guards and unable to run the offense, and Fournier or Quincy is starting at shooting guard and being outplayed.

Yes, after Iguodala and Ujiri left, GK was fired because ownership wanted to build a team that could go deep in the playoffs.  The current roster has ONE player that would fit that bill, Ty Lawson.  Maybe Foye sticks too. Gallo has become a liability due to his frequent injuries.  WC doesn’t have the heart.  Fournier will take 10 years to develop.  Quincy is a budding star but will also need many seasons to groom.  The team chemistry is a joke, becoming a mixture of Playdough, M&Ms and Capri Sun juice boxes.  The only two franchises that are more laughable are in Cleveland and Charlotte.  Marquee free agents will ignore the team’s offers in upcoming years.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Denver Nuggets 2013-14 Opening Roster

The Denver Nuggets 2013-14 season is upon us, and here is a screencapture of the current roster.  Quite any array of names with either decent NBA talent or the promise of good things in development.  Right now, our bench is so deep that it's too deep.  A deep bench is an asset during a length 82 game season riddled with injuries.  When the wins become more infrequent, veteran players will stop putting in the effort, locker room dynamics will change, fans will throw bile at the front office and coaches for a litany of reasons (because that's what they always do). 

Breaking down the Roster by Position:

On this current roster, no player should be considered "untouchable" in trade talks.  The front office would be least likely to trade Ty Lawson, as he is the best player on the team and only a handful of  point guards in the league are better.  His new, and well-earned, contract is reasonable considering his value and locks him down through 2016-17. Andre Miller won't go anywhere because no other team really needs him (unless George Karl gets a mid-season coaching gig).

At the shooting guard position, Randy Foye is the starter here with a club friendly contract and a sweet perimeter shot.  Foye would not have thrived in George Karl's uptempo, freewheeling offense, but in Shaw's half-court sets, he should find a good niche.  Evan Fournier has the opportunity to take the spot from Foye as he has a shooter's stroke from the perimeter, nice ability to drive to the basket and the ability to play in an uptempo game.  His game has a lot of promise but lacks any type of consistency.  More playing time and more seasons under his belt will grow that stability.

No one questions that the small forward position is Danilo Gallinari's starting spot when he returns from injury.  He possesses the best overall game on the team and started to show leadership qualities toward the end of last season.  Like Fournier, his offensive game needs more consistency.  Defensively, he is usually matched up on opponents' best player and doesn't get enough credit for that. Gallo's biggest adversary is staying healthy.

In the past two seasons, Chandler has played 8 games in 2011-12 (he had a contract in China to fulfill, then returned to the US injured) and 43 games in 2012-13 (approximately half a season).  To boot, he starts out 2013-14 injured as well.  When he’s healthy, he’s worth much more than his contract compensates him.  Excellent offensive output with slightly above average defensive play at the SF/PF gets him on the floor even during crucial end of game moments.  Considering Gallinari’s injury prone nature, he’s an asset to this club as long as he’s healthy. 

Also at SF is Anthony Randolph who has a terrific opportunity to play with Gallinari out until early 2014.  Randolph’s game is good on-ball defense (he has great footwork) and an ability to score around the basket.  If he develops at 15-18 foot jump shot, he’ll bring so much more value to the team.  While his minutes will be few, Jordan Hamilton can show that he is an offensive weapon but really lacks discipline on offense and has almost zero defensive effort.

Our new bigs, Darrell Arthur and JJ Hickson, give us veteran depth at the power forward position.  While Hickson is listed as a 6' 9" PF, he can slide over to play center in a pinch.  Arthur's offensive game is mostly away from the basket; he's a post-up type of PF and most valued for his pick and roll defense.

Both of these new acquisitions would be great, but has created a logjam at the position which fan-favorite Kenneth Faried started last year thus creating all the trade rumor talk.  Looking at the roster with salary-cap tinted glasses, Faried is the best option of the three big men, as he's under his rookie contract through 2014-15.  Looking at the roster with Brian Shaw's vision of a low post player with their back to the basket, Faried is the odd man out.  And what is Faried's value to other teams?  The Nuggets won't get the compensation they expect if they bury him on the bench, so expect his minutes to go up until the trade deadline or until he proves his game has evolved to fit Brian Shaw's scheme.

Center is a big point of emphasis in Brian Shaw's offense (as is the power forward position).  Unfortunately the Nuggets have a giant question mark at the position instead of an exclamation point.  Javale McGee's play leaves fans and coaches scratching their heads with more "WTF" question marks than "Oh wow" exclamation points.  His body is long and thin, and because of that he is getting outmuscled in the low post on both ends of the court.  More often than not, he is just reaching out to tap a ball to a fellow player rather than getting to the ball.  His offensive is raw, but if he gets a small hook shot going, he can be an effective option.  But he has to beef up and not let defenders muscle him out of the low post.  Also does Denver's altitude have heavier impact on his asthma?  Quite honestly, if the organization is banking their future success on this player, it has to be called a long shot.

Meanwhile Timofey Mozgov's contract is very cap friendly and he has shown an ability to play both ends of the court despite letting himself get muscled in the paint.  As Mozgov gets more playing time this year, he will gain more confidence and play better.  His defensive rotations are good, and he's doing well on the high pick and roll.

Lastly, Quincy Miller isn't expected to deliver many minutes this year pending injuries or trades.   Quincy's game is looking better, but he's so thin he projects to be a small forward with perimeter shooting.  He's going to have to make big strides during the season on his defense and rebounding, and that comes with more playing time and maturity.

Early Expectations

With Brian Shaw bringing in a new scheme to this team, a learning curve will require time and patience.  In the first two months, Brian Shaw will make line up changes before and during games that may seem suspect, but he has to get a feel for what players are right at particular moments in games.  As the trade deadline approaches, the front office will have to make roster adjustments based on player/team development without looking at the win/loss record.  This new season is a process of building and developing a team, not wins and losses.  It will be fun to reflect back at this post with new eyes in March of 2014.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Notes from 2013 Denver Nuggets Summer League play:

Just a couple quick notes from the Denver Nuggets Summer League games:

**The first couple games, Jordan Hamilton's game was OFF.  After missing the 3rd game to handle a family issue, J-Ham went bonkers in the 1st quarter of his return game.  Simply put, he was the J-Ham that we all know and love.  His perimeter shooting will be a huge asset this upcoming season.  Still shaky on his defense, but isn't everyone?

**Evan Fournier came out strong in the first game, showing a really nice stroke on his shot and ability to create shots off of screens.  His ballhandling was really suspect in a couple games.  Another thing that went unmentioned was his leadership role in helping Erick Green know his place and instilling confidence in the rookie.

**Since we just addressed Erick Green- The rookie can SHOOT.  Rather small as expected, he looked better and better with each game.  His ability to hit 3s will give him a strong chance to make the roster this upcoming season.  The way he came off screens with his dribble was indicative of his confidence level rising. While he may not get much playing time in 2013-14, he can mature in a very good player.

**Quincy Miller had a couple really bad 3 games, at times showing a spark of brilliance, then disappearing for the remainder of the game, or chucking up really poor 3s.  By game 4 and 5, he found his niche and accordingly found his stroke, busting 3s with deadly accuracy.  It's unfair to think of him as a PF despite his height.  This young man should be groomed to be a shooting guard or small forward. Personally I'd like to see him develop into a badass 6' 10" PG.  On a couple plays, he had a couple really nice entry passes in which he was able to look over the defense and deliver.

**In the first few games, Darius Johnson-Odom really had some special moments, despite the overall poor team play.  For about 5 minutes in game 2(?), he was unstoppable going to the rim for the layup or dish.  His disposition is really what impresses me, like an angry dog.  He is "blessed" with a scowl that will immediately draw a technical foul from Joey Crawford and backs it up with tenacious play like he always has something to prove.  He may not make the roster, but he should be a training camp invite.

**The rest of the lineup was pretty poor, outmatched almost every time they stepped on the floor.  The coaches gave C.J. Harris a chance to show what he has by putting him in the startin lineup, but he was getting torched on defense and didn't really step a tempo the way a PG should.  Luke Harangody showed a nice (but weird looking) 3 point shot and had no problems trying to draw charges, but his size and speed will keep him from making the roster.  He may get a training camp invite though.  The rest of the roster was really unremarkable.

Leaving the 2013 Summer League, the Nuggets team showed a plethora of outside shooters.  That aspect of the game was sorely missed last year, as Fournier and J-Ham were buried on the bench most of the year, and Q wasn't going to see the court.  One of the funny moments of the last game was to see J-Ham dribble across halfcourt, sizing up Coby Karl and drop a 25 foot shot in his face as if saying, "That's for your dad benching me all year".  As good as the perimeter shooting was, the interior game was awful, just awful, indicating we have a real lack of upcoming talented big men.  But that's something which can be addressed in the draft or as roster cuts are made.  The 2013-14 season doesn't look as bad as the doomsayers have predicted.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2012-13 Home Court Advantage for the Denver Nuggets

“We talking about practice.  Not a game, not a game, not a game.  We talkin’ bout practice.” –The Answer

This time of year, we’re not talking about practice, but we’re talking about playoffs, and more specifically we’re talking about home court advantage (HCA) for the Denver Nuggets.  Since January, the importance of HCA for this Nuggets team has been stressed repeatedly as a generalization and without validation.

It’s no secret: No team in the NBA wants to play in Denver.  Beyond the obvious reasons of playing at altitude, familiarity of arena, and fans, this Nuggets team has some serious mojo when playing at home.  Developing confidence is HUGE for a young team entering the playoffs.  This season was not supposed to be a deep playoff run for one of the youngest teams in the NBA.  In January when Masai Ujiri said on a local radio program that this team isn’t ready for the playoffs, he had to realize that this season was to get experience and chemistry to his young core of players and work on championship runs in the subsequent seasons. 

 Instead the team exceeded expectations by going on a 15 game winning streak, posting a 35-3 home court record, and moving into the 3rd seed in the very competitive Western Conference.  A 3rd seed assures this team HCA in the 1st round of the playoffs against likely opponent Golden State Warriors; the Houston Rockets are 1 game behind GSW in standings.  While no round of the playoffs is a walk in the park, Denver at home is almost a lock to win each game against their first round opponent. On the road, when the Nuggets can dictate their up-tempo style of play, their chance of winning is higher than the opponent. Road wins at Portland, Sacramento, Phoenix, Chicago, OKC and Utah, as well as a competitive 1-pt  loss at San Antonio, are proof that Denver’s play on the road has been exemplary lately.  The 24 point loss at New Orleans was an aberration.

Stating the obvious is all fun and stuff, but what’s the point?  Simply put the Nuggets should walk through the first round against GS or HOU.  Those teams are not good road teams, so Denver can win their home court games and take the series.  In the second round the situation gets more tricky.  If things work out as expected, Oklahoma City advances to face Denver in the second round while holding HCA for the series.  If the series versus OKC goes seven games, the Nuggets can win all three of their home court games, while having FOUR opportunities to steal at game on the road.  Again, when the Nuggets dictate the tempo of the game, they can win most games whether on the road and certainly at home.  Point being, OKC can very likely lose a home game to Denver, and thus lose the series.

Certainly playing at home for Denver is not a sure win.  Factors like Lawson’s health, Wilson Chandler’s larger role, and free throw shooting will be key deeper into the playoffs.  With a forced up-tempo game, deep bench and home court advantage, George Karl’s team has a very legitimate chance to succeed like no other Nuggets team.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nuggets salary cap 2013-14 (speculation)

First of all, a lot can change from the time of this writing to next NBA season.  Since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, opinions of this Nuggets team have changed dramatically, and they will change once more after the winning streak is snapped (currently 13 games) and pending the outcome of the playoffs.

Looking into next season’s salary cap, the Nuggets’ front office is very aware they are over the cap.  Being over the cap isn’t a death sentence like it is in the NFL, but owners really don’t want to pay that fine except for Jerry Buss.  Next year’s roster and payroll is fairly similar to the 2012-13 season, except Ty Lawson’s new deal gives him about $10M raise.  Accordingly the Nuggets’ cap figure ($73.7M) is about $10M over the projected 2013-14 cap.

Where will the front office free up $10M+ to avoid cap penalties?  Well, cutting Ty Lawson isn’t an option as he’s a part of the future of this team.  Riding this process of chain thinking, who else is an untouchable on the roster? 

Let’s just scroll down the roster:

Ty Lawson and Dino Gallinari are the only other player to be safe from cost saving moves.  This team will be built around the tempo that Lawson and Gallinari dictate.  When their game is on, they’re unstoppable. Even George Karl’s comments that these two players are starting to develop leadership qualities indicates the team wants to build around these players. The Nuggets have them locked down under contract for the next 3+ years.

Javale McGee may be in that category except he’s just so raw despite his high cap figure ($10+M). While people are perplexed at how a big man coming off the bench averaging 18 mins per game can warrant that amount of money, his contract reflects the going rate for big men in this league.  More importantly, McGee continues to develop on both ends of the court.  At times he can be dominant around the rim on defense, but his offensive game is just a series of unrefined moves that make giraffes giggle at the awkwardness.  Lots of potential here, and as long as he continues to work hard and stay out of trouble, he’ll be considered a big part of the future roster.

Kosta Koufos has really stepped up his game since last year. Last year, he was coming off the bench behind Timofey Mozgov.  This year at $3M/year, his play has been a bargain for the Nuggets.  Coaching has really helped him develop as a scorer around the basket.  His footwork on defense is really good which helps him be in position on his opponent in the paint, or help on pick and roll defense.  No doubt he’s a part of the 2013-14 team and maybe beyond.

Kenneth Faried is another bargain for the team because he’s still under his rookie contract.  He is locked down next year and has a team option in 2014-15.  When Faried gets his game going, his energy has more impact on his team’s offense and defense than any other player in the league.  Inconsistency and defensive lapses are Faried’s biggest shortcomings right now.

Wilson Chandler has a new deal keeping him under contract for about $6M per year.  If he stays healthy, he’s a starter that is coming off the bench.  In Denver’s altitude, having a strong bench is really important because the team can blow open a lead or force opponent’s to bring their starters back early.

Andre Miller is a luxury for George Karl, as he is a starting point guard that no other teams wanted due to his age.  The Nuggets have him running their second unit’s offense really well, while giving him playing time late in games.  He plays within his abilities better than anyone else in the league, but sometimes doesn’t put in the effort on defense which won’t be tolerated in the playoffs.  Miller is under contract next season for $5M.

Andre Iguodala has a player option for next season.  If he decides to stay with the Nuggets, Iguodala’s 2013-14 cap figure is $16M and allows him to be an unrestricted free agent the following season.  His list of intangibles that he brings to the court is lengthy (besides shooting free throws) and warrants a high contract.  Plus having a defensive stopper in the Western Conference to match up against Kobe, Durant, Westbrook and Harden is not a luxury- it’s a necessity to give a team a chance to win every night.

Iguodala is 30 years old and hitting his prime as a player.  His agents will push for a big payday during his next contract negotiations to reflect his market value.  If the Nuggets go deep into the playoffs this year (second round, maybe deeper), the media will target him as their spokesperson, a role which he does fairly well.  This recognition combined with 2012 Olympic medal winner status will put his market value at its highest point in his career.  Again, his player option is $16M; that figure will be the low-end of his expected annual salary.  Length of contract is a consideration too, so he’ll want a 4 year deal around $20M by the fourth year.  That type of contract will handcuff the Nuggets’ front office from being able to re-sign other contracts in the future. 

No doubt that Iguodala is worth that type of contract if a team has a legitimate scorer.  He doesn’t bring in very many points per game (12.8 pts/gm) and isn’t a great outside shooter (31% from 3-pt).  Instead he brings a defensive stopper to match up on most team’s best players which motivates his teammates to play better defense.  His transition game is very good; his passing ability in the open court or interior is exceptional with a knack for breaking down defenses off the dribble. A few games this year he’s made the clutch game winner. 

Here’s one scenario I can see happening:
Iguodala renegotiates a deal as part of a sign and trade to another team, hopefully an Eastern Conference team like maybe Cleveland.  In return the Nuggets can ask for draft picks or young prospects.  Denver fans will scream wails of “What are they doing?!?!” without taking any time to think it out.  Masai Uriji will have some cap freedom to sign Corey Brewer (if he chooses to stay) to a $6M/yr deal, or shop around for an outside shooter like Kyle Korver.

Again, this mental exercise is all just speculation.  Things happen that can change the shape of a team in just a couple weeks or months.  The key for the Nuggets right now is to have the patience to develop their young talent while maintaining flexibility to keep or discard players as necessary.  Of course, if the Kroenkes decide to snub the salary cap restriction, maybe they keep Iduodala and everyone else on the roster while paying the cap penalty, and this narration of words is nothing more than a waste of time.