2015/16 Record: 33-49 (2nd last in the Northwest Division)
|Jamal Murray||DR – Pick #7|
|Juan Hernangomez||DR – Pick #15|
|Malik Beasley||DR – Pick #19|
|Petr Cornelie||DR – Pick #53 (Unsigned)|
|D.J Kennedy||FA – 3 Years/$3m (Non-Guaranteed)|
|D.J Augustin||FA – Magic|
Off Season Analysis:
Running through the additions and losses of the Denver Nuggets 2016/17, their off-season seems largely unremarkable. Drafting four rookies and resigning two role-playing vets is nothing to be shouting from the mountain tops (or mile-high city). Yet the reason why the Nuggets have done well in the off-season is simple, they made no bad moves in an off-season full of questionable trades and acquisitions. A quick analysis of the turmoil that the Nuggets are only now just emerging from shows that moves made this off-season, while safe, are setting the Nuggets up for a chance at making a serious splash in the not too distant future.
The Denver Nuggets have experienced a hell of a lot of change since the departure of Melo in 2011. In 2013, the Nuggets won a team record 57 wins. However after a first round loss George Karl was fired and replaced by Phil Jackson protégé Brian Shaw, (Shaw would only last for a disastrous season and a half.) Wunderkind GM Masai Ujiri left for greener pastures (green, as in money) in Toronto. Star PG Ty Lawson was arrested for his 2nd DUI and was promptly shipped to Houston (and to rehab) for a pick and scrubs. Their most skilled and utilitarian player in Gallinari was sidelined for nearly two seasons after a botched knee-reco. Put simply, things weren’t looking too bright for the Mile High city.
Under the guidance of new team President Josh Kroenke, Young GM Tim Connolly and new Head Coach Michael Malone, the Nuggets drafted Emmanuel Mudiay and prompty handed him the keys for the 2015/16 season (after the sudden departure of Lawson). Mudiay, along with Gary Harris, Will Baton and Jokic (3rd in rookie voting) played some decent basketball, leaving them with, all things considered a respectable 33-win season.
Now context has been set, (because let’s face it, since Melo left not many people have paid much attention to the Nuggets), let’s look at their 2016/17 off-season. An area in which the Nuggets have been achieving a measure of success is in the draft. From trading the pick 11 (Dougie McBuckets) and pick 16 (Jusuf Nurkic) for pick 19 (Gary Harris) in the 2014 draft, to selecting Jokic at 41(in the same year), or having Mudiay ‘fall’ to them at 7 in the last draft.
Much like Boston, the Nuggets had a decent haul of assets; picks 7, 15, 19 and 53, combined with players on now valuable contracts thanks to the cap rise (think Gallo, Chandler, Harris, and Nurkic ect). In failing to trade for a star or to move up the draft board, the Nuggets selected Jamal Murray as BPA, who happened to fit their needs of shooting. And Murray can shoot, and shoot well. With the 15th pick the Nuggets selected Juan Hernangomez. Not predicted to be taken until 19-23 range, Hernangomez is a competitive Spanish forward, who can crash the glass and step outside, shooting 36% from almost 3 attempts per game in the ACB. With their last first round pick the Nuggets took another offensive minded guard in Malik Beasley. Yet the concern with these picks is simple; where are these rookies going to get their minutes from when there are 12 other guys on the roster who all justifiably deserve those same minutes? How do you develop players and give them minutes without pissing off your vets?
It used to be that in life having the luxury of choice was a great asset, from jobs, to kicks to food, to well arguably all things. In the NBA choice gives organisations flexibility, GM’s scope and coaches’ options. However as seen in this off-season choice also causes headaches, big ones. For example: Durant, OKC BOS or GSW? Atlanta; Milsap or Horford? Philly; Simmons or Ingram? For the Coach Malone the choice boils down to: play the vets and win, or play the rooks and spur development. There are four legitimate shooting guards; how are the minutes divided? Does Malone play Murray at both guard positions and cut Nelson’s, Harris’ and Barton’s minutes? Does Faried lose out on minutes to Arthur and Hernangomez? Does Lauvergne get minutes at C instead of his much more natural 4? What happens to the bigs minutes if the Nuggets decide to pursue a 3 guard line-up? This roster whilst deep is troublesome and creates headaches. Troublesome because the positional logjams screams ‘OPEN FOR TRADES’ and as Ainge found out at on draft night, it is a very precarious position to be in.
The Nuggets off-season petered out after the draft. There were questions about potential trades to free up minutes and whether Hernangomez should stay overseas. Then Enter D Wade. After a snap meeting in New York with best gal-pal Mike Miller, Kroenke and Malone, the Nuggets appeared to be a top candidate to secure his services. But alas he decided on the Bulls. Maybe it was all smoke screens and mirrors from Wade’s camp to push Chicago and Miami to increase their offers after Denver reportedly offered 2 years/$52m, (Wade signed with the Bulls for 2 years/$47m.) The play for Wade was a positive move for the Nuggets for three reasons. Firstly, it placed Denver in the national media spotlight, and generated conversation around this often ignored small market team. Secondly it demonstrated they were willing to pay top dollar for stars. And finally after years of questionable player and personnel moves it showed Denver willing to do what it takes to get better and was a note to the free agent class of 2017.
@nuggets I wanna thank U guys for WOW-ing my team and I. The future is bright for your organization. Much respect and this decision was hard (@DwyaneWade) July 9, 2016
The Nuggets also re-signed some important vets in Arthur and Miller. Arthur (3 years/$23m) is regarded a consummate professional and positive influence on culture that Malone has been begging for. Mike Miller (2 years/$7m), whilst virtually guaranteed of not seeing playing time, will continue to be a great role model for the youthful Nuggets, and was even attributed to helping Mudiay hit 36.3% from deep post all-star break.
In an off-season that consisted of outrageous salaries, questionable trades and acquisitions, the Nuggets made zero bad moves. The log jams at the guard and forward positions means some choices need to be made. But if choice is the Nugget’s worst problem then the future sure does look bright for this organisation.
2016/17 Prediction: 39-43
League Pass Meter: 4.5/10
The Nuggets have only three nationally televised games. Their kids are still young and for another year at least the names of Jokic, Mudiay and Harris will leave the typical NBA fan saying who? But with the youth and altitude there will be some fun games against other young teams, (Wolves, Lakers Philly ect) But there will also be some real stinkers.
*Salary Guarantees 10th Jan 2017
Salary Cap Situation:
2016/17 Cap: $75,699,081
2017/18 Cap: $49,222,297
Max Room: $52.7mil
Min Room: $18.9mil
2017 1st (MEM – Protected 1-5)
2018 2nd (GSW)
2017 2nd (HOU)
2018 2nd (LAL)
With the log jams at the two-guard and forward position, something has to give.Who gets traded at deadline?
After 3rd in rookie voting and winning silver in Rio, will Jokic face the sophomore blues or become the face of the franchise?
Malone and GM Tim Connolly have done a great job at rebuilding the team and culture, can they now put the runs on the board?
Will the Nuggets trade for that superstar they have been seeking since the loss of Melo?
P.S. Props to Wilson Chandler for pulling in this monster earlier in the week…