At the end of the 2013-2014 season the Denver Nuggets’ roster was full of flexibility. It was built with three point guards, two shooting guards, three small forwards, four power forwards, and two centers, so the Nuggets had depth at every position. If no moves are made this offseason, that depth will remain a crucial part of the Denver Nuggets for the 2014-2015 season.
It will be tough for general manager Tim Connelly to not make a move with that depth, and with seven forwards that can play non-forward positions, Connelly’s wheels should be spinning. He could get rid of any player, at any position, and the Nuggets wouldn’t sacrifice the depth that kept them competitive during last season’s injury woes. Throw in a $9.8 million trade exception (meaning the Nuggets can take on $9.8 million more in salary than they send away in a trade) and this roster is just ASKING for some pieces to be moved. From what he is saying to media, it’s pretty clear Tim Connelly agrees with my conclusion:
“I’ve already let all the other guys in different front offices around the league know that we’re open for business,” Connelly told the Denver Post. “If you really study our team, we have a lot of flexibility.”
But just who is Connelly putting on the block during those conversations? Who should Connelly be trying to get rid of when looking at a roster full of so many proven players? I can’t quite listen in on calls to other front offices, but I can say these players should be the ones with their suitcase close by.
Hickson is the obvious and easy choice if the Nuggets want to make a move. Kenneth Faried established himself as the starting power forward during the second half of last season, and a defensive-minded Darrell Arthur coming off the bench is a nice complement to Faried. Hickson, although hurt right now, also averages 11.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a game (a near double-double), and that productivity should attract some suitors. He doesn’t have the highest salary at the mid-level exception, and only has two years remaining on his contract which makes him more attractive to other teams.
Let me start by saying I am a Wilson Chandler fan. Chandler is a consistent dual offensive/defensive threat, and he takes care of business by staying out of the headlines off the court. However, with Danilo Gallinari coming back and Quincy Miller and Evan Fournier showing they can provide productive minutes, the Nuggets just don’t need him anymore. He averaged 13.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 35 percent from three-point range last year, and he’s a great fill-in at small forward for teams that need one.
The deep bench and non-player trade pieces
After Hickson and Chandler, it gets a little harder to identify players that could bring back a meaningful piece for the Nuggets. Ty Lawson and Faried are off the table right now (or at least they SHOULD be), Fournier and Miller are on rookie contracts, and Gallinari, JaVale McGee, and Nate Robinson are coming off season-ending injuries.
So, the remaining pieces for Connelly include the deep bench: Anthony Randolph, Jan Vesely, and Darrell Arthur (if Hickson stays on the roster), and the “trade sweeteners”: the $9.8 million dollar exception and the 11th pick in the deep NBA draft scheduled for June 26.
What it all means:
It’s clear the pieces are there for the Nuggets to make an impactful move, and in today’s NBA that means just about anyone is available, not just Chandler and Hickson. As the roster is currently constructed, the Nuggets should be vying for a big move and nothing less. Something like packaging Hickson, Chandler, the 11th pick, and another piece for Kevin Love comes to mind, even if that’s wishful thinking. But if it’s just a lateral move, Connelly should stand pat.
“There is certainly apprehension because you don’t know,” Connelly told the Denver Post. “There’s a part of you that says, ‘Let’s see what this group can do collectively,’ and there’s a part of you that says, ‘As we’re presently constructed, we need to make some moves to make us more ready to compete with the Oklahoma Cities and San Antonios.”