What are the Nuggets to do?
This has been the worst season the Nuggets have seen in over a decade. They are on pace to miss their second straight post season. The teams right above the Nuggets in their own conference are Sacramento, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans. They are heading for the 11th or 12th best team in that conference.
What might be even more telling is their record in December, 5-11. This Nuggets team has not lived up to the expectations that were left behind after a couple seasons of playoff basketball after Carmelo was traded. (We are still talking about Carmelo and the Nuggets?!) This team is filled with role players and bench players outside of a couple of names but those players don’t crack the top 5, maybe top 10, in their positions.
This team ranks 28th in points per game allowed, 16th in points per game scored and 19th in assists per game. They rank 20th in Offensive Efficiency and 22nd in Defensive Efficiency. The lsat stat that should put the nail in the coffin for this roster is their 25th ranking of effective field goal percentage at 47.5%, just above teams like Philadelphia, Minnesota, Charlotte, Detroit, and Indiana. None of those teams are expecting to make the playoffs.
They are the most forgotten team in the league. A franchise that made the playoffs 10 years in a row prior to last season, a year in which they missed the playoffs, the Nuggets are on pace to have a worse season than last. What should the Nuggets do moving forward?
Before we tackle this roster from top to bottom, let me first say that I think the Nuggets have a couple building blocks to move forward with. Below is their roster as of today.
This team just has not been playing well as a whole, well outside of Ty Lawson (27 years old) and Kenneth Faried (25 years old). This is actually the best news because these two players are locked in a contract for 2 more years. These were the building blocks I mentioned before.
Don’t worry, we will address the Kenneth Faried trade rumors later on.
We know who we are keeping, that is if we are the Denver Nuggets. We will be keeping Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. Now the question becomes what do they do? Currently the team hasn’t been playing all that well.
Next season they have JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo and JJ Hickson under your control. They will have a tough decision with the team option on Wilson Chandler because he was been playing this season. The other four names will have to be discussed amongst the front office to determine if they see any of them in the picture for the Lawson/Faried era.
If they decide to stick with these guys they will head down the same path they are on now. JaVale McGee just hasn’t grasped his game and his minutes reflect that. Danilo Gallinari has shown sparks over the past few years but can not seem to stay healthy. Denver can’t rely on the health of an injury prone wing player, arguably the most important position in the league these days.
Arron Afflalo has seen a dip in his performance since returning to Denver. With his poor play it’s safe to assume he will accept that player option. The last guy in the crew is JJ Hickson, who has also seen his role diminish on this team. One reason for this is Brian Shaw’s preferred style of offense, the Triangle.
I think they should be very active in the trade deadline to speed up the process of re-tooling around Ty Lawson. It’s time to move these players, who have been on the roster for a few seasons now, in their late 20’s and quite frankly, “are what they are”.
As promised, we can now look at the talks of the Nuggets moving Faried. Those talks, which I believe are happening and that Denver would like to move Faried, as they should. His style doesn’t fit the system that Brian Shaw is trying to install. However, Kenneth is still a good piece to keep on the roster and build around.
After this deadline, if they can’t find trades that work for them, the Nuggets will still have flexibility as a roster. Those 5 players (JaVale, Danilo, Arron, JJ, and Wilson) equal $44 million dollars in cap money for the 2015/16 season. They should be able to move these expiring contracts for quality players who are disgruntled, which involves a waiting game. Or they try moving these guys to contenders for draft picks.
Keeping the same roster into next season won’t all be lost. And if they can’t move anyone at the deadline, they will be sitting pretty in terms of cap space in the offseason. If they can woo an all star to sign with them, they could be on a faster track than anticipated.
Which probably won’t happen.
Denver’s best action plan would be to acquire draft picks with all those role players. Build through the draft and pursue the free agent class of 2016 if they are able to with the new CBA is coming that summer which might be something this ownership is keeping an eye on through their committed salaries.
I apologize for mentioning that. No one wants to hear the term CBA over the next year.
The Nuggets will have plenty of cash (only $26,272,565 committed to 5 players) to spend in the 2016 free agency. Hopefully they will also have a lot of draft picks at this time to really make a splash to bring a contender to the Rocky Mountains.