I always go through this when the season for the Denver Nuggets ends. What to do? The first couple weeks is always the hardest part and most of the time it's a lot like adjusting to all the other elements of life that you put off. You get so consumed by every detail coming out of Pepsi Center that you let other things slip.
I know I do. I work two other jobs in addition to writing for Denver Stiffs and other sites, as well as the weekly Colorado Sports Guys podcast. It's amazing now that the Nuggets season is over, that couple hours during the day I devoted strictly to Nuggets news and info is left a bit empty. I think everyone, as fans, devotes that kind of time ... it just so happens that I have been writing about it for three years. The routine is omnipresent, and you just get used to it.
I've found myself getting sucked into the Kings/Sonics saga. While I am certainly glad that the people of Sacramento get to keep their NBA squad, I am absolutely devastated for the people of Seattle who continue to anguish without a team. All that being said, I have no stake in that. It's hard to thrust yourself headlong into something that doesn't, and shouldn't really involve you. It is fascinating though, and my truest hope is that very soon the Nuggets will be making their annual trek to the Pacific Northwest to take on both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Supersonics.
So we trudge on. As most of you may know, I am not the biggest fan of the NBA draft. A history of Nuggets draft busts and the reality that NBA prospects are just as likely to fail as they are to succeed has worn me down into a cynical husk. I found myself intentionally ignoring prospect information because I just couldn't be bothered. Someone like me is definitely not your go-to source for draft information, and Nate Timmons does an excellent job of covering different draft angles as well as listening for key prospects. Much of our readership is quite good at parsing out who has greater potential and that is what makes Denver Stiffs the go-to site for Nuggets coverage. Period.
I don't really hit my stride until free-agency. That's where I begin to take the greatest interest. It's quite a bit like having two birthdays in one month when free agency gets started (free agency starts July 1st, my birthday is July 16th) and there's nothing I like more than hunting for prospective free agents on the market for the Nuggets to sign. This year, re-signing Andre Iguodala and re-signing Masai Ujiri are the Nuggets biggest free agent priorities and I look forward to seeing what they have up their sleeve to improve the team going forward.
All that being said, how do you deal with the off-season blues? What do you do to fill the gap when the Nuggets aren't playing? Are you a draft junkie? Do you love free agency like me? Or do you just check out and then shuffle back around September?
Tell us your story.
In actual basketball news, the Spurs put away the Golden State Warriors last night to advance to the Western Conference Finals; where the Memphis Grizzlies await. The Grizzlies and Spurs will kick off their series starting Sunday, May 19th, in San Antonio at 1:30 p.m. MT. The Miami Heat are waiting on either the Pacers or Knicks - I'm not sure either team has enough offense to do proper damage to the Heat.
In NBA draft news: the Nuggets still have the 27th pick in the June 27th draft, but the team might be looking to move up if you read into a Tweet from Sports Illustrated writer Chris Mannix:
We discussed this Tweet or at least CJ McCollum previously in the comment sections of draft talk, but McCollum is a very interesting prospect who appears to be very NBA ready (I know a lot of you Stiffs like his game). Our friends over at Draft Express have McCollum slated as the No. 8 pick today. That pick belongs to the Washington Wizards - who already have John Wall and Bradley Beal set in their backcourt. The Wizards have previously traded with the Nuggets (JaVale McGee for Nene, remember?!) - perhaps another deal could be in the works?
McCollum is a nicely sized point guard, but could easily slide over to play the shooting guard spot in a George Karl offense (two point guard lineups). I could see McCollum in the Lawson role from 2009-10 where he played in 65 games and averaged 20 minutes a night. CJ could easily make Andre Miller expendable either next season or the season after - when Miller's contract can be bought out.
Check out his highlights from our guys over at Draft Express:
In other Nuggets news: Ty Lawson has been working out and training with the WBO Super Featherweight champion Adrien Broner in Las Vegas. Check out a couple of these Tweets:
I'll be on the lookout for that hoops footage that Broner is promising. If you don't know a lot about the eccentric Broner - know this: he's 26-0 with 22 knockouts and has his own TV type show on YouTube that chronicles his life aka "About Billions" ... here is the trailer for his "show":
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
In perhaps two of the more surprising developments of the NBA playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies have just eliminated the first-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Indiana Pacers have surged through the first two rounds and are on the cusp of a conference finals berth. To the surprise of nobody, the Miami Heat clinched another conference finals appearance by eliminating the Chicago Bulls 4-1.
The Memphis Grizzlies have done it largely on the back of their excellent defense, anchored by Marc Gasol and the pitbull-like tenacity of Tony Allen. They flustered and frustrated a more talented Los Angeles Clippers team into giving up their home court advantage and closed them out when they needed to. Then, due to an untimely injury to Russell Westbrook against the Houston Rockets, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have their backs against the wall, unable to overcome the stifling Grizzlies play. One has to wonder how different that series may have been had the Thunder retained James Harden. To understand just how lucky the Grizzlies were to have Russell Westbrook go down before their series, consider this: Russell Westbrook had never missed an NBA game in his 5 year career. It was almost surreal watching the Grizzlies close out the Thunder at home - but you could tell the Thunder were clearly exhausted.
Meanwhile in the East, a Pacers team has also been doing damage, first eliminating a dull and lifeless Atlanta Hawks team, and now pushing the overrated, aging New York Knicks to the edge. Not really a surprise to Nuggets fans, though - from our past experience, we knew that Melo, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton and JR Smith wouldn't be able to take a competent, healthy, defensive team in a seven-game series. Roy Hibbert and Paul George have been playing out of their minds...it will definitely be interesting to see how they match up with the Miami Heat in the east finals.
We run the gamut this week on the Colorado Sports Guys podcast by talking about the recent NBA awards that were handed out, we reflect on Jeff's article and some recent Nuggets history - including some heated Carmelo Anthony discussion - the importance of Russell Westbrook vs. the poor system Scott Brooks has developed in Oklahoma City, Storage Wars discussion, and much more.
Yeah, we wound ourselves in a tangled web this week. A web on the interwebs!
Listen to the show here. If you haven't already, add us on iTunes (easiest way to listen) or if you have an Android you can always use Pocket Casts app ... well worth the two bucks or so the app charges (the podcast is always free).
And be sure to follow us on Twitter:
Of the 30 NBA teams, 22 of them sent squads to Las Vegas last season along with an NBA D-League Select team. The Nuggets were coached by George Karl's assistants and featured second year players Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried, and Chu Chu Maduabum and rookies Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, and Izzet Turkyilmaz. (Julyan Stone missed SL with his hip injury).
Many members of the Nuggets organization made appearances - including Karl, Masai Ujiri, Josh Kroenke, JaVale McGee, and Ty Lawson. In fact, McGee inked his extension with the team in Vegas and rumors swirled that the players were having workouts of their own that week. Heck, the Nuggets wooed Anthony Randolph in Vegas as well. I still recall spotting Randolph sitting with Ujiri, asking Ujiri and Kroenke about him after a game, getting big smiles from them both, and being told that they just-so-happened to be sitting next to him.
You never know who you are going to run into at Summer League. One day I was standing and talking with former Nuggets player and assistant coach Kim Hughes (who went on to get a job with the Blazers last season) when O.J. Mayo sat down in front of me - Marc Spears sidled up next to him and before you knew it, Spears had a Tweet with three teams Mayo was considering signing with. And later, while standing with Hughes, Nick Van Exel (Atlanta Hawks' assistant coach) came over to say hello to his former assistant coach (with the Nuggets) and I got to meet him.
Yes, I sound like a name dropping fool, but anyone can attend Summer League and it's well worth the price of admission to see the 23 teams play games all day at the two arenas at the Thomas and Mack Center (Cox Pavilion is the smaller gym there, like a high school sized gym).
Summer League was a surreal experience and one that I hope to enjoy again this July. We don't yet know who will be playing for the Nuggets, but we do have the dates and what the teams will be playing for. From CBS Sports' Matt Moore:
When the participating teams take the court in Las Vegas this summer for the 2013 NBA Summer League, a championship will be on the line. For the first time since the league's inception in 2004, NBA Summer League will feature a format that includes preliminary games followed by a single-elimination tournament leading to an eventual champion.
The schedule tips off on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Friday, July 12, and will conclude with a championship game on Monday, July 22. All participating teams will play a minimum of five games. After the conclusion of games of July 16, all participating teams will be seeded for single-elimination tournament play that will result in a champion being crowned on July 22.
I do hope the Nuggets use their draft pick this season - or some draft pick(s) if they make some kind of deal. For totally selfish reasons - I want to see the rookie(s) play at SL. Check out some of the history behind this blossoming summer event:
Last year's NBA Summer League was record-breaking, with new all-time marks set in multiple areas including: participating teams (24); attendance (51,000-plus over 10 days); games played (60); number of live NBA TV broadcasts (38) and participating top draft picks (13 of the top 14 selections) in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Launched in 2004 as the Las Vegas Summer League, the inaugural event featured six NBA teams (Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards) playing a 13-game slate. Long considered the best opportunity for teams to showcase young talented rosters, teams whose rosters included six of the last seven NBA Rookie of the Year award winners have participated in NBA Summer League including: Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets, 2005-06), Brandon Roy (Portland Trail Blazers, 2006-07), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City, 2007-08), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento, 2009-10), Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers, 2010-11) and Kyrie Irving (2011-12).
Add Damian Lillard to that list too (7 of the last 8 ROYs have played in Vegas). He played in four games last season with the Blazers squad and averaged 26.5 points per game. Just an awesome basketball week.
Will any of you be at Summer League this year? Start planning your trip now!
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
How things have changed...
In order to fully appreciate what happened in 2003, and the lucky break the Nuggets got in the draft that season, we must go back two seasons to find out how the Nuggets got to where they were. It all started with horrible luck and the knee of a rising star.
Dan Issel, new management and a torn patella tendon
In the 2000-01 season, the Denver Nuggets finished 40-42 ... their best record since 1994-95 (41-41) and only the third time they reached the 40 win mark since the 1990-91 season (they finished with a 42-40 record in 1993-94). Coach/Team President Dan Issel was involved in all those 40 and 40+ win seasons (Issel resigned mid-way through the 1994-95 season). There was some promise heading in to the 2001-02 season and, for the first time in many seasons there was a twinge of optimism about the Denver Nuggets.
New owner Stan Kroenke (who purchased the Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Pepsi Center in July 2000) decided to replace Issel as team President with new Vice President Kiki Vandeweghe in August of 2001. Issel struggled to both clean up the abject wreckage that Bernie Bickerstaff left in the 1996-97 season (when he replaced Allan Bristow as team President in 1998) and was severely hampered by the constant ownership flux the team was under from 1997-2000. So after assembling a roster featuring the likes of Nick Van Exel (acquired in a trade with the Lakers), Antonio McDyess (acquired in a draft day trade with the Clippers, a former No. 2 overall pick) and Raef LaFrentz (a former No. 3 overall pick), despite the shakiness of the team, you felt relatively good entering the 2001-02 season ... and encouraged that Issel would be concentrating on just coaching (although, infamously Van Exel led a boycott of practice after Issel, essentially, used practice as a punishment for members of the team not taking a four-game east coast road trip seriously).
Ten games into the somewhat promising 2001-02 season, McDyess blew out his patella tendon. Possibly the worst knee injury you can suffer. From that point on everything changed. Issel's demeanor (which was sharply different from the affable, classy man who both played for and then coached the Nuggets years earlier) became more and more dour as the losses piled up. McDyess was on the rise as a star in the NBA and things came crashing down with the injury (he averaged 20.8 points and 12.1 rebounds during the 2000-01 season). Just 16 games later ... with a record of 9-17, Issel yelled and used racial epithets at a (perhaps drunken) fan after his last loss at home as coach. Issel was caught by a local TV camera crew saying the words and a week later (after being suspended) Issel decided it was best to resign.
The rest of that season Mike Evans coached the team, and the Nuggets finished with a 27-55 record (just 18-38 under Evans). The full on tank job was well in progress.
Kiki, Skita and the Buzz Man
When it was clear that Issel was gone and the hopes of resurgence without the injured McDyess were remote, Kiki Vandeweghe began tanking for draft picks. It started February 21, 2002 at the trade deadline when Kiki traded Van Exel, LaFrentz, Avery "Little General" Johnson, and Tariq Abdul-Wahad to the Dallas Mavericks for cheap/expiring contracts (including Tim Hardaway, Donnell Harvery, Juwan Howard, and Dallas' 2002 1st Round Pick).
The 2002 NBA draft was both great and awful for the Denver Nuggets. Since they finished the season so bad, they ended up with the 5th pick in the draft. With that pick they selected Nikoloz Tskitishvili - who will remain right at the top of all-time Nuggets draft pick busts (along with "El Busto" himself Tony Battie who was also selected with the 5th pick, but in 1997). Skita, as he was then dubbed was great in Summer League, unfortunately he was awful in actual games that counted. He could never shoot straight in games and led to him never getting off the bench and he was out of the league a handful of years later.
However, that same draft Kiki pulled off what was a great trade for the Nuggets, trading the injured Antonio McDyess and Frank Williams (25th pick acquired in Dallas trade) to the New York Knicks for the draft rights to Nene Hilario, Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson (as discussed here). Tremendous value for, essentially, a player (McDyess) whose knee injury relegated him to a role player for the rest of his (admittedly long) NBA career. The Knicks took an enormous risk on McDyess considering the severity of his injury, but the Nuggets also took on a risk by acquiring the oft-injured Camby.
On the coaching front, Kiki hired heretofore unknown Miami Heat assistant coach/scout Jeff Bzdelik. Coach Buzz was an assistant under Pat Riley in Miami and was a bit of a dark horse to coach a very young and mostly talentless team. Predictably, a team featuring Vincent Yarbrough, Camby, Junior Harrington, Skita, Nene and John Crotty was doomed to be a basement dweller in the NBA.
My colleague Andrew Feinstein has argued that Coach Buzz did a great job in getting the team to a 17-65 record (tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for worst record in the NBA) with that talent bereft roster. I tend to think that's probably about where this team would have ended up anyway. It pales in comparison to the train wreck that Bickerstaff foisted upon the Nuggets in 1997-98 (even though Bristow gets credit for that awful 11-71 team) and as later history proved, Bzdelik's wandering eye and unreasonable expectations got the best of him on multiple subsequent occasions.
However, the Nuggets were set up in prime position in one of the most loaded drafts in NBA history. All they needed was some ping pong luck to bounce their way and they could select the most highly touted player to come into the NBA in many years ... LeBron James
2003 Draft and how Joe Dumars saved Kiki Vandeweghe from himself
The Nuggets historic string of bad luck in the NBA draft lottery continued in 2003. Despite being tied for the worst record in basketball, the Nuggets ... once again, lost out on the top spot. Instead the first pick in the draft went to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second went to the Detroit Pistons (who, despite appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals the year before had a lottery pick from what was then the Vancouver Grizzlies - acquired in a trade that featured Otis Thorpe) and the third pick went to the Nuggets. This was a stacked draft, featuring the likes of the aforementioned James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and David West. Despite the continued draft lottery bad luck, the Nuggets were fortunate that they were bad in such a great draft.
Before I proceed, let me pose a hypothetical. Stay with me now ... envision the 2003 Denver Nuggets featuring a lineup of Andre Miller, Voshon Leonard, Rodney White, Nene and Darko Milicic. It very nearly happened, and we have Joe Dumars to thank for saving Vandeweghe from himself and adding yet another bust to his Nuggets executive resume.
After James was predictably taken with the first pick by the Cavs it was expected that Joe Dumars, the GM of the Pistons, would take the next best player available ... Carmelo Anthony. Seemed like a no-brainer. However, in a moment that shocked everyone, Dumars took Milicic ... a 7'0" center from Serbia. Kiki had gone on record many times before the draft saying how much he liked the Serbian Center, and there was a feeling in Denver that when (not if) Darko fell to the Nuggets ... the Nuggets head man would take him.
Dumars surprised everyone in the NBA when he took Darko with the second pick in the draft. Therefore Vandeweghe had no choice but to select Melo with the third pick (remember, at the time Wade was not as highly touted ... and Melo was coming off a National Championship with Syracuse) and that set in motion what was to come for the next 10 seasons. When you look at the alternative "intended" pick, despite what everyone thinks of Melo right now, the history of this franchise could have been much, much different.
How a single draft pick changed the culture of losing in Denver
We can sit here and debate the actual tangible talent of Carmelo Anthony until the cows come home. My argument is that the very fact the Nuggets picked Melo, someone who was anointed a superstar ever before he set foot on an NBA court, changed everything for the Denver Nuggets. While the Nuggets roster was augmented with the likes of a younger Andre Miller, Nene and Camby (as well as Jon Barry) you can't escape that the REASON there was a buzz around the city of Denver was directly because of Carmelo.
I will never forget the first game of the 2003-04 regular season. The Nuggets unveiled new uniforms (powder blue and yellow) and each member of the Nuggets, when introduced, came out from the Pepsi Center crowd. Unbelievable energy that had not been seen in Denver since the 1994 playoffs. Additionally the team upset the defending NBA champions San Antonio Spurs 80-72 that night. The magic returned to Denver.
That season the Nuggets finished with a 43-39 record, their best since the 1989-90 (also 43-39) season and one of the biggest single-season record turnarounds in NBA history. Melo finished with an average of 21 points and 6.1 rebounds a game (where did THOSE rebounds come from?) and probably SHOULD have won rookie of the year over LeBron, considering the Nuggets ended up in the playoffs for the first time since 1994-95 - while the Cavs failed to make the post-season. While the Nuggets lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves (Kevin Garnett's best season as a pro), the groundwork was laid for future success.
Suddenly, the Nuggets were appearing on nationally televised games again. People were talking (albeit not as much as other teams) about the Nuggets. From that moment on, the Nuggets have never missed the playoffs, have won over 50 games five times, gone to the Western Conference Finals and won a franchise record 57 games in the 2012-13 season. While the success of that standard is not what we as fans want in terms of actual playoffs success, considering the Nuggets previous 12 seasons were (outside of three 40 win seasons) abject failures ... well, it's amazing to see the transformation of this organization. It all began June 26, 2003.
It's funny to think though ... if Antonio McDyess never blew out his knee 10 games into the 2001-02 season, how much different would this Nuggets team and organization be? What would they look like right now? It's safe to say that if McDyess remained healthy, Issel would not have blown a gasket at that drunk fan and he would have remained coach for the remainder of that season. What happens next? No Skita no McDyess trade for Camby and Nene, probably no Melo. Would the Nuggets have remained a mediocre team? It is amazing that a player altering his career forever also affected the Nuggets so profoundly.
It's amazing how much luck can change your future.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78
The All Defensive teams have been announced and according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com no Denver Nuggets players made the list. This honor is voted on by the coaches around the league. The two teams break down as follows:
PG: Chris Paul - surprising pick here as Paul's defense was not his strong point this season.
SG: Tony Allen - one of the best in the business on the defensive end.
SF: LeBron James - the key cog to Miami's defense and it is a good defense.
PF: Serge Ibaka - proving that coaches value the blocked shot more than they care to let on.
C: Tyson Chandler - not the force he was last season, appeared in just 66 games.
C: Joakim Noah - tough defender on one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Chandler and Noah tied for votes for first team center.
PG: Mike Conley - he's a solid defender on an excellent defensive team.
SG: Avery Bradley - appeared in just 50 games this season, but he has a great defensive reputation.
SF: Paul George - the Most Improved Player and one heck of a defender.
PF: Tim Duncan - old man Duncan still getting it done on defense.
C: Marc Gasol - the Defensive Player of the Year easily should be a first team guy.
Andre Iguodala - appeared in 80 games and transformed the Nuggets defense. Iguodala was tasked with taking on the likes of James Harden (18.3 points per game vs the Nuggets and 25.9 ppg this season) every night. Ranked 5th this season in steals per game with 2.0 - behind only Russell Westbrook (No. 1), Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, and Tony Allen.
Iguodala's presence with the Nuggets greatly improved the defense and it could be even better if he's back with the team next season. No, the Nuggets were not a great defensive team, but they were improving and Iguodala was helping to change the defensive culture of the squad.
Roy Hibbert - another good center on a good defensive team. He anchors his squad.
Russell Westbrook - led the league in steals per game this season.
Luol Deng - another good defender for the Bulls at the wing position.
From SI.com on other players that received votes with first place votes in (parenthesis):
Note that Iguodala, Kenneth Faried, and Corey Brewer's names appear below.
Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Andre Iguodala, Denver, 16 (2); Larry Sanders, Milwaukee, 16 (4); Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City, 15 (2); Luol Deng, Chicago, 11 (1); Dwight Howard, L.A. Lakers, 9 (3); Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers (6 (1); Roy Hibbert, Indiana, 6 (2); Kenneth Faried, Denver, 4 (1); Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 4 (1); Shane Battier, Miami, 2; Nicolas Batum, Portland, 2 (1); Corey Brewer, Denver, 2; George Hill, Indiana, 2; Mike James, Dallas, 2 (1); Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio, 2, (1); Tony Parker, San Antonio, 2 (1); Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2; Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers, 2 (1); Eric Bledsoe, L.A. Clippers, 1; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, 1; Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia, 1; Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota, 1; Iman Shumpert, New York, 1; David West, Indiana, 1.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
When the Nuggets selected Evan Fournier in the 2012 NBA draft it sent minor shock-waves through the fan base. Almost immediately people started talking, gulp, Nikoloz Tskitishvili. The fear of another Skita is enough to gives Nuggets fans the creeps at the sign of any international player. While Fournier has already shaken a lot of the doubt that came on draft day, can anyone predict what the Nuggets will do with the 27th pick in the June 27th draft?
From 1988-2012 we can decipher a few trends. One is breaking down the draft by position, second is to see that 40-percent of the time the pick has been traded on draft day, and third is to look at the length of time the drafted players spent in the league. The last 25 selections that went 27th in the NBA draft can be broken down as follows:
Maybe the Nuggets will follow the trend above and select a power forward? While teams will gamble early in the first round on potential and hopeful star power, teams later in the draft will still have a nice selection of guys. As you will see below, the 27th pick may not have yielded a bonafide star, but the Nuggets could easily get a solid role player.
|Year||Player||Pos||Drafted by||Traded to||College||Yrs in NBA||Years|
|2012||Arnett Moultrie||PF||Heat||76ers||Miss St.||present|
|2003||Kendrick Perkins||C||Grizzlies||Celtics||Ozen HS||present|
|2002||Chris Jefferies||SF||Lakers||Raptors||Fresno St.||2002-2004||2|
|2001||Jamaal Tinsley||PG||Grizzlies||Iowa St.||present|
|1989-94 27th pick||was||the last of||the first||round.|
|1994||Brooks Thompson||PG||Magic||Okie St.||1994-1998||4|
|1993||Malcolm Mackey||PF||Suns||Geo Tech||1993-1994||1|
|1992||Byron Houston||PF||Bulls||Okie St.||1992-1996||4|
|1989||Kenny Battle||PF||Pistons||Suns||N. Illinois||1989-1992||3|
|1988 the 27th pick||was||the second||pick of the||second||round.|
|1988||Shelton Jones||PF||Spurs||St. John's||1988-1989||1|
Of the guys above, Carroll, Afflalo, Kleiza, Thompson, and Battle have all spent time with the Nuggets, but Denver has not selected 27th over the past 25 years. Yes, Kleiza was likely a pick the Nuggets had the Blazers make for them, but it was still a trade.
Only three of the 25 picks (12-percent) washed out of the NBA within two seasons. The 13 guys who are not currently in the NBA and played more than two seasons averaged 6.8 years in the league.
What will the Nuggets do with the pick?
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
The Denver Nuggets own the 27th pick in the upcoming, June 27th, NBA draft. Yes, that's a long way away - especially when you consider that Fast and Furious 6 will be out before the draft (May 24th! Who's coming with me?!). The Nuggets do not currently own a second-round pick as their pick belongs to the Phoenix Suns via the Los Angeles Lakers (I believe from the Chu Chu Maduabum trade of 2011).
So, what will the Nuggets do with their pick? We'll look at some early mock drafts (remember the Nuggets have yet to even work anybody out) and discuss areas of need for the Nuggets.
Some things to consider heading into the 2013 draft:
-The Nuggets have up to five players that could be gone next season in Corey Brewer (unrestricted free agent), Timofey Mozgov and Julyan Stone (potential restricted free agents), Quincy Miller (team option), and Andre Iguodala (could become an unrestricted free agent if he opts out of the last year of his deal, which is a $16.1M player option).
-The Nuggets could trade up into the draft to acquire a player they like. Perhaps a more rounded big man? Here is a look at the top big men in the draft by Sean Sullivan from Bright Side of the Sun.
-The Nuggets could trade down or out of the first round to get some second-round talent that they could perhaps try to store overseas or in the D-League.
-The Nuggets could trade out of the draft all together - something Masai Ujiri has yet to do in his time in Denver.
Areas of need for the Nuggets?
Well, this is the tough question. Let's tackle it position-by-position:
Point Guard: The Nuggets could always use a young point guard to compete with Andre Miller and Stone. Or the Nuggets could let Stone walk and focus on drafting a third point guard to challenge Miller and maybe Lawson, down the line.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward: With Iguodala's situation up in the air and Danilo Gallinari recovering from knee surgery, the Nuggets might have a need here. Fournier has shown promise and Hamilton has been waiting for an opportunity, but you can never have enough shooting or solid defenders ... especially young prospects. The Nuggets' ability to spot a guy like Fournier late shows there could be promise for more quality in the draft.
Power Forward: A position I thought the Nuggets might address in the draft last season. When the Magic took Andrew Nicholson with the No. 19 pick, I thought they stole Denver's pick - George Karl mentioned during the season that Denver would have taken Nicholson had he been there at No. 20. Might the Nuggets look to draft a well-rounded big man? Not a bad thought, but with Kenneth Faried and Anthony Randolph competing for minutes, it'd be an uphill battle for any rookie.
Center: Perhaps the Nuggets' deepest position. I would be surprised if Denver took a true center in the draft, but with Mozgov's situation up in the air, the Nuggets could look for depth here too.
Mock Drafts - the 27th pick:
Both Draft Express.com and ESPN's Chad Ford (hat tip to Tyler Lashbrook from Nugg Love) have the Nuggets selecting shooting guard Allen Crabbe, 21 years old, out of California with the pick. He's a 6'6", 205 pound kid with long arms who will be forgoing his senior season to enter the NBA.
Reminds Nate of: Andre Iguodala. From his long arms to his jump shot, he looks a bit like Iguodala out there. Obviously he has a long way to go once he gets into the NBA, but I'm just saying he sort of gives off that kind of impression in his playing style.
Rated as Draft Express' 27th player in their Top 100. From Draft Express:
Crabbe's primary asset on the offensive end is his shooting stroke, where he has excellent form, elevation, and touch, with range beyond the NBA three point line. Crabbe is very good as a catch and shoot threat, something which he should be able to translate to the next level immediately. Overall, Crabbe shot 44.1% on catch and shoot opportunities according to Synergy Sports Technology, which in and of itself is already a very good mark. However, due to Crabbe's role as the focal point of the Golden Bears offense, a disproportionately high percentage of these came with a hand in his face.
From NBA Draft.net: They have the Nuggets selecting DeShaun Thomas, 21 years old, the small forward/power forward out of Ohio State. He's a 6'7", 225 pound lefty. I was trying to remember the last time Denver had a left and it hit me ... Anthony Randolph.
Reminds Nate of: Nobody really. A nice outside shot and a very raw post game. Looks like he depends quite a bit on shooting in rhythm from the perimeter.
Draft Express rates him as the 47th best prospect in their Top 100:
Thomas has done most of his damage with his jump shot this season, but remains a productive finisher and one-on-one threat in the post. Accounting for 25% of Ohio State's total possessions, up from 18% last year, Thomas has fared well in a large roler that has tested his skill set, although his efficiency has dipped and his strengths and weaknesses as a prospect remain largely unchanged.
Nate's choice: Shane Larkin, 20 years-old, point guard
A guy I wouldn't mind seeing the Nuggets select if he's there: Shane Larkin out of Miami (The U!). He's a 5'11" and 162 pound scoring point guard. He's also the son of former Major League Baseball player Barry Larkin - it has been working out well considering history of players with dads that were former pros. Consider that Lawson is 5'11" and 195 pounds - Larkin is a little light, but could easily add a few pounds with Steve Hess training him.
Reminds Nate of: Mark Price. He will use his quickness, but he's not tricky about it. Just a burst and go guy with a nice jumper that leaps into his shot. Will look to distribute off a shot fake and is accustomed to being a leader.
Larkin rates out as Draft Express' 26th best prospect in their Top 100:
People's choice: Erick Green, 22 years old, point guard
I've received a few emails and a tweets from people asking me to check out Green's game and hoping that the Nuggets will draft him. He was a senior and is coming out of Virginia Tech. He's a nice sized point guard at 6'3" and 185 pounds.
Reminds Nate of: Russell Westbrook. He's not the explosive finisher that Westbrook is, but he gets the ball and just goes in a B-Line to the rim. He has a pretty nice stroke on his shot, which already looks better than a guy like Westbrook. He could come in and challenge for minutes right away. Again, this isn't to say he'll be Westbrook - a guy many Nuggets fans do not like - but just his impressions on the court reminded me of the OKC guard.
Draft Express rates him as the 30th prospect in their Top 100:
Last time we checked in our Erick Greena little under a year ago, he was coming off a strong junior season that saw him pick up where Malcolm Delaney left off as Virginia Tech's leading scorer. Despite the departure of Head Coach Seth Greenberg and the Hokies' struggles in ACC play (3-12 thus far, last place), Green has been among the most improved players in the country and ranks as the nation's top scorer by a significant margin.
Standing 6'3 with a thin, wiry frame and near 6'7 wingspan, Green is a natural scorer who can put points on the board in bunches with his pull-up jump shot and ability to get to the free throw line, but has also shown improvement as a distributor this season, particularly in the pick and roll. Fitting the mold of a modern, up-tempo, scoring point guard, the senior's skills have been tested on a nightly basis this season as his team's first option, primary ball-handler, and end-all, be-all solution on the offensive end.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
Nuggets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri gave a very passionate speech today at Pepsi Center. He thanked folks who helped him along the way and talked about trading in the award for a shot to still be playing in the post-season.
Like Ujiri said, this award is a little bit different. The press does not vote on the Executive of the Year - it's an award voted on by the members of all NBA front offices. You can check out Ujiri's press conference video by clicking here. And here is how the voting broke down:
I tend to think of this award as a cumulative one of Ujiri's work in Denver thus far, but it's voted on for the work this season and here is what Ujiri accomplished in the off-season with the Nuggets:
2.) Re-signed Andre Miller to a 3-year, $14.6 million deal that comes with a buyout in year three.
3.) Re-signed Ty Lawson to a 4-year, $48 million extension. Could Lawson have gotten more money this off-season had he waited to ink a deal?
4.) Re-signed JaVale McGee to a 4-year, $44 million extension. A deal that will hopefully start to pay off this coming season as McGee was signed based off potential. A risky deal, but not a salary cap killer if McGee doesn't pan out.
6.) Traded for Andre Iguodala in a three-way trade that sent Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, and a 1st Round pick (2014 - the least favorable pick of either Denver's or New York's selection) to the Orlando Magic.
A fairly busy off-season for Ujiri, Pete D'Alessandro, and Josh Kroenke. The Iguodala acquisition will be viewed as either a success or risk based on what he does this summer. If he comes back to Denver, that goes a way in showing that the Nuggets are an attractive franchise to a player that wants a shot to win the title.
There were certainly other general managers deserving of votes. Glen Grunwald of the New York Knicks made plenty of moves to get that team the No. 2 seed out East. Gary Sacks of the Clippers did a nice job filling that team with veterans (didn't get a quality big man to play in crunch-time, lost both Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin). Bob Myers of the Warriors did a wonderful job getting Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry in free agency and drafting three rookies that are blossoming in the playoffs in Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli. And you have Daryl Morey who brought in James Harden, Omar Asik, Carlos Delfino, Jeremy Lin, and Patrick Beverley (and traded for a lotto pick in Thomas Robinson).
Having this award voted on by other general managers and front office executives is really an honor for Ujiri. Now, let's just hope the Nuggets can sign him to an extension.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
In the week that has passed since the Nuggets were again eliminated from the first round of the playoffs, George Karl has faced withering criticism from Denver's fan-base, national observers and a slew of other pundits. Even as we collectively get over our saudade for a playoff round beyond the first, Karl deserves credit for his accomplishments during the NBA's regular season. To wit, via NBA.com:
* The Nuggets went 57-25 (.695) -- the league's fourth-best record -- despite beginning the season as the league's third-youngest team with an average age of 24.9 years, and not having a player score more than 16.7 points per game during the regular season. According to NBA.com/Stats, the Nuggets ranked third in assists (24.4 apg), generating an assist on 60.0 percent of their made field goals. Denver ranked fifth in player impact estimate (53.8 percent), offensive rating (107.6) and net rating (+5.6).
* The Nuggets' 38-3 record at Pepsi Center was a franchise-best and tied for the 14th best home record in league annals. Additionally, their .927 winning percentage at home was the highest since 2008-09 when the Cleveland Cavaliers went 39-2 (.951) at Quicken Loans Arena.
* In his 25th season as an NBA head coach (ninth with Denver), Karl earned two Western Conference Coach of the Month awards during the 2012-13 campaign. He won for March after leading Denver to a conference-best 13-2 (.867) mark, which included wins in the first 12 games of the month, feeding a 15-game, franchise-tying-best winning streak. He earned his first monthly nod in January after the Nuggets opened the New Year with a 12-3 (.800) record. During January, Karl passed Larry Brown for sixth place on the all-time coaching wins list and notched his 1,100th career win.
*The sixth-winningest coach in NBA annals and the active wins leader, Karl has amassed 1,131 career victories in the NBA, including a streak of 21-straight non-losing seasons -- tied with Phil Jackson (21, 1989-90-2010-11) for the most in NBA history.
Those are accomplishments worthy of plaudits no matter how much we might gnash our teeth about the lack of success in the postseason. After being handed a "starless" squad that fit his vision of winning with "teamness", Karl showed just how powerful that concept could be over an 82 game season. Nobody expected the young Nuggets - if you take 37 year old Andre Miller out of the equation, the Nuggets are the youngest NBA team in the league - to have competed as well as they did, given their youth, brutal road schedule and the pressure of incorporating Andre Iguodala's talents into the team. Not even the Nuggets!
Karl and his coaching staff turned a squad of NBA cast-offs into the fourth best team in the league during the regular season, without an All-Star and without a player averaging more than 17 points per game. The Nuggets thrilled fans at The Can, posting a franchise record 38 wins at home (in 41 games). In fact, this team may very well have matched the all-time 40-1 home record held by the 1985-1986 Boston Celtics were it not for a pair of befuddling losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards.
Any coach which is able to guide his team to such success and so consistently - only Gregg Popovich can claim to have guided his team to as many consecutive postseason berths as George Karl - deserves to be recognized as one of the best. Karl's excellent at managing minutes and understanding the grind of the regular season, never letting his team get too down on themselves after losses or too overconfident after a series of wins. His single greatest strength, to me, is how his even-keeled demeanor (especially following his bouts with cancer) is able to keep a team calm. As frustrated I have been with Karl in the recent past, jeremiads on his coaching without recognizing his decade-long regular season success are misplaced.
With that being said...
Karl has done and won practically everything a coach can do and win during the regular season. To avoid being relegated to the dustbin of NBA coaching history like Don Nelson, however, Karl's Nuggets must succeed in the playoffs from now until his tenure with the franchise ends. There is no more room for failure.
At the beginning of this season, with the Nuggets coming off a 4-3 series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, many of us - myself included - thought this past season would be the one in which Karl took this developing team to the next level. The Nuggets had acquired one of the best wing stoppers in the game in Iguodala and had simultaneously relieved themselves of an aging Al Harrington and an overpaid Arron Afflalo. They picked up the hyper-athletic and utterly enigmatic JaVale McGee in exchange for an over the hill and oft-injured Nene. After coming into the new year with a record above .500 - which was astonishing, given 22 of their first 32 games were on the road - the Nuggets fought and clawed their way into home court advantage.
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, they suffered a season-ending ACL injury to Danilo Gallinari with just six games to go to the playoffs. All of a sudden, the Nuggets were without one of their leading scorers and a player who was a lynchpin of their defensive schemes - Gallinari, Iguodala and a finally-healthy Wilson Chandler switching together were capable of shutting down teams from the perimeter routinely. To add injury to injury, the Nuggets also lost Kenneth Faried to a twisted ankle and Ty Lawson to a torn plantar fascia down the stretch, testing just how deep the Nuggets actually were. To believe that these injuries to Gallinari, Faried and Lawson in the final games of the season didn't impact how this team approached and performed in the postseason is foolish.
However: do I believe that these injuries were insurmountable? No. If anything, the ability of the Warriors (David Lee), Bulls (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng), Thunder (Russell Westbrook) and Pacers (Danny Granger) to sustain significant injuries to their stars and still move on to later rounds in the playoffs shows that injuries can be overcome. In the case of the Warriors, though... they are something special this year, folks. There's a lot of similarities to the way they have run their 2-3 zone and rained three pointers to excellent effect against both the Spurs and the Nuggets, and the champion 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks squad with Dirk Nowitzki (and Corey Brewer, natch). They just took game 2 and homecourt advantage from a veteran, well-coached Spurs team in a very similar fashion to the way they did against the Denver Nuggets.
Karl's coaching mistakes in this year's playoffs have been exhaustively detailed both here on Denver Stiffs and by many other observers. I think it is fair to say that Karl deserves criticism for his over-reliance on Andre Miller, unwillingness to trust in his rookies, and dependence on a defensive scheme against a team that matched up against it perfectly.
Karl's lineups were a product of his belief that the Nuggets could compete with any team no matter how big or small they played, despite what the snap of the net following a Stephen Curry three or Andrew Bogut dunk seemed to scream at anyone who was watching. I've watched enough of Karl's playoff games to see that perhaps his biggest weakness is being too slow to react to a team's momentum and make critical in-game adjustments. He absolutely must do a better job of understanding when schemes aren't working and that the margin for error is nil in executing his gameplan. That means accountability for players who aren't following it, as I would have liked to have seen for Corey Brewer and Andre Miller at times during this latest series loss.
While this piece may at points read like more Karl apologia, ultimately this franchise is not and was never going to part ways with a coach who just guided the fourth-youngest team in the NBA to franchise records in home wins, consecutive wins and overall wins. Masai Ujiri's long game was/is to construct a roster full of young talent and develop it - Masai explicitly said that "[the Nuggets are] not a contending team". The Nuggets were never going to survive the slog through the brutal Western conference this season sans Gallinari (or even with him), then somehow go on to defeat LeBron James and the Heat in the NBA Finals.
I don't believe that's acceptance of failure, but an acknowledgement that this team was still missing some crucial pieces, was sidetracked by injury, and was gaining experience that will allow them to finally flourish in the postseason. With a few of the right moves in the offseason made by newly-minted Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri, the Nuggets could, actually, be this close from the Finals trip we all desperately crave.
On the flipside of that same coin, Karl should be held accountable for his performance in the upcoming postseason (to speak nothing of what missing the playoffs entirely would mean for this team). Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri must take a long look at Karl's performance in this upcoming season and ask themselves some hard questions about if he's a coach that can ever take this franchise to the next level.
George Karl, thank you for everything you've brought to the Nuggets organization. You've guided this team to successful regular seasons in every season you've been here. It is time for more. You need to prove to this organization and this team's fans that you can win when the chips are down. That you can adjust to the intensity of the playoffs. That you can find ways to overcome adversity and injury. You've been given more chances than many. Your regular season record qualifies you as one of the best regular season coaches in the history of the game.
The last two early playoff exits and two offseasons worth of roster tinkering - on top of eight previous first round exits with Karl at the helm - need to be looked at as the fire clearing away the underbrush of failure to let the shoots of success take root. The seeds have been planted, watered and nurtured - it's time to see growth.
With the Twitterverse going crazy about a major announcement by the NBA and Denver Nuggets set for tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. MT - all sorts of guesses started flying. The Nuggets moving to Seattle? Laughable. The 2015 All Star game in Denver? George Karl retiring? The Nuggets getting their own D-League team? Masai Ujiri to get the Executive of the Year award? Ding ding ding, according to the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman.
Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri will be named the NBA's executive of the year on Thursday, a source told The Denver Post on Wednesday night.
Ujiri, the first African-born GM in major American sports, put together Denver's roster, a squad that won 57 games, most in Nuggets NBA history.
The guess-work by Denver's media has become hilarious at this point. Hochman is the guy with all the scoops and was on top of the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Evan Fournier draft pick, and all sorts of other goodies. I typically wait until I see something from Hochman and that lets me know it's good to go. Great work from our local beat writer!
Masai has done a wonderful job since coming to the Nuggets and he'll be the third Nuggets executive to win the award. Vince Boryla won it for his work during the 1984-85 season, Mark Warkentein won it for his work during the 2008-09 season, and Masai will take it this season.
It's actually hard to believe that this is the first time George Karl has won the Coach of the Year award in the NBA considering all the success he had with the Seattle Supersonics in the 1990's (even leading them to a Finals appearance against the Chicago Bulls in 1996) . Yet it is true. After leading the Denver Nuggets to a franchise best 57 wins this season, Karl will receive for the first time the award for coaching excellence.
Karl earned 62 first-place votes and 404 points overall. Rounding out the top five in voting were Miami's Erik Spoelstra, New York's Mike Woodson, San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Indiana's Frank Vogel.
We can all argue the merits of playoff success (probably legitimately), but I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Karl deserves this award for the run the Nuggets went on this regular season. Overcoming a start to the regular season that featured 22 of their first 32 games on the road, this Nuggets team excited and thrilled Nuggets fans all season and showed great promise. The Nuggets were 11-12 at the end of December and they went 46-13 the rest of the way.
The Nuggets flamed out in the first round of the playoffs, but this is NOT a playoff award, this is for the regular season. Under that criteria you cannot give this award to anyone else but the leader of the "starless" Denver Nuggets. While we all have serious reservations about Karl as a coach, we can all acknowledge that this year had the potential to be something special based on the regular season.
You can watch Karl accepting the award on Altitude TV at 11:30 am today.
Well Nuggets fans, it's been nearly a week since the Nuggets disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs. You're hurt. You want to know what went wrong and what you can do about it. Maybe you want to lash out at a player? Maybe George Karl?
Well, we at the Colorado Sports Guys are your one stop shop for all your post-playoff depression needs.
To start Nate "ankle socks" Timmons, Ross "Hipster Glasses" Martin and Jeff "no nickname yet" Morton discuss old Todd Helton and his two "Eskimo cups" of wine. Wondering what Peyton Manning would do if he was there with Helton at the time. Then, Ross discusses Kenneth Faried and his two moms in this week's headlines.
Jeff rants about the benefits of a theoretical massive anti-trust suit against the NBA from the people attempting to purchase the Kings from Seattle (Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer). Jeff (poorly) argues that maybe a business culture change will happen in the NBA and maybe owners will stop extorting gigantic subsidies from cities when they wish a new arena to be built. Keep in mind Jeff is not a lawyer and he's really just throwing out ideas here. So take this with a grain of salt.
Finally Nate talks about disappointment with the Nuggets and the potential for loss of fans because of another first round flame out. He asks how much responsibility George Karl bears and what the Nuggets can do going forward. Also Nate talks about the three things he will do now that the Nuggets are in their off season.
Update: It was just announced this morning that George Karl has won Coach of the Year honors in the NBA. Congratulations to George Karl! Also, listen to Colorado Sports Guys, particularly the last 45 minutes as Ross Martin vigorously defends Karl to his detractors.
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The Denver Nuggets will have to make decisions on Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Timofey Mozgov, Julyan Stone, and Quincy Miller in the coming months. What are these decisions and when do they have to be made?
|July 1, 2013||Salary cap year begins|
|Free agents become free|
|Unrenounced free agents, scale amounts for first round picks playing outside the NBA, and roster charges are applied to team salary|
|Free agents can be renounced|
|July 8-11 (date varies by year)||Salary cap adjusts|
|Teams can sign free agents and make trades|
|Contracts can be extended|
|July 23||Last day to withdraw a qualifying offer to a restricted free agent without the player's consent|
|October 1||Last day for a restricted free agent to accept a Qualifying Offers|
|October 31||Last day to exercise option years on rookie scale contracts|
|Last day rookie scale contracts can be extended|
Denver Nuggets *unrestricted free agents:
Corey Brewer: 27 years old, turns 28 on March 5th, 2014.
Brewer's last contract was signed by the Dallas Mavericks back in 2011 using the Mid Level Exception and was a three-year deal for $7.4 million, plus incentives. This past season he had a $3.2 million deal with additional incentives up to $575,000.
Brewer had a very comparable season to his 2009-10 campaign with the Minnesota Timberwolves - that season he started and played in all 82 games and averaged 30 minutes a night. This was only Brewer's second season averaging double-digits in the scoring department with 12.1 points per game. Brewer also played for par on his shooting percentages by practically mirroring his career totals in field goal-percentage (42% on the season, 41% for his career) and three-point-percentage (29%). Brewer took a career-high 3.7 threes per game, but didn't improve on his shooting percentages.
At this point in his career, Brewer is who he is and that's a high-risk, high-reward player who will give maximum energy and effort whenever he is on the floor. It's hard to compare Brewer to anyone in the league and that makes it difficult to determine what his value will be on the open market.
Brewer is a good match for George Karl's chaotic coaching style, but it may be in the team's best interest to go a different direction and add a sharp-shooter instead of bringing Brewer back. With limited money this off-season, it could spell the end of Brewer in Denver. He could be an option to come back if the Nuggets strike out with some other options in free agency.
*Unrestricted free agent means that the player is free to sign with any team and his previous team (the Nuggets) will not have the ability to match a contract once it is signed.
Nuggets restricted free agents:
In order to be a restricted free agent, teams must tender qualifying offers between the day following the last game of the NBA Finals and June 30, 2013. Once an offer is tendered, the player is then a restricted free agent (after meeting certain criteria after rookie scale contracts) and that player is free to sign an offer sheet with any team, but the previous team is given three days to match the deal or they lose the player for nothing.
Restricted free agents are also given the option to sign the qualifying offer with their current team and play out a one-year deal. After that single season, the player is then an unrestricted free agent in the off-season.
Timofey Mozgov: Will be 27 years old on July 16th.
Qualifying Offer: $3.92 million.
Mozgov's season was one I'm sure he'd like to forget. He appeared in just 41 games this year, despite starting 35 games for the Nuggets in the lockout shortened 66 game 2011-12 campaign. Moz had a fine Olympics and some thought he might have a breakout season for the Nuggets. Instead, he lost his starting job to Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee ate up all the backup minutes. Even Anthony Randolph saw playing time down the stretch over Moz.
With Koufos again being demoted in the playoffs (he was benched in favor of Mozgov against the Lakers in 2012 and replaced as a starter, but came off the bench in the 2013 playoffs against the Warriors), could the center position be up for grabs? Mozgov would be an older option and more expensive option over Koufos' $3 million salary, so it would surprise me if the Nuggets bring Timofey back.
Masai Ujiri has a track record for not letting assets walk, but it'll be interesting to see what Denver does with Mozgov. Some scenarios that could play out:
1.) Moz signs the qualifying offer and plays for $3.9 million this season and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2014. Players rarely choose this option.
2.) Moz signs an offer sheet with another team and the Nuggets have three-days to match said offer or they lose Timo for nothing.
3.) Moz signs a new deal with the Nuggets to perhaps be the third string center again. This would be an odd situation for Mozgov's playing time when 7-footers are in-demand around the league.
4.) The Nuggets work out a sign-and-trade with Mozgov to a team that meets the new sign-and-trade restrictions - which will limit the amount of teams that can do sign-and-trade deals starting this off-season because of salary cap situations.
If the Nuggets do bring Mozgov back, what does that mean for Koufos and McGee? Will the Nuggets bring in a bonafide big man coach to get more value out of the post? Lots of questions for the Nuggets bigs.
Julyan Stone: 24 years old, turns 25 on Dec. 7th.
Qualifying Offer: $1.084 million.
Stone has had a frustrating start to his NBA career. After showing a little promise as a rookie, Stone suffered a similar hip injury as Wilson Chandler in the off-season, missed Summer League and pre-season, and only appeared in four games for the Nuggets this season because of the hip injury and a knee sprain that he suffered when he was able to return to the floor.
What do the Nuggets have in this 6'6" point guard? Karl talks about Stone's defense like he could be a major shutdown defender, but he lacks, for now, the shooting touch from the outside to be your classic Thabo Sefolosha, Dahntay Jones, or Bruce Bowen type of guard. He does possess nice court vision and can run the point in the most classic sense, but Karl's system requires the point guard to be an offensive threat in the drive and kick offense.
Can the Nuggets afford to take a $1 million gamble on Stone with money being tight heading into next season? If the Nuggets want to add a sharp-shooter they might not be able to afford to bring Stone back, or they at least might have to not tender him an offer and hope they can sign him as an unrestricted free agent.
I would like to see Stone back with the Nuggets, but I'm not confident that he will be able to return.
Nuggets with team and player options:
Player Option: Andre Iguodala and a $16.1 million option for the 2013-14 season
Iguodala is 29 years old and will be 30 on Jan. 28th, 2014.
I expect Iguodala to opt-out of his current deal so that he can lock up some long-term stability on perhaps his last major NBA contract. Iguodala has stated that a contending situation is ideal for him, but he also knows the business side of basketball will play a role in his next contract aka who can offer him a good deal. He has also stated that he doesn't want to be relied upon to handle a major scoring role with whatever team he signs with, so it'll be interesting to see if that really factors in. Iguodala is a diverse player that can fill it up when needed, but has shown he likes to focus on being more of an all-around player.
Looking around the league, last season Nets forward Gerald Wallace opted out of the last season on his deal that was scheduled to play him $9.5 million for the 2012-13 season. Wallace instead got a raise from the Nets (for one season) of $500,000 and signed a four-year deal that paid him $40 million ($10 million per season). Wallace is a year older than Iguodala, but Iguodala was a more productive player than Wallace this past season. So, anyone dreaming of Iguodala inking a deal for about $10 million per season should kiss that pipe-dream goodbye.
What about Nene? He signed a five-year, $65-67 million deal with the Nuggets, plus incentives, at practically the same age Iguodala is now. Nene's deal pays him $13 million per season and could be a lot more along the lines of what Iguodala could easily command.
I don't think people realize the importance of Iguodala on defense. Karl could throw him on just about anybody on any given night and Iguodala had success. He also forces the guys around him to raise the level of their games and paired very nicely with Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari in Denver's backcourt.
Offensively, Iguodala saw a dip over his career numbers in field goal-percentage, three point-percentage, and a big dip in free throw-percentage. With the Nuggets, Iguodala doesn't have to be the No. 1 or the No. 2 scoring option and can often finish No. 4 or No. 5 and still see the Nuggets win because of Lawson, Gallo, Kenneth Faried, and/or a number of other guys.
This is a good situation for Iguodala, but he should want to see the Nuggets be aggressive on the free agent and/or trade market to improve some areas on the team. Will Gallo's recovery play a role in Iguodala's decision? Consider that Gallo might not be 100-percent until the 2014-15 season and that's another year older for Iguodala.
Team Option: Quincy Miller and a $788K option
Miller will be 21 years-old on Nov. 18th.
Miller's rookie season was uneventful, as rookie seasons can be for young players on deep teams. Miller saw some time in the developmental league with the Iowa Energy and saw bit playing time for the Nuggets as he appeared in just seven games for the team.
Leaving Baylor University after his freshman season, Miller has had to quickly adjust to the NBA game of defending multiple looks and figuring out the Nuggets offense. He has stated numerous times during the season how much he had been learning and the coaches also commented on the strides Miller made. But how far away is he from getting into the Nuggets rotation? One step will be to see if Denver chooses to bring Miller back for his second NBA season. He's not slated to make a lot of money, but his roster spot is valuable on a deep team.
Miller also boasted about the weight he was able to add to his frame this season. He came to the team at roughly 208 pounds and has stated that he was up to about 230 pounds during the season. He's such a young kid that he has time to grow into his body, but we should not expect him to turn into a Reggie Evans type bruiser -- he'll likely have a similar body type to Kevin Durant (could get bigger than him, easily) throughout his career. How many drastic body changes have you seen at the NBA level? It's rare, but you can add the right kind of bulk - as Miller has been doing.
It'd be nice to see Miller back with the team to see what Denver has in the former second-round pick. He still must be considered to be a long-shot to get into any rotation, but he has a tremendous work ethic and you never know what you have in a 20 year-old.
2013 Draft picks:
1st Round: 27th overall pick.
2nd Round: The Nuggets traded their 2013 pick to the Lakers (in a previous deal), who in turn traded that pick to the Suns.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
One of the biggest story lines of this off-season for the Nuggets is the "free agent status" of Masai Ujiri. His contract with the Nuggets is up in June of this year, but Josh Kroenke sounds hopeful that the pair will continue working together:
"For the fans, they should know Masai wants to be here and I think he enjoys working for me. I think we make a pretty good team, along with (vice president of basketball operations) Pete D'Alessandro, (scouting coordinator) Dan Tolzman and the rest of our scouting staff. I wouldn't anticipate any issues there."
Kroenke went on record with Aaron Lopez of Nuggets.com in more depth about Ujiri, head coach George Karl, forward Andre Iguodala, and the direction of the team. It's a good read and you can check it out by clicking the link above or right here.
Bringing back Ujiri should the Nuggets' top priority. His track record with the team speaks for itself. The big trade with the Knicks, the deal to bring in Jordan Hamilton and Andre Miller, drafting Kenneth Faried and Evan Fournier in back-to-back drafts, re-signing Wilson Chandler, Nene and Arron Afflalo, re-signing Miller (who talked about wanting to go somewhere to start), trading for Iguodala, extending Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, and JaVale McGee. The list goes on and on.
Ujiri still has work to do as the Nuggets could use better post presence and more shooting - his job is never done. But the work Ujiri has done with the Nuggets shows that he's a very valuable part of the equation here and it'd be great to see him stay with Denver.
Bill Simmons can be a Boston sports loving condescending jackass sometimes. Wait, no, all the time. In a two part article about this year's playoffs, Simmons attempts to engender sympathy for Nuggets fans while simultaneously dismissing the team's entire history. It's very hard to accomplish that sort of thing, but there he was in black and while. Seriously. Look below.
Q: Why don't Nuggets fans ever get credit for being tortured?
Great question! They've only played in one Finals — in 1976, in the ABA, falling to Doctor J and the Nets in six game. Their franchise's greatest moment was beating Seattle in Round 1 of the 1994 playoffs. (Not a joke.) In 46 seasons, they've played in just six conference finals and lost five of them. They've lost in the first round nine of the past 10 years. Their four greatest players in franchise history were Carmelo Anthony (quit on them to play in New York), David Thompson (derailed by cocaine), Dan Issel (who made only one All-Star Game after Denver moved to the NBA) and Alex English (whose career highlight was playing an exhibition game with the '86 Celtics for a scene in Amazing Grace and Chuck). They've never drafted higher than third or signed a marquee free agent. During their best possible chance to win an NBA title (the late '70s, when they had Thompson and Issel and nearly made the 1977 Finals), they seized the moment by picking Tom Lagarde ninth in '77 (the previous two picks: Bernard King and Jack Sikma), then eventually dealing the wildly underrated Bobby Jones for the wildly overrated George McGinnis.
I could go on and on. Just know that last night's comeback/collapse/refpocalypse (four blown calls in the final three-plus minutes, including two killers against Denver in the final 12 seconds) felt perfectly Denver-y. The poor Denver fans need a break. You know, other than the statewide legalization of marijuana.
First off, he completely dismisses what is a great moment for THE NBA the 1994 Western Conference quarterfinals was. Against the No. 1 Seed (and very, very, very heavily favored) Seattle Supersonics, the Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to defeat the top seeded team in the conference as a No. 8 Seed. For those that weren't around then, or are too young to remember it, Seattle was a dominant team with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The Nuggets were left for dead after losing the first two games ... then the Nuggets came roaring back to win the next three (quarterfinals were best-of five back then) and quite literally stun the basketball world. (Let us not forget in the NEXT round the Nuggets were down 3-0 to the Utah Jazz and came roaring back to force a 7th game).
Then Simmons manages to insult three Basketball Hall of Fame players in Dan Issel, David Thompson and Alex English. The line about English particularly rankles because, I don't know, he made eight straight All-Star games and was the leading scorer of the 1980's. I know scoring over 2,000 points in eight consecutive seasons is nothing according to Simmons, but if he removed the Celtics-green colored glasses he'd probably appreciate the accomplishment a bit more.
Personal gripes with condescending national reporters aside, I think that the citizenry and sports media in Denver do an awful job of selling our own city. Too often we feel put-upon so we settle for the lazy national narrative that Denver is a fly-over city. That NBA players couldn't and wouldn't choose to come to Denver because we aren't a destination. This lazy and damaging narrative will only go on if we allow it to continue.
The Nuggets were bounced in the first round, again, and all the talk you hear (even from local reporters) is how star players won't come here. That it's a pipe dream and we need to just accept that it will never happen. It's about time that we change that. And no, it doesn't take some NFL-esque utopia either ... I believe it has been firmly established that the NFL exists entirely as its own entity and comparisons to other sports are highly futile.
It's up to us, and the people who speak for the city of Denver to defy the stereotype and, you know, actually sell the city, rather than just meekly agreeing to a life with no star players. All of us who live in Denver know its many virtues. We do a horrible job telling people that. While Denver may not have the "urban" advantages that other larger cities do, let us not forget that our advantages are plenty as well. Such as:
- Normally mild weather (this year not withstanding)
- Amazing outdoor activities
- Great people (every city has idiots)
- The Nuggets are always in the playoffs and you (insert star player) will be the one to put us over the top
- Rabid sports fans
- Players who WANT to play in Denver, thrive in Denver (English, Issel, Antonio McDyess ... for a time)
One of the reasons I like Danilo Gallinari so much is that he said he wants to finish his career in Denver. Do people understand how cool it is that one person wants to spend a good portion of his life and WORK in the city where you live? Maybe that's just me.
I hate the constant woe is me "put upon" theatrics that we go through every single year. Star player won't come here? That just means we need to do a better job of selling out city! No more saying "Aw Shucks" and then kicking the dirt like some latchkey kid from the 1950's. The only way we change the perception of Denver is if we change it ourselves. Maybe, once Chauncey Billups retires he can again become an ambassador for the city like he once was. All I know is it's time to make our own path brighter. Once the Nuggets re-sign Masai Ujiri we can build upon that 57 win year. What will that entail? Who knows?
It will happen though, IN DENVER. We just need to get the word out.
What are your favorite things about Denver?
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78
Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke spoke with the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman today about George Karl. The coach is coming under fire from the media and fans alike for the way his team finished the season. Here is a snippet of what Kroenke had to say:
"George is under contract for next year. At this point in time, we haven't really given any thought to making any change whatsoever," Nuggets president Josh Kroenke told The Denver Post and nuggets.com.
This is such a hot topic and a topic that has a few different outlooks.
Camp 1: Fire and replace Karl.
Camp 2: Keep Karl, but replace his trust player(s): Andre Miller being the big name mentioned.
Camp 3: Keep Karl, the team is young and still improving.
I definitely had my qualms about Karl's coaching throughout the season and during the playoffs. I wanted to see JaVale McGee, Evan Fournier, and Jordan Hamilton get more time on the floor this season. From what we saw in the post-season it looks like McGee could be ready to challenge for the starting role next season. Karl was asked about that today and said McGee will be nudged more in the starting direction, but he wouldn't commit to McGee as his starter - despite what McGee showed in the playoffs.
The big thing Denver was missing in the playoffs was a knockdown shooter - for me: Hamilton is still a totally unknown. He didn't get any meaningful or regular minutes this season after spending the entire summer in Denver working with the Nuggets on his game. The knock on Hamilton has been his defense, but judging from what we saw out of Brewer and Miller ... Karl is willing to play guys who gamble.
Karl also talked today about wanting to keep pushing Ty Lawson in the leader role. George said Ty made strides as the team's leader this season, even though he's not very vocal - Karl seems to like how Ty stepped up. Karl said he would be in contact throughout the off-season with Ty, like he was last year too. It seemed Lawson really bought into Karl's system and was one of the few guys on the team willing to talk publicly about the team needing to be more focused and perhaps not doing what the coaching staff was asked.
The other big thing for Nuggets fans is the excuse factor. People say that this is the team Karl has been asking for. Some people even go so far as to say Karl chased Carmelo Anthony out of town. Did Karl really ask for Danilo Gallinari to tear an ACL? Thus the other excuse ... people like me are going to offer up an excuse for Karl. You cannot tell me that if the Nuggets were healthy they wouldn't have ran through the Warriors.
Once Kenneth Faried got himself back into the series (about Game 4) things started to look up for Denver. Gallo showed that his presence on this team may have been bigger than most thought. But we have guys like Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls who has found ways to get things done without Derrick Rose. It is up to Karl to find ways to win without a player or two and he was unable to do that.
I also can't get the images of Brewer and Wilson Chandler and others missing big shots in Game 6 out of my head. Brewer was just 1-8 shooting and 0-5 from downtown. What if a guy like J.J. Redick was taking those five threes? Would he have made three of them?
The reason I bring up Redick? With the Nuggets winning 57 games in the regular season - we shouldn't forget that! Are the Nuggets still really far away? The work of the front office and coaches is not done, they still have room to improve - if that's the direction they want to go.
I could see the Nuggets tinkering with the roster and giving it another go next season. I could also see the Nuggets deciding to blow things up and wanting to go in a new direction. Both paths have their pros-and-cons. I don't know what the right course of action would be, but lucky for me I just have to react to what the franchise decides.
I enjoyed watching this Nuggets team and I thought they had a real chance in the post-season, despite losing Gallo. I was not right. I would have liked to see this team with Gallo, even Lawson mentioned today that had it been Gallo taking some of the open shots in this series that it could have been a different series.
Lots of questions this summer, but it looks like George Karl will be back on the bench next season. What players will be subtracted and added for the 2013-14 campaign? We'll find out soon.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
This is from Iguodala's presser with the media. The gist of the media question is in bold.
How will you look back on this season? Did the team fall short?
"Obviously, we wanted to go deeper into the playoffs," said Nuggets forward Andre Iguodala. "Hopefully we learn from the situation and have similar success in the regular season and get back in the playoffs."
Do you want to be a part of this team moving forward?
"When I got to [Los Angeles] and sit down and talk to my agent - we'll start having conversations," said Iguodala. "I didn't really think the season would be ending this early. It was never on my mind what I would do next year."
A highlight for you from the season that was?
"How quickly I adjusted to my teammates," said Iguodala. "I think it kind of showed in the fourth quarter last night. Even when we were down throughout the game, Ty and I, we continued to have conversations with the team. To lead the guys. I've never had such great comradery with teammates that quickly. We really came together. We gelled."
Will how these playoffs played out give you less hope of success in Denver?
"It doesn't give me less hope," said Iguodala. "Especially considering we had our leading scorer down [Danilo Gallinari] and our youth - they have nowhere to go but up."
Specifically with how the playoffs unfolded, less hope for you?
"I don't think so," said Iguodala. "I know what type of potential this team has; so that won't weight heavily on my decision."
What factors will weight into your potential free agent decisions this off-season?
"The timeline of my career," said Iguodala. "I definitely want to win a championship. The front office knows what I bring to the team, so we'll see what happens. There are so many factors that I haven't even thought of yet. Which is why I'll just sit down and weight all my options, take my time with it, and not rush into anything."
Can the Nuggets win a title with you?
"I think we have the opportunity," said Iguodala. "We have some ingredients and I think the pieces that are missing - Masai [Ujiri] has found a way to bring that in. I think that started with bringing me here. He's really hungry, Coach [George] Karl is hungry, and we have a lot of hungry players as well."
What did you like about the city of Denver?
"I didn't get a chance to see the city much," said Iguodala. "I was always here. I was just in basketball mode the whole time. I've seen how respectful and such great fans we have here. Being a part of that is something some people may take for granted. It was a good thing."
How long will this playoff exit stick with you?
"I didn't go to sleep last night until 9 o'clock (a.m.) and I woke up at 11 [a.m.]," said Iguodala. "I'll be up for a couple days."
Nate_Timmons on Twitter
At game's end, the mass exodus happened so quickly at Jake's Food & Spirits last night that I could barely shake the hands of the 150-plus Stiffs that had arrived hours before for a thrilling Game 6.
Ninth time in 10 years in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Of the nine first round exits we've witnessed since 2004, this one hurts the most. Not only had our Denver Nuggets won an NBA franchise-best 57 regular season games (including a franchise best 15 straight wins), but this band of Nuggets players captured our hearts as fans unlike any Nuggets team since the 1993-94 squad that also had that incredible sense of "teamness" about it, as head coach George Karl likes to say. This current Nuggets team had virtually no ego, no pretension and no arrogance about it and yet it was able to embrace every challenge thrown in front of them: the brutal early season schedule with an unreasonable number of road games and back-to-backs, injuries to key players including Wilson Chandler, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, fearsome Western Conference opposition (at least five teams in the west won at least 56 games), and so forth.
Moreover, the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets were well positioned for a long playoff run. Not only were the Nuggets seeded third overall against an upstart Golden State Warriors team that won 10 less games than they did, but an aging, potentially vulnerable San Antonio Spurs squad awaited in Round 2 and a Russell Westbrook-less, James-Harden-less Oklahoma City Thunder team - if they survive their own first round series, thanks to Harden wearing the opponent's uniform now - potentially awaited in the conference finals.
But instead, the most inspiring of seasons went up in smoke thanks to an uninspiring playoff performance. Allowing the underdog Warriors to get the best of them early and often in their first round playoff matchup, the Nuggets ceded that valuable home court advantage by dropping Game 2 at Pepsi Center and then compounded the problem by playing poorly in Game 4 at Oakland, turning a blowout victory into a close call in Game 5 back in Denver and showing up for just the early and very late parts of Game 6 last night.
And while there's objectively no question that the referees inexcusably botched two late calls in Game 6, the Nuggets ultimately have only themselves to blame for putting themselves in a position to let a playoff series be determined by a bad call or two. (I'll be eternally befuddled by the out-of-bounds call in particular as it was reviewed on slow motion replay and was still called incorrectly. Making matters worse, in recapping the game NBATV's post-game show made no mention of how close that call was ... meaning the NBA is trying to sweep the issue under the rug.)
Simply put, you can't win a road game (or even a home game) in the NBA playoffs while shooting a season-worst 34.7% from the field, missing 21 three-pointers, missing eight free throws and being out-rebounded by 11. As I said to my colleague Nate Timmons while watching Corey Brewer chuck errant three-pointer after errant three-pointer last night: "Are the refs taking those shots? Are the refs forcing Karl to keep Brewer in the game?"
And yet, somehow the Nuggets put themselves in a position to tie the game late had the referees just done their job right. That doesn't mean the Nuggets would have necessarily won Game 6, of course, but they'd at least have had an overtime opportunity.
But after sleeping on this loss and pouring over the Game 6 statistics one more time, it's clear to me that the Warriors had the Nuggets number. So concerned were the Nuggets about containing point guard Stephen Curry and his guard teammates Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson (who collectively shot 11-37 from the field and turned the ball over 11 times), that they allowed center Andrew Bogut to kill them inside with 14 points (on 7-10 shooting), 21 rebounds and four blocks. Bogut quickly reminded everyone why he's a former number one overall draft pick and why JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos remain works in progress.
The Warriors are now 5-0 in first round series since 1978 when they're the underdog. Like their playoff-upsetting predecessors before them, the Warriors played loose and had their favored opponent on its heels early. And most unfortunately, like their playoff-disappointing predecessors before them, our favored Nuggets couldn't take advantage of controlling home court in the first round ... something they worked so hard to claim in the regular season. The Nuggets are now 2-8 all-time (in the NBA) in Game 6's, 1-2 under Coach Karl (I'm not including the Game 6 loss on Adrian Dantley's watch in 2010 which officially makes Karl's Denver playoff record 1-3 in Game 6's).
In the days and weeks to come, we'll analyze where the Nuggets go from here and continually question what could have been as the Warriors get trounced by the Spurs in Round 2 and Kevin Durant's Thunder get beaten up by a Memphis Grizzlies squad the Nuggets were able to best during the regular season in three out of four games. Our Nuggets should have been a part - a big part - of the NBA's second round playoff dance card in 2013. But alas, they will not. And it's not because of the referees.
It's because the Nuggets picked a bad time to forget how they won 57 games.