Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming. Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players. Still, The Sports Bank continues to break down all thirty NBA teams to see what areas they need to address in the off-season.
The Denver Nuggets more than held their own after the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the New York Knicks. Still, the team has some critical decisions to make this off-season about some of their younger talent.
By: David Kay
Denver Nuggets (50-32 last season)
’10-’11 Season in Review:
How many teams would be able to trade away their top two players for young talent, none of which are superstars but rather role players, and actually improve? I know one for sure; the Denver Nuggets.
After months of never-ending speculation, the Nuggets finally pulled the trigger on a deal that sent free agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Knicks for Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, future draft picks, and cash. Instead of struggling post-blockbuster deal, the Nuggets actually ended the season by winning 18 of their final 25 games and earning the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
With Melo and Mr. Big Shot in the Big Apple, George Karl utilized a team approach in which ten players regularly saw at least fourteen minutes of floor time per night. In fact, nine players on their final roster ended up averaging between 8 and 16 points per game.
Ty Lawson replaced Billups as the team’s starting point guard although Felton saw plenty of playing time as well as Karl was not afraid to play his two point guards at the same time. Shooting guard Aaron Afflalo had his best season as a pro while J.R. Smith continued in his role as a scorer off the bench.
New additions Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler split time stepping in for Anthony at small forward and saw a fair amount of minutes on the floor together when Karl went with a smaller line-up. That was needed as veterans Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington began to show their age combining for disappointing seasons. Nene brought stability to the center position which was needed since the Birdman was in and out of the line-up throughout the season due to injury.
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: ^Nene/Chris Andersen/Timofey Mozgov/Kosa Koufos
PF: Al Harrington
SF: Danilo Gallinari/*Wilson Chandler
SG: #Aaron Afflalo
PG: Ty Lawson/Raymond Felton
#SG-Aaron Afflalo (RFA)
*SF-Wilson Chandler (RFA)
PF-Kenyon Martin (UFA)
SG-J.R. Smith (UFA)
SF-Gary Forbes (UFA)
PF-Melvin Ely (UFA)
’11-’12 Team Salary: Approximately $40.2 million
1. Is Nene Worth Locking Up?:
Nene has until June 30 to make a decision on whether or not he will opt out of the final year of his contract that would earn him $11.6 million next season. Denver has been trying to lock Nene up to a long-term extension since February but the two sides have yet to agree on a deal. While the Brazilian is a solid NBA big man, which is usually hard to find, I do not think he is worth breaking the bank for. If Nene’s asking price is too high, do not be surprised if the Nuggets try to deal the big man.
2. Power Forward:
With K-Mart a free agent and Al Harrington coming off an underwhelming season, the Nuggets should be in the market for a starting power forward unless Karl is okay going with a smaller forward combo of Gallinari and Chandler (assuming Chandler is back since he is a restricted free agent.) Whatever the preference is, Denver still needs to add a physical power forward since Harrington and Gallinari are more perimeter based forwards.
3. Slasher on the Wing:
J.R. Smith is an unrestricted free agent and I cannot imagine he will end up re-signing with the Nuggets so they will be losing their best wing slasher. With Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton effective at pushing the tempo, the Nuggets will need an athletic wing who can run the floor like Smith. If that player can also can become their go-to scorer, that would be ideal, though a player of that caliber would likely have to be acquired via trade. Plus, Chandler and Afflalo are both restricted free agents so there could be an even greater need for depth on the wing if some team offers either of them a contract Denver is not willing to match.
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CHECK OUT MY NBA FREE AGENT POINT GUARD RANKINGS
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CHECK OUT THE SPORTS BANK’S 2011 NBA MOCK DRAFT
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks