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Denver Nuggets offseason to-do list: Part 1

Kalen Deremo Avatar
April 27, 2015


During the last four years at my former website, come April or May (I could always rely on first-round playoff losses!), I used to write an annual column detailing the Nuggets’ most pressing offseason priorities. This would include free-agent signing, trades, draft selections, coaching moves — all the tasty stuff fans ruminate on a daily basis once the season concludes. Essentially I’d put on my GM hat and scribble down all the transactions I thought would benefit the Nuggets most each summer. And even though I’ve relocated to BSN the armchair tradition continues for the fifth year in a row, this time for the upcoming summer of 2015.

Before disclosing the nine items on my list there are a few things you should know about the 2015-16 Denver Nuggets…

First, the Nuggets have only eight players under guaranteed contracts for 2015-16: Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson, Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, Erick Green and Joffrey Lauvergne. The combined total of these players’ salaries amounts to roughly $46 million. Meanwhile, Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye have team options for $7.2 million and $3.1 million respectively, Jameer Nelson has a player option for $3.3 million and Will Barton has a qualifying offer worth $1.2 million. That’s an additional $14 million splayed between four pretty solid NBA players likely to affect the rotation next season (if retained, of course) which would bring the roster total to 12; however, chances are at least one of these players will pack their bags and depart for ostensibly greener pastures come June. All things considered, look for the Nuggets to enter free agency with anywhere between $47 and $57 million on the books.

As of now the Nuggets have the eighth most cap space in the entire league. Again, this could fluctuate largely depending on what the team decides to do with the four players mentioned above. Early estimates peg the 2015-16 NBA cap at roughly $67 million — which is great for a team like the Nuggets that has only three longterm player investments in Faried, Nurkic and Harris — yet thanks to the new multibillion-dollar TV deal the NBA signed last October, as well as an overall increase in profit, many are predicting the cap to approach $80 to $90 million by 2017.

So what does this mean for the Nuggets?

In short, Denver has money to spend now and plenty of money to spend over the next few years. The Nuggets are also the sixth youngest team in the NBA — neither Lawson or Gallinari, Denver’s two best players, are over 27 years of age — and possess three future first-round draft picks (including the Knicks’ pick next year!) in addition to their own, as well as a top 10 pick (possibly top three!) in the NBA Draft this year. So while seasons like the previous two certainly suck from a pure viewing standpoint, there’s no denying they’ve helped put the Nuggets in position to climb the Western Conference standings IF Tim Connelly and co. can capitalize on the team’s current surplus of assets and cap room.

OK, now that that’s out of the way it’s time to dive into Part 1 of this series analyzing the Nuggets’ most urgent needs heading into the upcoming offseason, one that is perhaps the team’s most pivotal in over a decade…

9.  Extend Will Barton’s qualifying offer

I’ve been a Will Barton fan for a while. He was one of my favorite sleepers in the 2012 draft and as any draftnik well knows, once you attach yourself to a collegiate or foreign prospect, it’s hard to let go.

Though Barton hasn’t exactly panned out the way I (or Portland) thought, he’s still only 24 and on the upswing of his career. After being traded to the Nuggets in February he averaged 11 points, five boards, two assists and a steal in only 24 minutes of action per game, including nine separate occasions where he scored 15 points or more.

What I love most about Barton is that he’s the exact type of player the Nuggets absolutely must sign this offseason (more on this later). He plays hard, he puts forth effort on defense, he’s positive, he wants to be in Denver and he listens to what his coach tells him to do.

It’s unlikely Barton fetches a lucrative multiyear contract from someone this summer, so paying him a mere million to remain with the Nuggets for an additional year seems like a logical step for both sides. If nothing else, Barton can continue to grow while acting as a positive locker-room influence for the Nuggets throughout the 2015-16 season.

8. Let Wilson Chandler walk (or trade him down the line)

Chandler has a lot of fans in Denver, including Nuggets GM Tim Connelly. He’s versatile, smart, low maintenance and on the final year (potentially) of a pretty damn good contact. If the Nuggets were to pick up his option for the upcoming year I’d have no problem with it — especially if Chandler wants to remain in Denver longterm. Unfortunately I doubt that’s the case.

Since coming into the league in 2007 Chandler has played in the shadow of Danilo Gallinari his entire career, first with the Knicks, then with the Nuggets. My guess — and I’m just going out on a limb here — is that he probably wants to start somewhere for a winning basketball team where he finally has a chance to carve out his niche as a bona fide starter in the NBA. If I’m the Nuggets, I’d let that happen.

What people seem to forget with Wilson Chandler is that he’s pretty much the dude he’s going to be at this point in his career. That is a guy who’s never averaged more than 14 points per game, who’s often inured and who’s better served as a role player on a title contender than a cornerstone on an up-and-coming squad like the Nuggets. With the emergence of Danilo Gallinari towards the end of this season, it just seems as though Chandler’s tenure in Denver has run it’s course. Plus, the extra $7 million he’d free up in cap space could go a long way in helping sign an even more impactful free agent.

This isn’t to say the Nuggets would be making a colossal mistake should they pick up Chandler’s option. He’s still a solid NBA small forward in the prime of his career who’d help the Nuggets win basketball games. But if they do retain him for another season it would be wise to entertain trade offers come next winter so they may get something in return rather than letting him walk for nothing. Either way, it’s time the Nuggets move forward with Gallinari. Chandler deserves it more than anyone.

7. Pick up Randy Foye’s option

This was the hardest decision I made in creating this list. A lot of what the Nuggets decide to do with Foye will depend on what they decide to do with Ty Lawson and whether Jameer Nelson decides to pick up his player option for another year. But bringing back Foye for yet another year with the Nuggets seems like a wise choice for a few reasons…

Foye is a savvy veteran on an extremely friendly contract. He’s one of the few guys on the entire Nuggets roster over 30. He does what’s asked of him, he never complains, he’s a hard worker — you get the point. His (at times) deadly 3-point shooting has bailed the Nuggets out of countless games over the last two years and in his first year alone as a Nugget he broke the team’s all-time record for 3-pointers made in one season.

While playing Foye at shooting guard isn’t the most advantageous for the Nuggets, the bottom line is that he fills a need and does so at a very thrifty price. Freeing up his $3 million contract doesn’t really create loads of cap space and only creates a hole the Nuggets must then soon address in free agency, likely paying more for a player of his caliber in the process. Therefore why not just keep Foye and see where the roster is come the start of next season. If the Nuggets are overwhelmed with guards they can easily dump him and, like Chandler, get something of value in return.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of BSN’s “Denver Nuggets offseason to-do list” series dropping later this week. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your thoughts on what the Nuggets should do in free agency this summer in the comments section below.

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