17 wins. I cannot think of a more exacting statement to describe last year. 17 wins. That sort of statement sticks in your throat for a few moments before it comes out. Some NFL teams manage that many wins in a year. In fact, it takes 16 playoff wins to get the NBA championship and Denver almost fell short of that. Honestly, that sounds bad even if you were a Clippers fan. Overall the team was horrible. They could not score, shoot or rebound. They could not blame injury. They could claim they are in a very tough division, but at the end of the day they only need to look in the mirror to determine who made this mess.
As I have learned with Denver over the past 10 years, there is hope on the horizon. After 10 years of hope, however, this mantra is wearing thin. The crux of this report will be building for the future. Denver has been doing that for ten years, however, and the parade of talent keeps going through the turnstile. This year will be no exception as it is expected (and preferred) that the team's most talented player and only true NBA caliber starter
(Juwan Howard) will soon be looking for a contract on the FA market.
17 wins. How do you recap that? By saying it was expected? They started the year with Howard, perennial IL candidate
Marcus Camby, and a couple of young rookies that had not yet played on this continent. Maybe 17 wins in that scenario could not be called a disappointment, but it certainly cannot be called progress either. With Howard gone they will not have a single NBA proven commodity on their roster. Above all this has to be fixed. Solid players with winning attitudes must be brought in to help the maturation process of
Tskitishvili, Hilario and
Anthony (did I use that name already?). Letting young players whom have never played in North America before be surrounded by a losing attitude will not bode well for the future. Bad habits form when people are young, and positive attitudes are required on this team. That will only be achieved by winning.
I did not get to see many Denver games last year, but made a point of watching Nene when I could. The short of it is I loved this guy. He may be young and raw, but he played with an unabashed enthusiasm that speaks volumes for the future. He was named to the first team all rookie, which has to be considered a solid accomplishment for a player taken who was considered more of a raw talent than a mature talent in the draft. Nene was chosen for what they expected he could become and his play last year was definitely a welcome surprise. I am not convinced that he should be playing at center as he seems to be a better fit at power forward, but without a bonafide center he is the next best thing. Hilario obviously has the physical talents to play at this level. Unfortunately, he is lacking experience and fundamentals and that will likely limit his productivity over the next two years.
Here is how I characterized Camby after he was acquired last year : "They required a center for the opening day roster and got him. What they will do for a center for the rest of the year after Camby gets hurt is up in the air. This is no joke. Through 6 years he has never played more than 63 games in a year. He has missed somewhere around 170 games to injuries in his career including over 50 last year. If he thought going up against the likes of the centers in the East was rough, wait until he gets Shaq, Webber and Duncan every night of the week."
Well, that was a pretty good guess. 29 games total, 9 games started, 191 minutes total. Chamberlain used to play more minutes in a week than Camby managed all year. The fact that this is the case every year, is disconcerting. Camby has a player option this year, which I believe, is for about 8 million. He'd be a fool not to grab it, and Denver may want to consider offering him a buyout to increase cap room. At worst he may be counted on for several dozen games of light duty and salary cap fodder for next year.
Howard was Denver's best player last year leading virtually all the offensive categories. Howard may very well be the most useful player on the roster right now because his pending free agency will open up a ton of cap room used to pursue some quality free agents. Denver would like to have Juwan back, but obviously at a far reduced price.
Donnell played well for Denver in a spot starting and backup role at power forward and sometimes center. He brings strength to the boards, and a good work ethic to the defensive end, but in reality will never be polished enough to be a full time starter. Donnell will be a FA this year, and may be back depending upon the status of Camby and Howard.
Chris Anderson was a minimum salary body used by Denver last year and it turned into a solid pickup at that price. He provides strong rebounding and finished second on the team in blocks despite playing in less than 60 games. He proved with some hard work that he may be a capable back center/power forward in the league. He will likely be back next year depending upon the status of the other FA's.
Ryan Bowen provided spot starting and backup duty at small forward and shooting guard last year. He is signed for next year, and expect much of the same. His game is more defensive than offensive, but he will not hurt you in any facet of the game.
Denver's prized first rounder last year had a rude awakening in North America. He found himself overmatched with both the speed of the game and the size of the players. That said, Denver expected to bring him along slowly. He was still quite young when he came over and his game was considered raw. No one is ready to give up on him, but if Denver does draft Anthony, Tskitishvili will be very hard pressed to get playing time.
White was a second year player that starting to look much better towards the end of last year. As expected coming out of college, however, his game is offense and shooting. He is a capable rebounder, but overall does not posses an array of skills that will be required to be an everyday NBA player.
Vincent Yarbough probably would have been a first rounder out of high school. His stock dropped through 4 years of school, although he did play himself into a draftable player his senior year. Denver saw enough to draft him and sign him for three years (at the minimum). In my opinion, he played a very good first year and proved himself very worthy of being an NBA player, and likely a steal at the minimum salary. He started about half of the games and provided an array of skills. His shooting is still quite suspect, but his overall game is strong enough for him to remain a spot starter and backup.
Denver's biggest surprise of the year, another minimum salary player that played above expectations. By starting in 51 games, he placed third on the team in that category. He was also third in minutes played. He provided some good all-round skill leading the team in assists and was 5th in rebounding. Not bad for a FA pickup.
A minimum salary player who did not contribute much at all.
Probably the only true point guard on the roster, Shammond is a FA and may be back if he is willing to accept a reduced roll, or if Denver gets shut out in the FA market.
Quick Synopsis of player contracts :
Denver Nuggets Date # of total
Player signed years salary misc FA
Chris Andersen ........ 11/21/01 2 minimum '03
Devin Brown ........... 4/4/03 1 minimum '03
Adam Harrington ....... 3/23/03 1 minimum '03
Junior Harrington ..... 7/18/02 1 minimum '03
Juwan Howard .......... 8/5/96 7 $105 million '03
Donnell Harvey ........ 9/28/00 3 $2,781,960 rc '03
Jeff Trepagnier ....... 3/23/03 1 minimum '03
Shammond Williams ..... 10/2/01 2 $3.5 million '03
Marcus Camby .......... 9/9/96,3/11/99 3+6 $8.4+$39 mill p-opt '04
Predrag Savovic ....... 7/18/02 2 minimum t-opt '04
Vincent Yarbrough ..... 7/18/02 3 minimum t-opt '04
Ryan Bowen ............ 7/17/02 3 $3.96 million t-opt '05
Rodney White .......... 8/2/01 4 $7,942,922 rc t-opt '05
Nene Hilario .......... 7/23/02 4 $9,832,676 rc t-opt '06
Nikoloz Tskitishvili .. 7/20/02 4 $11,850,010 rc t-opt '06
By my estimation that is approximately twenty five million available for cap space. Denver has very few players under contract (as low as 4, as high as 7) and therefore will have to start to look around as they will need to add five to seven players to their roster.
Player stats :
PLAYER G GS MPG PPG RPG APG OFF DEF TOT AST STL BLK TO PF
Juwan Howard 77 77 35.5 18.4 7.6 3.0 181 404 585 234 77 27 189 239
Nene Hilario 80 53 28.2 10.5 6.1 1.9 208 283 491 149 127 65 181 295
Rodney White 72 19 21.7 9.0 3.0 1.7 43 170 213 121 45 32 156 134
Shammond Williams 78 11 24.1 8.0 2.2 3.4 24 147 171 266 77 6 114 140
Donnell Harvey 77 27 20.9 7.9 5.3 1.3 125 284 409 100 48 27 123 203
Marcus Camby 29 9 21.2 7.6 7.2 1.6 75 133 208 47 20 40 27 69
Vincent Yarbrough 59 39 23.4 6.9 2.7 2.2 36 126 162 130 57 33 81 145
Jeff Trepagnier 8 0 12.1 5.6 2.0 0.8 8 8 16 6 8 0 8 5
Chris Andersen 59 3 15.4 5.2 4.6 0.5 109 165 274 32 30 60 60 90
Junior Harrington 82 51 24.4 5.1 3.0 3.4 44 206 250 277 80 15 157 250
Nikoloz Tskitishvili 81 16 16.3 3.9 2.2 1.1 64 117 181 91 31 29 84 136
Ryan Bowen 62 31 16.1 3.6 2.5 0.9 78 79 157 54 65 29 43 82
John Crotty 12 0 15.0 3.4 1.3 2.4 1 14 15 29 3 0 9 16
Predrag Savovic 27 0 9.5 3.1 0.9 0.8 9 16 25 22 14 1 21 33
Devin Brown 10 2 9.3 3.0 1.8 0.7 8 10 18 7 4 1 9 14
Adam Harrington 19 0 5.8 1.6 0.4 0.6 1 7 8 12 2 1 2 8
Field Goals 3-Point FG Free Throws
PLAYER M-A Pct M-A Pct M-A Pct Pts Hi
Juwan Howard 567-1261 .450 2-4 .500 282-351 .803 1418 30
Nene Hilario 321-619 .519 0-3 .000 197-341 .578 839 24
Rodney White 260-638 .408 32-134 .239 98-125 .784 650 23
Shammond Williams 228-579 .394 93-261 .356 78-102 .765 627 22
Donnell Harvey 246-551 .446 1-7 .143 118-176 .670 611 23
Marcus Camby 93-227 .410 2-5 .400 33-50 .660 221 18
Vincent Yarbrough 168-428 .393 21-78 .269 49-62 .790 406 18
Jeff Trepagnier 17-40 .425 4-8 .500 7-7 1.000 45 15
Chris Andersen 114-285 .400 0-1 .000 77-140 .550 305 16
Junior Harrington 169-467 .362 7-28 .250 73-112 .652 418 19
Nikoloz Tskitishvili 115-393 .293 37-152 .243 48-65 .738 315 17
Ryan Bowen 97-197 .492 2-7 .286 27-41 .659 223 14
John Crotty 14-41 .341 4-13 .308 9-15 .600 41 8
Predrag Savovic 29-93 .312 4-26 .154 21-29 .724 83 11
Devin Brown 12-35 .343 0-1 .000 6-8 .750 30 8
Adam Harrington 11-37 .297 5-14 .357 3-4 .750 30 9
Notable Transactions :
James Posey for a future first (Philly) and second (Houston) round pick.
I did not like the fact that they lost Posey, but it did seem inevitable. Posey was exciting his first year because he was considered a bit raw and did have a good season. He has not advanced much beyond that, however, and until he starts to elevate his game will be a useable player, but not what was expected out of him after his rookie year.
The picks will likely not amount to much, but Denver was likely losing Posey anyways so there was not much downside either.
Kiki Vandeweghe started to make his mark as GM last year. He inherits almost no players left over from the Issel days, has revamped the coaching staff last year, and seemed to lean towards people who will more instrumental in developing
Denver's never ending parade of young raw talent. I think that is a wise move for the future. He did not rip apart the tea and management immediately, but has been very methodical in removing all the old elements and bringing in new people that would seem to be a better fit for Denver and their current situation.
I loved the pick of Bzdelik as coach. He was recognized as a top assistant and teacher and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable basketball people around. He had a team that largely devoid of talent and maturity last year and handled it well.
T.R. Dunn is one of my all time favorite players. I once saw him miss the entire backboard with a wide open jumper at the foul line, but what he brought was grit, determination and defense. Hopefully he will teach many of the younger Nuggets players what made him a great player. If some of them could combine their talent with Dunn's tenacity, they would be a definite all star in the future.
Mark Randall is the player development coach. I believe he is important to look at because he was a big man in basketball, and believe that with a lot of work, Hilario can develop into a potential all star. Randall has that chore now, and if he is successful it will be a boon to the Nuggets franchise in the future.
Previous draft notables :
- 2002 - Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Vincent Yarborough
- 2001 - No one
- 2000 - Mamadou N'diaye - Traded up to draft him. He never saw action. Traded away with Keon Clark For Kevin Willis and Alex Radojevic who are both not with the team anymore.
- 1999 - James Posey, Chris Herren Not with team.
- 1998 - Raef LaFrentz traded to Dallas, Tyronne Lue (traded to LA with Battie for NVE)
- 1997 - Tony Battie Overpaid backup someplace in the NBA
- 1996 - Efthimis Rentzias (Denver traded his rights and a 2000 2nd round draft pick to Atlanta for Preist Lauderdale)
- 1995 - Brent Barry (traded with other players for Antonio McDyess)
- 1994 - Jalen Rose, dealt to Indiana.
The previous 9 years drafts have come and gone and only the 2 players drafted by the team last year are still with them. This really is starting sound akin to the LA Clippers. The whole idea of the draft system is that the bad teams get a shot at the good players. Certainly you have to have the ability to draft good, but shear luck should account for a good player or two. Instead Denver continually gets a great pick because they finish near the bottom, and either picks a stiff, trades it away, or runs the player out of town. This has to stop, or else Denver will not be making the playoffs for many years. Hopefully the new management team combined with the new players will foster a different attitude and Denver will keep their younger players and allow them and the team to grow.
The team needs are not much different than last year in reality. They are devoid of a lot of talent. A center would be great so that Hilario could move to power forward, but that will not happen with Detroit picking Darko second. A point guard and shooting guard are also required, but there is in my mind no great point guard prospect in the draft. Wade would be a solid choice for a shooting guard, but he is not projected to go anywhere near Denvers pick. Denver is taking the effort to work out Wade, however, and several players slated to go around the sixth through twelfth pick so obviously they are ready to deal if the situation looks good.
The real team need in Denver this year, however, is to make effective use of the cap money. As we saw with Chicago a few years ago, cap room is no good if you cannot use it. Denver needs to aggressively court FA's, notably a point guard or shooting guard and a center. They will not find a quick fix in the draft for the many holes in their lineup, so free agency is the only way to go for them.
Anthony, SF, 6'7" Syracuse
Who Denver will probably take :
Carmelo Anthony. No doubt. There is talk of a trade, however, and that may be well served, but it must be a deal that will blow Kiki off his feet. Notably I saw Chicago was very interested, but Denver would likely want Tyson Chandler and the 7th pick back. Too bad Krause still is not running the show in Chicago...
I must admit I was scared when I saw the height measurements on Anthony. It seems he was closer to 6'6 than 6'8. The quote I found was :
"Oh, and FYI, Nugget-in-waiting Carmelo Anthony measured in at 6-6 1/4, 233 - 6-7 1/2 in sneakers. ..."
That is on the small end for an NBA small forward. When the day is done, however, how can you pass up a 19 year old who has already accomplished so much?
Other Players considered (in order)
None. It was apparent about a year ago Cleveland would give anything for James. Done. Detroit has obviously settled on Milicic, which would have been Denver's choice. That left the obvious choice of Anthony. You get a freshman as good as he was, you do it. Obviously it is not the position Denver wants to draft into as they have Tskitishvili and Yarborough there, as well as Howard perhaps. Anthony is just too good a player to pass up, and you work it all out later.
The big rumblings, however, is that Denver may make a deal. If they could move down and add a player, they would likely do it. Therefore I'm going to quickly examine some players that may be considered if they move down in the draft. (These are in no particular order).
Pavel Podkolzine - He seems to be shooting up the draft lists. Absolutely huge and Denver needs a center. I'm not sure if they want to deal with a project at small forward (Tskitishvili), power forward (Hilario) and center, but 17 wins dictate change.
Chris Kaman - A more polished center, Kaman would be an attractive pickup in the 11 - 15 range, but likely will go higher.
Dwayne Wade - Denver is giving Wade a workout. If they trade down, it will likely be because Wade is available at the 9th pick or so. This guys has talent and drive. He needs work at the NBA level, but I am convinced he can be a major contributor in the NBA. At shooting guard, he fills an immediate need in Denver.
Leandrinho Barbosa - An intriguing prospect in the draft, Barbosa is another Brazilian with extraordinary physical gifts, but raw. He has a huge wingspan (6'10) and may fit in better with Denver with Hilario already there. It looks like he'll go mid to late first round, and Denver may swing a deal to grab him.
The options? There are some decent players available in this draft. Denver may be willing to trade if they can pick up Wade and a big man or a point guard. Personally, I think if they could trade Tskitishvili and pick up Wade they should do it as I would far prefer Anthony at this point.
Other moves that the team should make (trades and free agent signings (optional)
Denver has a ton of cap room available. They will need to fill holes all over the place. In order, here is whom I would pursue :
- Tim Duncan
- Jason Kidd
- Gilbert Arenas
- Andre Miller
- Michael Olowokandi
- Richard Hamilton
- Jason Terry
- Gary Payton
I can hear the laughs. You think you have a chance at Duncan in Denver?
Maybe not. Likely not. OK never, but here is my rational :
- A winner tries their damnest to win. Denver may have been a big loser last year, but they have to shed that attitude. If they just think they can only go after the second tier FA's, that is all they will ever get.
- It sends a message to their players, their fans, other players and the agents. Denver will compete for FA's. They will not back down and they will try. They have to put their foot down and say enough is enough. We are tired of missing the playoffs, We are tired of losing. They stand no chance of getting FA's if they do not try to improve their team. Players want to win NBA championships, and players will sign for less to do so. Send the message.
Realistically after the thanks but no thanks from Duncan and Kidd, Denver could score big. They could easily sign two of these free agents with the money they have available. Notably they really require a point guard, a shooting guard and a center assuming they make no draft day deals. Gilbert Arenas is the player most talked about in Denver. His high flying style would be lovely to watch in Denver, and to pair him with Anthony and Hilario would be solid foundation to start anew with. The addition of one of the point guard's in the list would be wise as Arenas may excel more as a shooting guard. Grabbing Olowokandi will be risky with his injury status, but that also is driving down his price.
I believe it would be possible to lure Miller and Arenas to Denver. In that instance, a lineup of Miller, Arenas, Anthony and Hilario would have to be considered one of the best young lineups around.
Therefore, with a large contingent of free agents in Denver, a high draft pick, rumblings of trades and a huge amount of cap room to go shopping, it really looks like the Denver team next year will bear very little resemblance to the team that was fielded this year. Given the team had only 17 wins last year that has to be considered a good thing. Denver has a chance to upgrade at every position. Getting a center to play instead of Hilario would be an upgrade at both center and PF, Anthony will undoubtedly bring a different look at SF, and hopefully Arenas is on the team to add excitement and flair. I see some great possibilities for the Nuggets in the future if they are able to use their cap room this year to its maximum advantage.