This offseason the Denver Nuggets may have dodged a bullet. The Nuggets have the least committed salary of any team in the NBA. With a core of talented young players and a likely bargain on Aaron Afflalo (due to his restricted free agent status) this would usually be a good thing. Taking a lesson from history, though, makes me a little more wary.
In 2008 the Pistons had come off of their seventh consecutive 50 win season. They traded away a top player to free up cap space in 2009 (a move that cost the team an 8th consecutive 50 win season). They then went into the 2009 offseason with tons of cap space. The issue was the free agent market didn’t have much. The top names included Andre Miller, Jamario Moon and Matt Barnes. Of course none of these players were “stars” according to conventional wisdom. When looking to make a splash with free agent money, Joe Dumars turned to what NBA people always focus on when they want to make noise – scorers! This focus ted the Pistons to blow all of their extra cash on two overrated scorers and tank a once amazing franchise.
The Denver Nuggets have just come off their best season in their NBA tenure (according to the numbers). Additionally they look to be in good shape with the following roster:
- Talented young players (Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari)
- A great looking draft prospect (Kenneth Faried)
- Some Savvy Veterans (Andre Miller and Chris Andersen)
- A talented player in restricted free agency (Arron Afflalo)
- Boat loads of cap space (again, the Nuggets have the least committed salary going into 2011)
- Only one terrible player in Al Harrington (ok this still sucks!)
If we ignore Harrington (and that would be easier if he was on a another roster), the Nuggets should make any fan optimistic. At least, until we consider how being a GM works. To keep your job as GM it is important to convince the owners you are actually doing something. Standing pat is hardly ever viewed as a good plan. A splashy move is better than no move for job security, even if it comes at the cost of wins.
Unfortunately for the Nuggest — as Mosi has pointed out — there is simply not a lot of star power in the 2011 free agent crop. Nene, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler are really the only players to be excited about. It is unlikely that Gasol or Chandler will get free from their respective franchises (I’m still hoping Nene will be back). And that means the Nuggets probably can’t add a productive player in this market.
But the Nuggets might feel compelled to make a move. Once again, a move might mean “add a scorer”). The scary part about this market is that there are some overpaid scorers lurking in free agency, a list that includes David West, Nick Young, Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince. If the Nuggets miss out on Nene and try and make a Detroit like splash, we could end up with two terrible overpaid names that could bring our 50 win streak to a skid.
Looking back to what Mosi has said, though, brings hope. This offseason sucks if you have cash burning a hole in your pocket. But next season some big names become available including the ultimate prize in Kevin Love.
It’s unlikely good sense could convince the Nuggets to be patient. But a lockout may have the unintended benefit of preventing the Nuggets from spending their money poorly. And that means — unlike fans of the Pistons — fans of the Nuggets don’t have to see their team take away wins by adding unsuccessful scorers.
Dre Alvarez (@nerdnumbers) is a Co-Editor for the Wages of Wins Network and is also in charge of handling the stats data. He’s a long time fan of Colorado Sports, depending on the weather. He’s an even bigger fan of the stats, data and all things nerdy.