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DenButsu
11-12-2008, 09:41 AM
(my latest blog entry)
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The Denver Nuggets Front Office: Smarter Than You Thought

At the end of the day, it's all about the big picture.

The Denver Nuggets sent shockwaves through the NBA last summer when they pulled the trigger on the trade that most analysts and fans characterized as "giving Marcus Camby away for nothing". And the general rap on the general management of the Nuggets was, "Wow, are they really that dumb?"

Well, with the passage of a little time, and the making of a few moves big and small in the interim, with that clear vision hindsight provides we can now answer with confidence: "No, they're not."

Think about this: The Nuggets, who last season were burdened with the league's second highest payroll and the biggest playoff failure, looked like they were heading into the 2008-09 season at least$10 but probably closer to $15 million over the luxury tax threshold, armed with a tragically underperforming squad. But now they hold, respectably, the league's 9th highest paid roster, and appear poised to actually get under the luxury tax by the trade deadline, which would locate them squarely in the middle of the NBA's salary field. And here's the kicker: For saving all that money, they just might be a better team now, too.

It's clear now that the front office was given a directive by owner Stan Kroenke to make some dramatic moves and get under the luxury tax. If anybody had told me this before the offseason, and also told me that the team would actually be better off basketball-wise for these efforts, I'd have thought they were nuts. But now the FO is very close to completing this magic trick, and it's a fairly impressive accomplishment. The so-called "3-headed monster" of the Nuggets GM trio has actually been quite shrewd.

Consider the moves they've made:

The Camby trade shipped out $10 million of salary without taking any back in return. This, simply put, is practically unheard of in the NBA, and I believe the move is actually the envy of many a GM in the league who is seeking to chop salary off the payroll. In return for Marcus, the Nuggets didn't get "nothing", but instead they got a $10 million trade exception with a more potent and flexible trade value (and durability) than Camby himself. And here's a surprise for you: They've actually extended that exception 3 1/2 months through their crafty maneuvering in the Iverson trade.

What most people don't know is that the Pistons trade was done in 3 parts (apparently this is allowed by NBA rules): AI for Chauncey, which gave Denver a $9.7 million trade exception good until November 3, 2009 (this supplants the original Camby TE); then part of the Camby exception for McDyess, which also leaves Denver with $2.52 million on that exception that can be used until July 15, 2009; and finally nothing for Cheikh Samb's contract, which didn't need to be directly exchanged for anything because it's set at the minimum salary. In addition, in the subsequent buyout of McDyess' contract, the Nuggets did some tough negotiating, finally reaching a buyout figure of only $6 million (split $3 mil/$3 mil over two seasons against the cap), well below the approximately $15 million originally due to McDyess. So if we look at the Clippers and Pistons trade as one combined entity, the Nuggets shipped out Marcus Camby and Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups, Chiekh Samb, one $2.52 million trade exception good until 7/15/09, and one $9.7 million trade exception good until 11/3/09.

And while that might not seem to be very equitable at a superficial glance, look at the 2008-09 cap relief they gained in the process:


OUT:
AI 20,840,625
Camby 10,000,000
Total 30840625
IN:
Billups 11,050,000
Samb 711,517
McDyess 3,000,000 (half the 6 mil that counts against the cap this season)
Total 14,761,517

Savings $16,079,108

Considering that the value of the $9.7 million trade exception exceeds the trade value of Camby at this point, and that the Nuggets will be in a financial position to actually use that exception next summer if they want to, they come out way ahead in terms of building for their future, and building a more balanced team that's a better fit for Carmelo Anthony.

Two more aspects of all of this: First, the Camby trade salary dump allowed the Nuggets to extend J.R. Smith for nearly the MLE and still get nearly down to the luxury threshold after the Iverson trade. Second, instead of trying to re-sign Eduardo Najera, who ended up signing with the Nets at a salary of $3,300,000 this season, the Nuggets were able to sign Renaldo Balkman, Chris Andersen and Dahntay Jones for a combined total of a nearly identical $3,294,996, and they have proven to be more than capable of providing the same kind of energy, scrappiness and defense off the bench Eddie provided, but with more diversity (3 players at different positions) and in a way that helps Denver meet the minimum roster requirement of 13 players.

Now, the Nuggets have one final goal to accomplish by the trade deadline: To trade Chucky Atkins in a move that will reduce their payroll by more than the approximately $700,000 they currently are over the luxury tax threshold. Chucky's contract goes through 2010, but only $760,000 of next year's $3.48 million is guaranteed, so a team with a cheaper but longer term contract which they'd be willing to send out for quicker cap relief next summer (as well, possibly, as a draft pick) might be interested in trading for his otherwise worthless contract ("worthless", assuming he remains plagued by injury, as he has for over a season now).

But beyond this, the Nuggets have greatly increased the stability and strength of their financial position by getting down to the luxury limit. They have vastly increased the flexibility of their 2009 offseason, with two trade exceptions they can use and 3 players on minimum contracts they can either let go of or extend, and one promising young player - Linas Kleiza - who will be a restricted free agent who they can either re-sign or use as trade bait.

And in the immediate present, they have effectively replaced Camby with Nene, who is already proving to be an upgrade overall, and Iverson with Billups, who looks very promising as the Nuggets' new floor general who, while not carrying the scoring punch that Iverson brought, looks to be poised to help his teammates more than make up for it by bringing better balance, defense, chemistry and playmaking to the Nuggets.

Last summer, when you looked at the Camby trade and asked, "What were they thinking?", well, this was it. Picking up AI when they could was totally understandable - they just had to give it a try when they had the chance. But that move threw the organizational direction in a tailspin, and nobody had any clear sense of where they were going with it. Now they're back on course, with a well structured team anchored by a young core with a bright future, and supported by the newfound financial flexibility that will open up a much wider range of options moving forward.

Denbutsu

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Props:
In writing this blog entry I was heavily reliant on the great work that Chris Tomasson has been doing over at the Rocky Mountain News in keeping us up to date on and breaking down Denver Nuggets trade and financial news. The two sources can be found here (http://blogs.rockymountainnews.com/nuggets/archives/2008/11/nuggets_got_cre.html) and here (http://blogs.rockymountainnews.com/nuggets/archives/2008/11/mcdyess_gives_u.html).

pebloemer
11-12-2008, 10:20 AM
I very much appreciate the time and the effort it takes for you to do these write-ups. You had an earlier blog months back after the Camby trade that was also very interesting and very informative. Wouldn't it be great if there was a PSD representative for each organization that did write-ups like that to inform the broader public? The view from the inside usually makes more sense than on the surface.

frizbo72
11-12-2008, 11:06 AM
If they were so smart why couldn't they have made the team better on the floor. They are still going to finish 2nd in their division to Utah. Same place they finished last year and the year before. People want to see better teams not better money managment. The Celtics did both last year so they are the team you should be praising not the Nuggets who are still a 7-8 seed going into the playoffs (and that's only if the Blazers and G.S. faulter).

JordansBulls
11-12-2008, 11:27 AM
How long can Denver be good now with Billups now 32 years old?

They still need another player IMO. If they could get Kaman then they would be in good shape.

SteveNash
11-12-2008, 11:44 AM
How does the trade exception help the Nuggets if they're trying to cut salary?

I still have to believe Camby was worth more than trading 2nd round picks.

Had they let AI's contract expire instead of trading for Billups they would have saved 30 Million instead of 16.

The Nuggets are still on the hook for Billups, Martin, and Nene.

frizbo72 is absolutely correct, the Nuggets aren't going to be a real contender anytime soon. The only one this is good for is the owner, who gets to save some cash.

DenButsu
11-12-2008, 11:52 AM
If they were so smart why couldn't they have made the team better on the floor. They are still going to finish 2nd in their division to Utah. Same place they finished last year and the year before. People want to see better teams not better money managment. The Celtics did both last year so they are the team you should be praising not the Nuggets who are still a 7-8 seed going into the playoffs (and that's only if the Blazers and G.S. faulter).

I'm of the opinion that the team will be better.

You're not.

Fortunately, we still have the majority of the season to enjoy to find out which one of us is right. :nod: But I'm confident we're better. (Here's a fun fact: Hollinger currently has Denver ranked 5th in defensive efficiency and 25th in offensive efficiency... once Chauncey gels with the team and our offensive efficiency rises - as it surely will - I imagine we'll be looking pretty good).


How long can Denver be good now with Billups now 32 years old?

Longer than we could depending on both AI and Camby. And Billups style, which is not dependent on speed and athleticism as much as AI's is, I believe, more conducive to graceful aging with a slower rate of decline.


They still need another player IMO. If they could get Kaman then they would be in good shape.

We could really use just a pure shooter, for one thing. I don't disagree with the point you make. But we also need J.R. to emerge from out of AI's shadow. He's had a rough start to this season, and it's been disappointing. But I still think this is the season he grows into the player he has always had the potential to become, and if he does it's a night and day difference for the team. But the good news is that now we have the assets and the flexibility to acquire another player if we do need one, whereas before we were totally maxed out.

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And pebloemer, thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it. :cool:

{}
11-12-2008, 12:39 PM
Smart would have been not making major errors in the first place like overpaying Camby 10m per year, maxing out Kenyon, trading for AI and signing Melo to a max contract. The Nuggets front office has shown anything but intelligence. What you're seeing now are the Nuggets coming to their senses and realizing the failure of the last 6 season and attempting to cut some of their losses. Although, trading for Billups will go down as another dumb move. I remember reading trade rumors about Melo a month or two ago. The Nuggets don't have a plan from what it looks like.

DenButsu
11-12-2008, 12:43 PM
Smart would have been not making major errors in the first place like overpaying Camby 10m per year, maxing out Kenyon, trading for AI and signing Melo to a max contract. The Nuggets front office has shown anything but intelligent. What you're seeing now are the Nuggets coming to their senses and realizing the failure of the last 6 season and simply cutting their losses. Trading for Billups will go down as another dumb move. I remember reading about trade rumors about Melo a month or two ago. The Nuggets don't have a plan from what it looks like.

Can you tell me how long the current front office has been holding their jobs and which (if any) of the decisions above were made by them? :rolleyes:

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edit...

Aw, I'll just save you the trouble. The previous GM was Kiki Vandeweghe, who was let go in May, 2006, after which the current triumvirate of Mark Warkentien, Rex Chapman and Bret Bearup took the helm. So aside from trading for Billups, the number of "bad" (by your definition) moves you listed the Nuggets making that were pulled off by the current FO is: Zero.

{}
11-12-2008, 12:47 PM
How does the trade exception help the Nuggets if they're trying to cut salary?

I still have to believe Camby was worth more than trading 2nd round picks.

Had they let AI's contract expire instead of trading for Billups they would have saved 30 Million instead of 16.

The Nuggets are still on the hook for Billups, Martin, and Nene.

It doesn't. It'd been cheaper for the Nuggets GM, or owner to get their bipolarism treated than continue making the same impulsive and illogical mistakes.

{}
11-12-2008, 12:49 PM
Can you tell me how long the current front office has been holding their jobs and which (if any) of the decisions above were made by them? :rolleyes:

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edit...

Aw, I'll just save you the trouble. The previous GM was Kiki Vandeweghe, who was let go in May, 2006, after which the current triumvirate of Mark Warkentien, Rex Chapman and Bret Bearup took the helm. So aside from trading for Billups, the number of "bad" (by your definition) moves you listed the Nuggets making that were pulled off by the current FO is: Zero.

I said front office which usually includes the owner. The bucks stops there.

DenButsu
11-12-2008, 12:52 PM
I said front office which usually includes the owner. The bucks stops there.

Nice dodge, but it doesn't change the fact that you didn't know the facts of what you were talking about. Kiki signed K-Mart to that ridiculous contract, Kiki traded for Camby, and Kiki brought in and extended Melo.

valade16
11-12-2008, 12:59 PM
While you make some good points, and being a Blazer fan I know what it's like to turn around a bad situation with some good fiscal managment, some of what everyone else is saying is valid. One, if they had let Iverson and Camby walk they'd have saved the full 30 mil instead of 16 while getting true a great PG, but who at 32 will most likely decline by the time the rest of the teams youngsters are ready to contend. Not to mention a team that gets a 10 Mil trade exception isn't looking to cut cap, that allows them to take on a 10 Mil salary player without giving up a player worth 10 mil, so if they used it they'd be adding 10 mil. Unless they plan to not use it in which case it was worthless...

Also, while your team might be improved (slightly) on the floor your still nowhere near good enough to compete with the Lakers, Hornets, or Jazz. Plus, look at my Blazers, who are a surprising 4-3 to start the year (including 6 of the first 7 against 50 win teams) and have a lot more young talent and cap flexibility than your Nuggets...

RocketsRule
11-12-2008, 01:05 PM
While these are valid points, they are still nowhere near contention, and it's not like Billups will be around forever.

They still need to make a few more moves. Unless, they are working to build around their younger players (Klieza, Anthony, Smith)

JAZZNC
11-12-2008, 01:23 PM
I don't think that they are really any better. Billups shoots a little less, but he probably isn't as good of a passer as AI. Also, Nene is good, but he's no Camby and I think that Camby was hurt a little less than Nene. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens, but I still don't think a team led by Carmelo Anthony will ever get anywhere.

dnnug
11-12-2008, 02:26 PM
ignorance at its best by the posters above. For thos of you who don't think adding Billups to the nuggets team need to get your head out of your buts and smell the coffee.

we are 3-0 since his arrival and I believe that is because of the presence Billups has on the court. I don't think we would of won those games with AI running the floor.

Nice read Den btw

legendkillerv2
11-12-2008, 02:59 PM
To me AI should be a 2 guard and not a point guard, he doesn't run the team well, the Nuggets mostly play 1 on 1 basketball, they have really no outside shooter mostly slashers.

DenButsu
11-13-2008, 03:10 AM
One, if they had let Iverson and Camby walk they'd have saved the full 30 mil instead of 16 while getting true a great PG, but who at 32 will most likely decline by the time the rest of the teams youngsters are ready to contend.

Well, there were different possible routes they could have taken. One would be to just dump Camby and keep AI for the season until letting him expire, which is pretty much the "wait for a year and then blow it up and start from scratch again" solution. But then, what kind of season would this have been? Meaningless, in many ways, and not only that, but the most important thing for the future of the Nuggets is the continued growth and development of their young players, specifically Nene, J.R., Kleiza and Melo. And what is the catalyst to that development? Billups. Even if we can't win a ring this year, and I'm certainly not predicting we can, this puts us on the right track in terms of having a) a properly structured and balanced team led by a true point guard, b) a team with an improved chemistry and an improved defense, both of which have been sorely lacking for years, and c) a team that's engaged in the present and focused on a pretty bright future instead of being in limbo and playing a waiting game for a future that seems way too far off in the distance to be relevant. The team has a new energy and vitality and optimism, which was so necessary after the last postseason. So these pluses are part of what we've bought by taking on Chauncey's salary instead of just letting AI walk away and take his salary off the books clean. Yes, it will increase the payroll in comparison to what it would have been and tighten up the next offseason a little, but as a team on the court and as an organization they'll be in such a better place for the move that it's well worth it.


Not to mention a team that gets a 10 Mil trade exception isn't looking to cut cap, that allows them to take on a 10 Mil salary player without giving up a player worth 10 mil, so if they used it they'd be adding 10 mil. Unless they plan to not use it in which case it was worthless...

One thing Kroenke (the owner) has made very clear ever since he bought the team is that he's not afraid or unwilling to spend the big bucks on it - unless it fails. Five consecutive first and outs = fail. So he's pulling in the reins and tightening the purse strings - for now. But come next summer, if the Nuggets have the opportunity to get a really nice player or two that could put them in legitimate contention for a championship, he will give the front office the go ahead to pull the trigger. So cutting payroll now, getting under the luxury tax this season, is two things, a a consequence of Kroenke's verdict that the AI-Melo experiment was a failure, and a re-positioning of the team to be ready - and armed with the necessary assets - to make the moves with which it can conduct a successful experiment.



Plus, look at my Blazers, who are a surprising 4-3 to start the year (including 6 of the first 7 against 50 win teams) and have a lot more young talent and cap flexibility than your Nuggets...

Hey, the Blazers are the envy of the GMs in the league, and I'm not taking anything away from them, or even compare the Nuggets to them or to any other team in the league. I'm comparing the November 2008 Nuggets to the April 2008 Nuggets, and when you look at the bind (http://www.storytellerscontracts.info/resources/07-08salaries.htm) they were in then, and see the overall culminating effect of all the moves that have been made since then, what the FO has done does indeed make sense. That's all I'm saying.




Also, while your team might be improved (slightly) on the floor your still nowhere near good enough to compete with the Lakers, Hornets, or Jazz.

While these are valid points, they are still nowhere near contention, and it's not like Billups will be around forever.

They still need to make a few more moves. Unless, they are working to build around their younger players (Klieza, Anthony, Smith)

That's all true, but I assume you know what happened in the last playoffs. Even with AI and Camby, we were nowhere near contention, if the series against the Lakers was any indication. And I don't disagree that more moves should be made. My main contention is exactly what the title says: When the Nugs FO made the Camby move, everybody thought they were dumb as hell, but looking at the big picture now, it makes a lot more sense, and whereas before they needed to make moves but had zero wiggle room due to a maxed out payroll, now they may need to make moves but the moves they need to make are more feasible now, and they have the assets and flexibility to make those moves next summer, while maintainng (if not improving) the quality of the team throughout the 2008-09 season. So in comparison to the total blow-up route I described above, and in comparison to standing pat, they've definitely come up with a "the happiest medium win-win solution" that balances continued team building with financial restructuring.

DenButsu
11-13-2008, 03:17 AM
One last addendum to all that:

If the Nuggets hadn't traded AI for Billups, and instead had waited to the end of the season and let AI walk, then next summer who could they have gotten as a better point guard for the 2009-10 season? Look at the names that were recently being floated in trade rumors... Tinsley... Starbury... o thank goodness we did not go that route.

DerekRE_3
11-13-2008, 04:51 AM
One last addendum to all that:

If the Nuggets hadn't traded AI for Billups, and instead had waited to the end of the season and let AI walk, then next summer who could they have gotten as a better point guard for the 2009-10 season? Look at the names that were recently being floated in trade rumors... Tinsley... Starbury... o thank goodness we did not go that route.

I think what the Nuggets need to do right now, is figure out who is in their future plans and who isn't. Here are some guys that should figure into their future plans: Melo , JR Smith, Nene, Klieza (?, didn't offer him an extension) and that's about it.

It seems like as long as they are stuck with Kenyon Martin and Billup's contracts, it will be tough for them to move forward. I understand why they traded for Billups, and I actually liked the trade for Denver more than I did for the Pistons. What the Nuggets can do, is in the next couple years, find the right point guard to succeed Billups, and have Billups mentor him until his contract runs out. I'm not sure if that was their intent, but I think it is something they should consider. Of course there is the possibility that they trade Chauncey sometime in the future to get expiring contracts, prospects, picks.

Like Den said, the current Front Office had nothing to do with the signings of Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, and Nene (who I think is overpaid for what he does). All they can do is make the best of what they have. And so far the have made some smart moves to avoid the luxury tax, and still stay competitive.

Who knows, with AI gone and with Billups running the point, maybe that will free up Melo to take that next step and it can also allow JR Smith to continue to blossum into a legit 2nd scoring option for them. If not this year, then for the future. It's too soon to say the Nuggets won't turn things around and become one of the better teams in the West this year.

DenButsu
11-13-2008, 05:53 AM
What the Nuggets can do, is in the next couple years, find the right point guard to succeed Billups, and have Billups mentor him until his contract runs out. I'm not sure if that was their intent, but I think it is something they should consider.

I think that's just about spot on. And in that sense, Billups becomes somewhat of a mentor for J.R. right now and potentially for a future young pg, and he's a better bridge into the next phase (which, with Camby and AI gone, has already begun) than AI could have been. And you're also right about the 4 players of the future. The only reason they didn't extend LK was because of money, but he'll be restricted and figure either for him to be around in the Nugs' future or factor into a S&T deal that will bolster the roster somehow (that new young pg?). Also, since both Billups and K-Mart are guaranteed through 2011, starting from next summer those will be "less unmoveable" contracts than they have been so far (speaking more about K, actually), provided they remain healthy (should be a decent FA class in '11 so some teams who can't really get in the 2010 hunt might want to target contracts that expire then).

JordansBulls
11-13-2008, 11:23 AM
I think what the Nuggets need to do right now, is figure out who is in their future plans and who isn't. Here are some guys that should figure into their future plans: Melo , JR Smith, Nene, Klieza (?, didn't offer him an extension) and that's about it.

It seems like as long as they are stuck with Kenyon Martin and Billup's contracts, it will be tough for them to move forward. I understand why they traded for Billups, and I actually liked the trade for Denver more than I did for the Pistons. What the Nuggets can do, is in the next couple years, find the right point guard to succeed Billups, and have Billups mentor him until his contract runs out. I'm not sure if that was their intent, but I think it is something they should consider. Of course there is the possibility that they trade Chauncey sometime in the future to get expiring contracts, prospects, picks.

Like Den said, the current Front Office had nothing to do with the signings of Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, and Nene (who I think is overpaid for what he does). All they can do is make the best of what they have. And so far the have made some smart moves to avoid the luxury tax, and still stay competitive.

Who knows, with AI gone and with Billups running the point, maybe that will free up Melo to take that next step and it can also allow JR Smith to continue to blossum into a legit 2nd scoring option for them. If not this year, then for the future. It's too soon to say the Nuggets won't turn things around and become one of the better teams in the West this year.

I think they could get Wade maybe in 2010 and that should be enough to win it.

king4day
11-13-2008, 12:03 PM
Great job on this.

DerekRE_3
11-13-2008, 02:01 PM
I think they could get Wade maybe in 2010 and that should be enough to win it.

In 2010 won't they still be paying Billups, Melo, Nene, and Kenyon Martin? Martin has a player option for his last year, and there's no way he doesn't exercise it. There's no way with the roster they have right now that they can afford Wade. Marti is making 16 mil his final year, Melo is making 17 mil, Billups is making 13 mil, and Nene is making 11 mil.

TheFuture6
11-13-2008, 04:02 PM
Doesn't matter.

Dey still teh suk wit no D!

sunsalltheway03
11-13-2008, 04:09 PM
Great blog. I guess they are more clever than we thought. But the question is, can they now make it work?

dnnug
11-13-2008, 04:37 PM
Doesn't matter.

Dey still teh suk wit no D!

its called English... leaern it.:pity:

$KnicksAndKobe$
11-13-2008, 04:38 PM
What they should of done is kept AI and start over
and somehow trade nene or martin for contracts that expire b4 2010

keep Melo/Kleiza/J.R for 2010 where you can sign a big guy

DenButsu
11-13-2008, 08:09 PM
2010 where you can sign a big guy

Nene is our big guy. We need another one to back him up, but he's the real deal.


I guess they are more clever than we thought. But the question is, can they now make it work?

That is indeed the question, but I think so, or at least that they have a better chance of making it work than they'd have had if they hadn't made these moves.


Great blog.

Great job on this.
Thanks, guys. :cool:

IBleedPurple
11-13-2008, 10:04 PM
I very much appreciate the time and the effort it takes for you to do these write-ups. You had an earlier blog months back after the Camby trade that was also very interesting and very informative. Wouldn't it be great if there was a PSD representative for each organization that did write-ups like that to inform the broader public? The view from the inside usually makes more sense than on the surface.

Den is a great TM, some TM's could learn a little bit from him. Keeps the Nuggets forum updated with all kinds of articles.

Was this year of AI's contract a club option or player option? I wasn't really sure, but I thought it was a player option.

I think we are much improved, but would agree with most that we are one player away. A SG would have to be first, followed by a solid backup PF/C. To say we will finish 2nd to Utah is purely speculation, and nobody knows how the 'new-look' Nuggets will perform. Could be floppin or flyin.

Our defense is improved, which was the first big step. I can say that this trade will most likely be better for the team than the Shaq trade has been for the Suns.