NBA PM: Five Things the Denver Nuggets Learned
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Five Things the Denver Nuggets Learned
Take away what turned out to be a disappointing postseason run, and what you have left is an impressive body of work from the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets. They played reasonably well during a tough road schedule early in the season, looked fantastic for much of the second half of the season and seemed to be a deep playoff team before they lost Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried to late-season injuries. The 57-win season is little comfort to Nuggets fans who expected much more out of their team in the playoffs, but the Nuggets are out, which means it’s time to look at five things the team learned this season.
1) Ty Lawson just might be the Nuggets’ franchise player. After the Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony, head coach George Karl famously said he didn’t need a “superstar” to win a championship. He later clarified, saying he felt a cohesive team was better than one player trying to do everything, and he felt that his team of young talents probably had a star-in-the-making already on the roster. Different players have looked great at times, but this season Lawson, in particular, seemed to grow into the foundational player Denver needs going forward.
“I might be the only [front office] guy left that was here when we drafted [Ty] [in 2009],” Nuggets president Josh Kroenke told NBA.com recently. “He was our target in that draft. Ty’s come a long way. Ty has numerous qualities that can take him to be an All-Star level player. He’s figuring out how to use those tools to his advantage at this point in time. He’s realized that he’s a weapon in that high screen and roll, much like the elite point guards in the league. He’s added a mid-range jump shot to his game, which helps keep the defense honest. He’s athletic enough to finish around the rim and he can knock down the three. Ty’s future is very bright. He’s a worker. He’s a great kid and we’re happy to have him as our starting point guard.”
Lawson still has some growing to do, but he does appear to have the potential to be an elite point guard, and in the modern NBA that’s the most important position.
2) Andre Iguodala is the real deal. When the Nuggets landed Andre Iguodala in the three-team trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, it was almost a footnote in the grand scheme of the move. Iguodala, however, was far more than a footnote in the success Denver had this season. His defense, leadership and all-out play made him an integral part of the team’s 57 wins.
“A.I. was a big part of everything we did this year,” Kroenke said in the same NBA.com interview. “He is a unique player. He fits our system very well. He’s wonderful in our locker room. As far as his contractual situation, he has a player option for next year. He’s going to make a decision there and we’re going to be making our decisions, as well. I can’t say too much about it because I don’t know exactly how it will unfold. Dre was a big part of who we were this year and we hope to have him as part of what we’re doing going forward.”
It makes good financial sense for Iguodala to opt out of his current contract in order to negotiate something long-term, especially after playing so well this season. The Nuggets are hopeful that one way or another Iguodala is a part of their team going forward.
3) Kenneth Faried will be a household name. You don’t often see a player come along who is as tough as nails, takes the other team’s best hit and keeps coming, has a strong sense of community and a flair for the dramatic all wrapped up in a neat package. The Nuggets seem to have found just such a player, however, in second-year forward Kenneth Faried. This season he took a stand on an important social issue, won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for this season, and lived up to his “Manimal” nickname and then some with his on-court play. He also appeared in 80 of Denver’s 82 regular season games, averaging 11.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. He played through a severe ankle injury, but wasn’t as effective in the playoffs, which is part of why the Nuggets are now at home watching the playoffs on TV. Still, it’s incredibly clear that they have another star in the making with Faried.
4) George Karl is still the right man for the job. All too often, when a team falls short of expectations, the head coach is the first one put out to pasture. We’ve already seen it with coaches in Brooklyn, Charlotte and Los Angeles this season, and rumors are flying about a couple of others. If you’re holding your breath waiting for Nuggets coach George Karl to join the list, however, go ahead and breathe.
“George is under contract for next year. At this point in time, we haven’t really given any thought to making any change whatsoever,” said Kroenke. “As we do at the end of every season, we’ll have internal meetings and George will obviously be a major part of them. We won 57 games and in my mind, he should hands down be the NBA Coach of the Year. We’ll all put our heads together and try to figure out what happened [in the playoffs] and why it happened. We were without our second-leading scorer, and some benefit of the doubt should be given to a coach with well over 1,000 wins without one of his leading scorers in the playoffs.”
What it comes down to is whether or not the roster looked better on paper than it did on the court, and in the case of the Nuggets it didn’t. The 57 wins were nice, and if everyone had been healthy in the first round they might have survived to play the Spurs in the second round. Coaching was not the issue, and Karl is very likely to be the one to take his team to the next step next season. The Nuggets appear to be one piece away from contending, and that piece might already be on the roster. It might also need to come from outside, but that’s on management. Karl made the most of what he had this season, and at times it looked pretty darned good.
5) Wilson Chandler is no Danilo Gallinari. When the Nuggets lost Gallo for the season right before the start of the playoffs, it was easy enough to see Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer as more than capable of holding down the fort at the small forward position. Chandler, after all, had been a starter, and was more than ready to prove he could be again. Unfortunately, his playoff performance didn’t bear that out. Instead of replacing Gallo’s 16.2 points per game, Chandler managed just 12.0, and he was remarkably inefficient, shooting 36 percent from the field and just 31 percent from three.
The Nuggets might not need to bring in a superstar this summer in order to be even better next season, but at the very least they are going to need Gallo healthy and Iguodala back in the mix. If those two things happen, the internal growth of the team will take Denver far. Maybe not to contention, but one big step closer.
Chandler Parsons’ Contract Situation
As the Houston Rockets prepare for what promises to be an interesting offseason, the first question on the minds of their fans revolves around second-round phenom Chandler Parsons. After watching the second-year forward turn into one of the best bargains in the NBA with averages of 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game at a cost of just $888,250 on the year, fans want to know how much it will cost the Rockets to keep him long-term.
The good news is that, as in all things, the Rockets structured Parsons’ contract in an unconventional way. David Weiner over at ClutchFans.net has a great breakdown of the situation:
By Parsons having not been waived by the Rockets before January 1, 2013, Parsons’s salary for the 2013-14 season ($926,500) became partially guaranteed for $600,000; and if Parsons is not waived by June 30, 2013, his 2013-14 salary becomes fully guaranteed. Furthermore, if the Rockets do not waive Parsons by January 1, 2014, his salary for the 2014-15 season ($964,750) becomes partially guaranteed for $624,771 (the same percentage partial guarantee as in Year 3); and if Parsons is not waived by June 30, 2014, his 2014-15 salary becomes fully guaranteed. … Despite having already guaranteed Parsons $624,771 for the 2014-15 season, the Rockets have the right to decline their team option, essentially “eat” that money, and make Parsons a restricted free agent. If the Rockets instead exercise that team option, then when his contract expires in 2015, Parsons will be an unrestricted free agent.
Simply put, Parsons is locked in for up two more years under his current deal, and while the Rockets can pay him more earlier, that has not been the way business is done under GM Daryl Morey. That said, if Chandler continues to improve he could be one of the best small forwards in the game a year from now, and eating that $624,771 might make more sense that simply letting Parsons become a free agent and taking a chance that he’ll stick with his original team. The restricted free agency option has been Houston’s favorite tool, as it allows them to let other teams set the market value for their players and then re-sign them at what could be a discounted price. The Rockets also tend to drive the price down in restricted free agency by making it known that they will match any offers. They also used to take the maximum number of days allowed to make the decision, tying up the other team’s potential cap space and limiting their ability to negotiate with other players for what amounted to a week. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement makes that a little more difficult for Houston, as they shortened the length of time for a team to make the decision to match.
Larry Coon’s NBA CBA FAQ breaks it down here:
When a restricted free agent wants to sign with another team, the player and team sign an offer sheet, the principal terms of which the original team is given three days to match. The offer sheet must be for at least two seasons (not including option years). If the player’s prior team also submitted a maximum qualifying offer, then the offer sheet must be for at least three seasons (not including option years). If the player’s original team exercises its right of first refusal within three days, the player is then under contract to his original team, at the principal terms of the offer sheet (but not the non-principal terms). If the player’s original team does not exercise its right of first refusal within three days (or provides written notice that it is declining its right of first refusal), the offer sheet becomes an official contract with the new team.
The first thing to know about Parsons is that he’s going nowhere. Unless they trade him, which seems extremely unlikely, Parsons will be in uniform and probably starting for the Rockets when the curtain goes up on the 2013-14 NBA season next fall. If Parsons plays as well next season as he did this season, expect the Rockets to play it safe and make him a restricted free agent. They can and will match any offer made. Otherwise they risk losing him in free agency, and free agency has not been a friend to the Rockets in recent years.
One way or the other, Parsons has his future in his own hands. If he plays well, he will be handsomely rewarded for his play. If he doesn’t, he costs the Rockets very little and they can let him walk away after two more years. Given his track record, it seems safe to go ahead and buy your Parsons jersey and expect that it will be relevant for quite some time in Houston.
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