There Is Life After Rasheed

That's 'Sheed telling the Nuggets they are f'ing stupid for not pursuing him. He is pissed that he won't get to finish his career with Chauncey. P.S. I HATE Boston.

That's 'Sheed telling the Nuggets they are f'ing stupid for not pursuing him. He is pissed that he won't get to finish his career with Chauncey. P.S. I HATE Boston.

The sweepstakes are over. The Nuggets lost. Or worse yet, perhaps they never tried.

Rasheed Wallace is set to a sign a new contract, but it will not make him a Denver Nugget. Wallace agreed to a 2-year deal worth the Mid-Level Exception with the Boston Celtics late last night. This is a bittersweet moment for Nuggets fans. Acquiring Wallace would have added invaluable size and scoring to the Nuggets’ roster. Furthermore, the Nuggets must counter the Lakers and Spurs’ aggressive offseason moves by adding a player of Wallace’s caliber. Wallace would have been a perfect fit in Denver. It is however a blessing that Wallace landed in Boston instead of San Antonio.

Though ‘Sheed is off the market, all is not lost here in Denver. The Nuggets are in the process of locking up the Birdman whose defense, rebounding, and sheer intensity are central to the Nuggets’ success. In the mean time, Nuggets fans must remain patient and trust the front office. Mark Warkentein and Rex Champman demonstrated last season that they are capable of making the right deal at the right time in order to keep the Nuggets competitive. While I am nervous that the Nuggets will offer the Birdman an excessive contract at 5-years $25 million, I believe Warkentein has something up his sleeve. The Nuggets will make a move at the proper time, won’t they? The reigning NBA Executive of the Year knows that last season’s roster will not measure up to the new, new Lakers and the rejuvenated Spurs, right? I sure hope so…

With Wallace off the table, the Nuggets must look elsewhere for three things: length in the post, efficient scoring, and defense. Birdman supplies length and excellent help-defense, but the Nuggets need to add scoring, as well as one more adequate big man to complete their four-man post rotation. Wallace was an all-in-one solution. Furthermore, he was the only all-in-one solution available this summer. The Nuggets now must take a “moneyball” approach to rounding out their roster. In other words, the Nuggets need to sign multiple players with different skill sets to solve the team’s offensive and defensive woes.

Dahntay's expression silently screams, "I'm so in contractual limbo right now!" Don't worry Dahntay, soon someone will sign you for way more than you're worth. Would a lolly cheer you up in the meantime?

Who says a picture can't tell a thousand words? Dahntay's expression silently screams, "I'm so in contractual limbo right now!" Don't worry Dahntay, soon someone will sign you for way more than you're worth. Would a lolly cheer you up in the meantime, bud?

Re-signing Kleiza and Dahntay Jones would have been the right moves had the Nuggets acquired Wallace. Kleiza’s ability to get up and down the floor would have allowed the Nuggets to change the pace of a game by running when Wallace was not on the court. Additionally, Jones’s aggressive defense was crucial; his presence in the lineup mitigated Kleiza, Carmelo, and JR Smith’s defensive shortcomings. The Birdman strengthens the Nuggets’ defense, but he and Kenyon Martin still need more help. Birdman’s offensive game also leaves much to be desired. The Nuggets therefore should pursue unrestricted free agent SF Matt Barnes instead of re-signing Kleiza and Jones.

Barnes is a pesky defender who is capable of getting out on the wing and running in transition. Case and point: Steve Nash loved playing with him in Phoenix, and Barnes played very well for the run-and-gun Warriors when they knocked off the Mavs during the ’07-’08 playoffs.

He had a career year in 77 games for the Suns last season (10.2 pts and 5.5 rebs), and at 6’7” is a hybrid of Jones and Kleiza. He possesses Jones’s defensive prowess, as well as Kleiza’s shooting touch and mobility in transition. In fact, Barnes (34.3% on 341 3pt attempts) was a much more accurate and efficient 3-point shooter than Kleiza (32.6% on 267 attempts) this past season. With JR moving into the starting lineup, Barnes would be an ideal sixth-man for the Nuggets. He would add defensive intensity on the perimeter, run and gun on the wing, and knock down 3-pointers at an efficient rate.

The Nuggets could acquire Barnes (and his many imposing tattoos) via sign and trade. The Suns would likely accept Renaldo Balkman’s expiring contract and a 2011 draft pick for Barnes because they are already over the Luxury Tax and desperate for cap room. If the Nuggets could arrange to slightly backload Barnes’s new contract and pay him $2.7 million for his first season in Denver, the salaries would match in a Balkman-Barnes sign and trade. Furthermore, Barnes would be a bargain for the Nuggets, as adding him would be more cost effective than re-signing both Kleiza and Jones.

Barnes earned just under $800K last season. After posting career numbers, he would likely command around $3 million per year. This salary is well within the range of the $2.7 million Qualifying Offer the Nuggets are considering extending to Kleiza. Keep in mind that the Nuggets would also have to pay between $1.5 and $2 million to retain Jones. Spending $3 million on Barnes would look much better on the court and in Warkentein’s books than committing nearly $5 million to Kleiza and Jones.

Barnes’s skill set would more than compensate for letting Kleiza and Jones walk. Moreover, acquiring the 29-year-old Barnes at $3 million per season would be a significantly better move than adding 36-year-old F Grant Hill at the veteran’s minimum*.

In addition to speed, defense, and 3-pt shooting, Barnes adds more sweet ink to the Nuggets' lineup. The Nugs should only retain Kleiza on one condition: he agrees to shave his head and have the Lithuanian flag tattoed atop his dome.

In addition to speed, defense, and 3-pt shooting, Barnes adds more sweet ink to the Nuggets' lineup. The Nugs should only retain Kleiza on one condition: he agrees to shave his head and have the Lithuanian flag tattoed atop his dome.

There is no question that Matt Barnes would immediately add speed, offense, and defensive toughness to the Nuggets’ roster. Yet, his 6’7” frame lacks length. As a result, the Nuggets would still need to acquire a long, athletic PF/C to complement Nene, Martin, and Birdman in the post. Indiana’s 6’11” and 250-pound C Jeff Foster is the right man for the job. The Nuggets nearly acquired him at the trade deadline last February because Karl likes Foster’s size and physicality under the hoop; it was Foster who broke Martin’s thumb last season while fighting for a rebound.

Wouldn't the Lithuanian flag look great on Kleiza's head? Some ink would increase his bargaining power with the Nuggets.

Wouldn't the Lithuanian flag look great on Kleiza's head? I think some ink would increase his bargaining power with the Nuggets.

Assuming the Nuggets trade Balkman for Barnes, the team could offer the Pacers a combination of Steven Hunter’s expiring contract, a portion of any of the Traded Player Exceptions the team holds, and/or draft picks in exchange for Foster, who makes $6 million in each of the two seasons remaining on his current contract. He is a physical rebounder and post-defender, and is capable of playing an energetic 15-18 minutes per game. Foster would significantly upgrade the Nuggets’ rebounding, and his presence on the bench would protect Nene, Martin, and Birdman from foul trouble. Adding Foster would give the Nuggets one of the most aggressive frontcourts in the entire league, as well as the length to contend against the Lakers.

Acquiring Barnes and Foster under the given scenarios would significantly upgrade the Nuggets’ roster. These two players would make the Nuggets a much more versatile team. Against longer teams the Nuggets could experiment with a large, defensive-minded lineup of Billups, Barnes, Carmelo, Birdman, and Nene without sacrificing vital offensive numbers. The Nuggets could also go small and explosive with Billups, JR, Barnes, Carmelo, and Nene. Think about it. There are so many offensively potent and defensively solid lineups with Barnes and Foster available coming off the bench.

White men can jump! A sample of Foster's athletic ability. Now look at the bottom of this article.

White men can jump! A sample of Foster's athletic ability. Now look at the bottom of this article.

If the Nuggets re-sign Birdman, ink Anthony Carter for the league subsidized veteran’s minimum, add Barnes and Foster, and fill out their roster with two more minimum contracts, the team’s payroll will rise to around $82 million. The Nuggets would pay the luxury tax, but as I’ve previously stated it would be worth it this time around. Furthermore, it is the only way the Nuggets will contend against the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, and Cavaliers (all Luxury Tax teams) during the ’09-’10 season.

* Note: I understand that the league pays a significant portion of a veteran’s salary if he signs for the minimum. However, winning in the NBA costs money. Taking a slight cap hit for Barnes would be well worth it, especially considering the fact that any significant upgrade will put the Nuggets above the Luxury Tax.

A sample of Foster's crazy eyes.

A sample of Foster's crazy eyes.

A sample of Foster's krunk eyes...not bad for an 8th man bench player.

A sample of Foster's krunk eyes...not bad for an 8th man bench player.

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9 Comments

Filed under Nuggets

9 responses to “There Is Life After Rasheed

  1. Gasus

    I think you know your game a lot better than Andrew at denverstiffs. Too bad I can’t blog with other readers about your posts like I can on deverstiffs. I really like everything you are saying other than resigning AC.

    • callitmilehigh

      Gasus, I’m working on upgrading the web page, so you can blog along with me. I appreciate your support. I love writing about this stuff. I hope more people will start commenting on my message boards. Get the word out about “Call It Mile High” and I’m sure we will have some great debates on the site. I only want AC back as a third-string PG for the veteran’s minimum. If the Nugs offer him a 2 year deal at the minimum, I think he comes back. It would be great to get a third-string PG at the veteran’s minimum because the NBA subsidizes his contract and he counts less against the Nuggets’ cap number. I think AC would be ideal because he is still an above avg perimeter defender, knows the offense, and is a solid character guy to have around Ty Lawson. Jason Hart is not a terrible third-string option either. However, I think AC could hold down the fort better than Hart until January or so when Lawson should be ready for 10 min per game. Thanks again for you comment, and please write back often.

  2. H Vino

    i like the barnes idea, but i dnt think we would need a sign and trade; ive heard from a couple of websites that we are extremely backloading bird’s contract so he would only make are 3 mil this season. then we could go ahead and sign barnes for the rest which would be around 2.6-8 mil, and we could even keep kleiza to use as trade bait cuz teams like him. Cuz i rly doubt that the suns would give him up in a trade if he only costs 2.7 mil, so if we give him a couple of years then they wont match it….

    btw i rly like this blog, keep up the good work

  3. ryan o.

    this was actually my line up on my 2k9 video game.. LOL!. love it man….i trade hunter and hart for foster then trade balkman with pick for barnes…

    we all know that this 2 can help the team and i hope that the front office have this or something better in mind… thanks again man..

    cb/lawson/ac
    jones/smith
    melo/barnes
    kmart/bird
    nene/foster

  4. Tom

    i know the nuggets need some size in the front court, but how would you feel if warkenstein could pull off shawn marion? toronto some how locked in hedo so now they are trying to shop marion. the 6′ 7″ PF is just as tall as barnes yet stronger, not to mention he puts almost 2 pts and 3 rebounds more a game than a 6′ 9″ k-mart. i don’t know who we’d trade to toronto for him but i’ve always liked marion’s game and his ability to shot the 3-ball as a big semi-big man.

    p.s. dallas could be another dangerous team in the west with a starting line-up including kidd, marion, and dirk

    • callitmilehigh

      Brotha Tom! I’m a bit weary of Shawn Marion for a few reasons. As you pointed out, Marion is relatively small. He therefore wouldn’t give the Nuggets the necessary length to protect the team’s other big men from foul trouble. Plus, he would not provide a defensive answer for LA’s Gasol-Bynum 7′ combo; that combo just became a whole lot more formidable now that LA added Ron Artest. Ron Ron is a much stronger and more offensively competent version of Ariza. Back to Marion. The other negative thing about Marion is the amount of money he believes he is worth. I think his agent is searching for at least an entire Mid-Level Exception ($5.8 million) in the range of 4 years. This might be Marion’s last chance to cash in big, so he is going to try to get as much money as possible. The great thing about Barnes is that he has grown into a skilled, two-way role player, and the Nuggets can acquire him relatively cheaply at $3 million per season. Marion also does not shoot the three-ball very well. He has a very unorthodox release and only made 10 of 53 3pt-attempts last season (or 18.9%), whereas Barnes made an impressive 117 of 341 (or 34.3%). Barnes is a very efficient high volume shooter, and he plays way better defense than Marion does. I question Marion’s drive these days. He has made a ton of money and it has clearly led to a slip in his play. I think D’Antoni’s system in Phoenix made him look like a much better player than he actually is, so maybe New York should try to acquire him. Check out Barnes on youtube. He is scrappy and athletic, which is why the Nuggets must complete a sign and trade for him. Thanks, Tom. Say hi to Lando for me. P.S. Marion could potentially put Dallas over the top, but I think Josh Howard is better than he is. Marion would be a very expensive 6th man for the Nugs.

  5. JD

    Great post, analysis, and comment. I agree with you, except also resigning AC. He’s too small, and slowing down, and we already have Lawson who has the quickness to make up for his size. I would rather see Jason Hart stay as a backup since he has a little more size. I hope the Nugs are up to something here soon….the silence is deafening.

  6. J-Man

    I wouldn’t trade Kool for Barnes, Balkman is a nice guy to keep on the bench. I agree with one of the previous readers that we could probably get Barnes without a sign and trade.
    And I doubt we are going to get Jeff Foster, the CHA pick was our bargaining chip and now that it is gone getting Foster is very unlikely.
    A couple of other players to look at: James Singleton (long, versatile, plays D and can hit the long bomb), Keith Bogans (more offensive/less aggressive version of DJ), Anthony Parker, Pops Mensu-Bonsu…

  7. Tom

    i don’t know who “Kool” is but i’d ship kleiza, hunter, or balkman any day to bring in barnes and frye. i’ve always been a fan of frye since his rookie season and think he has a lot of unnoticed potential, not to mention great size for the post. balkman can play D but he and hunter are both guys the nuggets could do without, barnes and frye are big upgrades from those two. as far as kleiza goes, weird to think that a year ago we could have traded him to sacramento for artest straight up huh? nugs really blew it on that one…

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