Nuggets' future paved with hard decisions and lots of dollars
Second week of June, the rest of the NBA bunkering down for the draft, and
Even if the internal decision was to stay quiet and say little, or nothing in this case, before July 1 about the market strategy, Warkentien's unusual travel schedule was a blaring statement. This is a huge moment for the organization, one of the biggest offseasons in Nuggets history, and executives need to strike with precision in a series of contract talks that will determine whether they will remain in the lead pack in the Western Conference with the Lakers and Spurs or fall back.
All at once,
It gets better. Really stepping out on the financial tightrope, more high risk than ever in such an unforgiving economy, it appears the Nuggets are prepared to offer major raises to their own three players and aggressively try to attract outside free agents.
Hill will be the interesting case. His consistent message last season was a desire to re-sign with the Suns for a final push with
Further enticing, Hill shot 52.3 percent in '08-09, averaged 12 points and 4.9 rebounds at small forward, and logged 29.8 minutes per game while playing all 82 and starting 68 at age 36. The Nuggets aren't interested in a potted plant to just look pretty in the corner.
Desire and deep pockets won't ward off competition, though.
Teams will come at Andersen the hardest. He is a very active big man willing to play a role, a reserve power forward who resurrected a career once derailed by substance abuse. The first full season back in the league after the suspension, playing in Denver for the minimum, the Birdman finished second in the NBA in blocked shots in just 20.6 minutes per game.
No way the Nuggets lose him. Signing Anderson last offseason, with the drug issue at the forefront, was a tough call and done only after a lot of conversation. He's their investment. Not merely an integral part of a 54-win club, not just a great teammate, not simply an energy burst few front-court substitutes in the entire league can match; keeping Anderson is practically personal to Denver.
Kleiza is restricted, and so the Nuggets have an obvious advantage to retain him, as well.
Jones is the greatest uncertainty among the three Denver will fight hardest to keep. His physical defense at shooting guard earned praise, is coming off the second-best showing from the field (45.8 percent) in six seasons in the NBA, and is just 28 years old. After pinballing around this league and the D-League, the summer of '09 is Jones' money moment. At the same time, the Nuggets have
Keeping all three is possible and probably even the hope. If it isn't to be, Hill is an intriguing and realistic alternative, Finley as well. Artest, while a long shot, is ever-present because he and the Nuggets have a history. Turns out the Denver thrill ride didn't end in the West finals after all.