The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, examines the off-season plans for teams that didn’t make the postseason.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Hit the ground running
Familiarity can go a long way.
With the core group of players returning – likely all five starters and coach Michael Malone for a second year – there is no reason, outside of health, Denver should not start off strong next season.
Returning a nucleus is one thing; having that mix of young and veteran players commit to improve in the off-season is another. One thing Denver cannot do is rely on familiarity alone to build on.
Don’t take shortcuts
The franchise can’t skip Steps Three and Four to get to Step Five.
The Nuggets have already completed Step One – building a strong roster of young players – and Step Two – finding the right head coach. The next phase is to compete for a playoff spot next season.
With three picks in the top 19 of the June draft plus a light lottery-protected pick from Memphis next season, Nuggets management will be tempted to parlay assets for an immediate impact player. However, as past failures in the NBA have shown, one bad move could have Denver back to Square One. The Nuggets need to be patient.
Get healthy at the wings
Since re-signing last summer, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari combined to miss a total of 111 games. Most were missed by Chandler, who had season-ending hip surgery in October.
Even with a good core of young players, consider Gallinari and Chandler the X-factors in Denver’s pursuit of a playoff spot.
Trust the personnel department
Denver is a mirror image of how Golden State was built.
Since taking over as general manager, Tim Connelly and his staff have added through the draft (Emmamuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic), made shrewd trades to obtain assets (Will Barton and Memphis’ first-round pick) and retained veterans (Kenneth Faried, Gallinari and Chandler).
Like the Warriors, Denver was able to build through the draft without having a top-six pick. Now the team has three first-round picks, including a top-eight selection, and two second-round picks in June.
The Nuggets are well positioned at each roster spot.
Mudiay and Harris, with continued development, could form one of the up-and-coming backcourts in the league.
With the return of Chandler, the first-round picks and cap space, the Nuggets will be operating from a position of strength in July.
How this team gets better will be based on how each individual player improves.
SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN
1. Danilo Gallinari
2. Kenneth Faried
3. Wilson Chandler
4. Jameer Nelson
5. Will Barton
6. Emmanuel Mudiay
7. Darrell Arthur
8. Jusuf Nurkic
9. Gary Harris
10. Nikola Jokic
11. Joffrey Lauvergne
12. JaKarr Sampson
13. Axel Toupane
FA cap holds
14. Mike Miller
15. D.J. Augustin
Early Bird rights
16. New York, No. 7
17. Portland, No. 19
18. Houston, No. 15
FA cap holds
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
With 10 guaranteed contracts and three first-round draft picks, Denver will have $20 million in cap space. The room can increase to $26 million based on the resolution of the D.J. Augustin cap hold and if Darrell Arthur opts out of his contract.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: Has New York’s pick (lesser of Knicks' pick and own pick to Toronto); has picks from Houston and Portland.
Second round: Own pick to New Orleans; has picks from Charlotte and Oklahoma City.
2017: Own; has Memphis’ pick (protected Nos. 1-5)
2018: Own; potentially has Memphis’ pick (Protected Nos. 1-5)
2019: Own; potentially has Memphis’ pick (unprotected)
Own all first-round picks.
Key rights to: Nikola Radicevic (Pick No. 57, 2015); Izzet Turkyilmaz (Pick No. 50, 2012)
More NBA coverage from The Vertical: