Monday, September 15, 2008

Bargain Shopping, Part 1: The Denver Nuggets

By Lee Eric Smith

I have a buddy who is a wine expert. I was joking with him once about getting a great $50 bottle of wine. He simply replied: "Anybody can buy a great bottle of wine for $50. The question is, can you find a great bottle of wine for $10?"

These days, the cream of the crop of NBA GMs tend to share that great quality of being able to build a good team by finding great bargains -- R.C. Buford in San Antonio, Joe Dumars in Detroit, even Jerry West was prescient enough to swap proven big man Vlade Divac for some high school kid named Kobe Bryant, bucking the wisdom of not trading big for small. Maybe Chris Wallace can catch some of that magic himself.

So after reading Henry Abbott's True Hoop posting about "teams in turmoil," it got me thinking: some teams might be ripe for trades -- not all due to basketball reasons either. Hence, this, the first in a periodic series I'll write this month called, "Bargain Shopping." Our first stop at the Clearance Mall: The Denver Nuggets.

Why Denver:
You think it sucks for the Grizz not to get out of the first round? At least our excuse was that we only had Pau, Mike Miller and Shane. Imagine having a team with Iverson, Melo and Camby, and not being able to do it. They're WAAAAY over the cap, which means they'll have to pay $6.3 million in luxury tax. Key players (AI, Melo, Nene) are all pissed about the Camby trade. Then there's Furious George's tendency to grate his players. Oh, and it's not like the West is getting weaker, either. Sounds like a recipe for cleaning house.

Proposed Deal:

Allen Iverson ($21M) for Antoine Walker ($9M) + Kyle Lowry($1.1M) + Hakim Warrick ($2.1M).

Crunching Numbers:

This is mostly about money. For those who are wondering how those contracts add up, put away your calculators: they don't. Except for the fact that Denver is $10 million over the cap, and we're $10 million under it. Means we could take on AI's salary without going over.

Why Memphis Does It:

It's Allen Freakin' Iverson! On other message boards, I've proposed getting AI a couple of times, and I stick to it for the same reasons: Galvanizes the fan base, makes us relevant, he plays with heart and fire, and then there's the fact that he scores in bunches, even at 32. He's in a contract year, so it's not like we'd be on the hook past this year anyway. Would allow us to bring O.J. along slowly, gets us veteran leadership, etc. There's no downside here.

Why Denver Does It:

I can think of at least $6.3 million reasons.
Taking Iverson's contract off the books would put them under the cap, saving them that amount of money. And while the Nuggets would no doubt ask for somebody like Mayo or Gay, Hak and Kyle are two young pieces to work with (along with the first shot at resigning them), at two positions where they need young pieces. Plus, with Antoine's expiring contract, they get the same cap relief they would with Iverson next summer, only without having to pay $6 million in between. Hak and Melo have played together before at Syracuse, and are good friends. Kyle brings defensive toughness, which they need also. The Nuggests need to rebuild sooner or later, and this would not be a bad start, coming out with at least $10 million for next year's free agent crop.

I could run a couple different scenarios that would involve getting Carmelo and/or Nene, but I just don't see Denver giving up Melo, or us giving up what it would take to get him -- not with Rudy progressing so nicely, and OJ and Conley showing such promise.

I know some would be concerned with AI's age, attitude, durability, etc. But to me the pros FAR outweigh the cons. And he would be loved in Memphis just as much as he was in Philly, if not more, giving us instant "street cred."

More to come in the series . . . in the meantime, what do you think? AI in Beale St. Blue? Post below . . .


Anonymous said...

Ok, we know the grizzlies aren't going to make the playoffs this year. With AI, things would be no different.

Now look to the end of the year: no playoffs, AI's contract expires, and we lost 2 young assets. Most likely AI wont resign with us, so we are left with absolutely NOTHING from this trade a year from now. Nobody's gonna even remember the one year pit stop AI had in memphis.
C'mon, this trade is pointless, unless the grizzlies were planning on releasing kyle and hakim for absolutely FREE.

Anonymous said...

I agree with aumandjoy. Getting AI would slow development of Mayo since they play the same position.
Might as well go after Ben Gordon as he still has some upside.

Rob Mahoney said...

From Denver's perspective, wouldn't it behoove them to just let his deal expire rather than take on Walker's deal? Lowry could be a very interesting piece for the Nuggets in the long-term future, but I think short-term his defensive tenacity would be unaided and unappreciated.

Lee Eric Smith said...

Quick responses:

Of course, we're not going to make the playoffs this year. But trading for AI would certainly excite the fan base, not to mention establish an atmosphere of fierce competition and heart. Also covers us on veteran leadership better than anyone else we have on the roster right now. And while it could work out to be giving up Kyle/Hak for free, my trade would also put us in the driver's seat for either resigning AI, or doing a sign+trade to advance the 3YP.

Somehow, I think OJ having to go against Allen Iverson in practice every day would only make OJ a better player. Just a thought.

Theoretically, you're right. The hook is (and I'm no cap expert), but I think my trade puts Denver under the cap IMMEDIATELY, saving them the $6.3 million they're going to have to pay now. AND they get 2 nice young players. I know it's not the best deal for Denver, but in theory, they wouldn't be negotiating from a position of strength right now anyway.

I just think a trade like this makes sense for all the right reasons -- basketball, financial, fan excitement, butts in seats, playoff experience, veteran leadership . . .

MemphisX said...

The luxury tax is calculated based off the teams salary on the date of their last regular season game according to Larry Coon. So in theory this can happen up until the trade deadline.

It is a good idea but I think giving away Camby and then AI would cause Melo to go nuts on the organization.

I still prefer going after Melo but like you said, Denver probably would need to be forced to deal him away.

My guess is that Denver uses AI to help some other team looking to get under the cap.

Motley said...

Being from Denver and a huge nuggs fan.I hope AI never leaves. I feel any team getting rid of an all star like him is insane. Though we do need to relieve some of the money issues stressed upon us. We'll never get rid of Melo PERIOD! We could live without Nene but would have to replace hime with some kind of talent since we got rid of last years Defensive Player of The Year!(Big Big Mistake)The only reason we would be able to get rid of AI is one simple answer. J.R.Smith. This kid,nicknamed "The Prodigy", is Kobe-esque and could be our meal ticket! I seen him do things never seen before in the NBA. With the right mentoring, and if he can keep life outside of basketball toned down, he will be unstopable. Laugh if you will, heed my warning! The Prodigy will be a major factor for the Nuggs this year!