PF: Al Harrington/Renaldo Balkman/Shelden Williams/Kenyon Martin
SF: Carmelo Anthony/Gary Forbes
SG: Aaron Afflalo/J.R. Smith
PG: Chauncey Billups/Ty Lawson/Anthony Carter
Head Coach: George Karl (7th season)
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $84.8 million
Off-Season Grade: F
They could not convince Carmelo Anthony to sign an extension, and now will be forced to trade the face of their franchise and probably get 50-cents on the dollar in return. FAIL! The moves they did make... using their mid-level exception on Al Harrington, and bringing in journeymen bigs Shelden Williams and Melvin Ely to help plug the hole inside.
Plain and simple: it all depends on what happens with Carmelo Anthony. I think he has the franchise handcuffed a bit because he can ultimately decide his own fate. No team is going to want to give up valuable pieces to acquire him unless Anthony agrees to sign an extension with that new team. But since it appears Anthony only wants to play in New York, there is one real suitor for his services.
Knowing this, the Knicks can lowball Denver which is probably why a trade has been finalized. Eventually, the Nuggets are going to have to trade Anthony for something. They can not afford to hold onto him all season, then lose him in free agency and get nothing in return. My prediction: Anthony to New York for Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Eddy Curry's overweight expiring contract and a conditional first-round pick.
As far as the rest of the roster, Denver will begin the season a little thin in the frontcourt. Kenyon Martin is recovering from a knee injury and is not expected back until after the new year. Everyone's favorite fully tattooed, mo-hawked NBA player Chris Andersen is also recuperating from a knee injury and likely will not return until December. That leaves Nene and Al Harrington to hold down the fort while Renaldo Balkman, Williams and Ely try to provide some depth.
Chauncey Billups is back to run the show while second year point guard Ty Lawson looks to build off an impressive rookie season. The Aaron Afflalo-J.R. Smith rotation returns to share the off guard position.
Until the trigger is pulled on an Anthony deal, I think the inevitable serves as a distraction for the Nuggets. They do have a veteran head coach in George Karl and an experienced floor leader to hold this team together. But once the Anthony trade does go down, this team will not be what it has been the past few seasons and may be forced to hold a fire sale to build for the future.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
Assuming the Nuggets are smart enough to trade Carmelo Anthony and not dumb enough to hold onto him like the Raptors did with Chris Bosh, Denver will likely be undergoing a facelift. They should get a pretty big expiring contract in return for Anthony (a.k.a. Eddy Curry), and with Kenyon Martin's horrendous contract coming off the books and J.R. Smith also becoming a free agent, that will save the Nugs anywhere from $22.5-$35 million in cap space.
Also, Nene has a player option on his deal while Billups has a team option. Since Chauncey will be entering the final year of his deal, Denver could opt to trade him and hand the keys to the offense over to Lawson. Nene could decide he does not want to be part of the post-Anthony re-building efforts and become a free agent. Things are going to be very interesting in the Mile High City during the next seven months.