February 18, 2009 12:46 AM
Nuggets making a deal appears even less likely
By Chris Tomasson
Rocky Mountain News
The Nuggets had a good day Tuesday.
No, not their practice in Philadelphia.
It was what happened later in the day.
First, New Orleans dealt Tyson Chandler to Oklahoma City in what was pretty much a salary dump. The Hornets gave up a most valuable commodity known as a center for expiring contracts belonging to Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.
Then it was reported Houston will lose Tracy McGrady for the season due to knee surgery.
So, in one day, two of Denver's top West rivals were severely weakened. Those teams each hold 2-1 leads over the Nuggets in season series.
The news appears to make it even less likely the Nuggets will swing a trade by Thursday's deadline.
While it seems fashionable by some to suggest the Nuggets need to make a move, I have yet to see something reasonable they could do that wouldn't mortgage their future.
The Nuggets have only two assets they might part with that could bring back anything worthwhile (no, they're not trading J.R. Smith). One is forward Linas Kleiza and the other a future first-round pick from Charlotte.
But could the Nuggets really get fair market value for Kleiza, who is a restricted free agent this summer and could bolt to Europe? It seems the only way they might be able to get something good is taking on a contract that extends past this season, and owner Stan Kroenke seems in no mood to do that. One supposes the Nuggets could package Steven Hunter or Renaldo Balkman with Kleiza if they're taking back money past this season, but show me the player.
The NBA salary cap is expected to go down next season, and the last thing Kroenke wants is picking up extra money for 2009-10. The Nuggets have eight players next season committed for about $66 million. If the luxury-tax threshold drops to $70 million, and the Nuggets keep those players, that's five players who could only make a combined $4 million.
The Nuggets also have the Charlotte pick, which could be No. 1 in the 2014 draf. It's highly unlikely the Nuggets would trade that pick for a player whose contract expires at the end of this season, and also not too likely they would deal it to take on a future contract.
Yes, they could try to deal it along with a combination from the Kleiza, Balkman and Hunter collection for a big man. But it would have to be a special player to give up a pick like that.
Sure, the Nuggets will continue to work the phones trying to fleece somebody. But, until somebody shows me a deal that would sense for the Nuggets on the court and be approved by the dollar-counting Kroenke, I can't see them doing anything of significance.
After the doings in New Orleans and Houston on Tuesday, it seems even less likely.