Try to win now or build for the future?
The Nuggets face that tricky question on numerous fronts – including with Wilson Chandler.
Chandler is starting small forward for Denver, and there isn’t much depth behind him. The Nugget (29-25) are tied for sixth in the West – on pace to break a four-year playoff drought, though also holding only a one-game cushion for playoff position.
But Chandler is 30 years old, playing his worst basketball in years and holds a $12,800,562 player option for next season. The Nuggets face a luxury-tax crunch next season, whether or not they exercise Nikola Jokic‘s team option.
Where does that leave Chandler?
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
Denver would love to get out of the final year of Wilson Chandler’s contract.
It looks increasingly likely Chandler will opt in. For the same reasons the Nuggets want to dump him, other teams will be leery. Still, Chandler could fit into a larger deal, perhaps one involving Emmanuel Mudiay.
A solace for Denver in the likely event Chandler remains past tomorrow’s deadline: At least he’s contributing. Other options at small forward – Will Barton (needed at point guard), Juan Hernangomez (more of a power forward) and Richard Jefferson (glued to the bench most of the season – bring significant flaws.
And the Nuggets are already under the luxury-tax line this season. Dropping Chandler would be getting ahead of a problem for next season. Talks now could set up a trade this summer.
With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.
This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.
While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.
Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.
The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.
Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.
Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.
The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.
The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.
Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.
At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson.
C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.
Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.
Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:
It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.
Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.
Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.
But the forward is landing on his feet.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.
He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.
But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.
There’s a reason the Cavaliers kept bringing Richard Jefferson back — he was beloved in the locker room. He made some plays, too (you can’t have enough wing defenders if the target is Golden State), but it was chemistry that mattered most. Eventually, the finances caught up with the Cavaliers — they traded Jefferson to the Hawks in a salary dump — but if there was a way they would have kept him.
You could get a sense of that locker room love Kevin Love‘s goodbye to RJ, put on Instagram.
That is awesome.
It’s that locker room leadership that has the Bucks chasing Jefferson hard.