Exploring the Nuggets' need for another big man

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There isn’t a roster in the league that you could look up and down and say “Ehh, they couldn’t use another big man.” That’s the very reason that the Big Z-Cleveland release-and-catch is so offensive to so many teams; the move doesn’t seem like it should be legal, sure, but those who have been the most vocal about it are those threatened by Cleveland’s competition or those that would be vying for Ilgauskas’ services.

Productive centers with decent size go a long way in the NBA, and true depth at the 5 is something of a Holy Grail for many championship and playoff contenders.

In that light, the Nuggets’ rumored flirtations with just about every free agent big man on the NBA radar makes perfect sense. They could very well find themselves matched up against the Lakers in the playoffs, and that frontcourt? Not exactly small. L.A.’s size is one of the reasons they’re so difficult to match and match-up with.

To further complicate things, Chris Andersen, a vital component of Denver’s bench and their most effective center behind Nene, isn’t well. He hasn’t been for some time, and won’t be for a long while. From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:

On the orders of the training staff, [Andersen] sat out the second half of the Nuggets’ 101-85 loss at Phoenix on Monday. Then there was a day off before the Oklahoma City game. “With four games in five nights, it’s really not enough time for you to do as much treatment as I needed, and to get in the weight room. So it was tough,” Andersen said. “But I got a little bit of rest, even though I didn’t want to. I tried to give it a go against Phoenix, and they said just (to) sit out the rest of the half due to the fact that my knee was strained. But it’s a matter of bouncing back, because we definitely needed that game (on Wednesday). We definitely have to take care of our home court.”

Andersen will likely not be 100 percent during the rest of the regular season or into the playoffs. Asked if he knows what he’ll feel like from one day to the next, Andersen said “No.”

“Usually when I get up, I’m in some big pain, but that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “It’s been a tough year so far with all of the back-to-backs we’ve had. It’s just a matter of fighting through it.”

Andersen’s injury is even more damaging to the Nuggets because Andersen’s real value comes in his activity level; he’s more mobile than most centers, which makes him an incredibly effective weak-side shot blocker. But when he’s enduring constant soreness and pain in a bum knee? Well, it doesn’t exactly improve his abilities as a rotating defender, that’s for sure.

But these are hardly developments with Andersen’s injured knee so much as they are lingering storylines. It’s something that will chase Denver through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs, and the only plausible solution at this point is to grab a free agent and hope they’re able to provide Chris some rest.

The Nuggets just need few minutes out of a capable third center. That man is not Malik Allen , nor Johan Petro. But considering how late it is in the season and Denver’s circumstances, there may not be many other options. So they’ll chase Z, they’ll probably chase Mark Blount, or Jake Voskuhl, or some unsigned “gem.” And though expectations will likely be pretty low for a guy of Blount or Voskuhl’s caliber, they’re not needed for much: just a simple role and a simple job that could be all the difference come April, maybe May, and hopefully for the Nuggets, June.

Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers reportedly agree to four-year, $45 million contract extension

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Cleveland wanted this to happen, he’s the son of a Cavaliers’ legend who showed last playoffs he can have a role in whatever is next for this team post-LeBron.

Larry Nance Jr. wanted this to happen — he was born in Akron and was raised in the area, Cleveland is where he wants to be.

So as had been expected, the Cavaliers and Nance were able to work out an extension to his rookie contract before the deadline, as reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Joe Varden of the Athletic said the final numbers were four-years, $44.8 million.

That seems about a fair price. Nance was a steal in the draft by the Lakers 27th back in 2015 and was a fan favorite in L.A., but was sent to Cleveland in the Isaiah Thomas trade. Nance is a quality rotation player on both ends, a guy who averaged 8.7 points per game last season (expect that to go up) and shot 58.1 percent overall (and a 58.5 true shooting percentage, above the league average). He had a PER of 21.5 while with the Cavaliers last season (and a 20.2 PER with a 68.5 true shooting percentage in a smaller playoff role), showing the kind of versatility prized in today’s NBA.

This contract is a win for both sides.

Jodie Meeks set to dodge nearly $600K in suspension penalty with trade from Wizards to Bucks

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Jodie Meeks was set to forfeit $596,686 this season due to his performance-enhancing-drug suspension.

Instead, he could receive his his entire $3,454,500 salary.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Wizards are in line to save $6,146,794 in luxury tax with this move. Subtract the amount paid to the Bucks, which surely includes at least Meeks’ full salary. But that’s still at least $ 2,692,294 in savings, which is why Washington also sent a draft pick.

Milwaukee was in the right place at the right time – with the Greg Monroe trade exception (from the Eric Bledsoe deal) just large enough to absorb Meeks – to extract an extra draft pick.

But the big winner is Meeks, who can’t serve a suspension while not on a roster and therefore can’t have his pay docked. If he signs again in the NBA, he’d still have to sit 19 games, but his lost salary would almost certainly be based on a minimum salary, not the higher amount he’s due this year.

Report: Pacers, Myles Turner agree to four-year, $80 million extension

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Update: There’s the not unexpected wrinkle:

 

The Pacers’ identification and development of young players stagnated in the Paul George era and might have contributed to his exit. Indiana’s kept first-round picks in the seven years between drafting and trading George: Miles Plumlee, Solomon Hill, Myles Turner, T.J. Leaf.

Turner is the lone hope to emerge as a secondary star, and though now it’d be next Victor Oladipo rather than George, the Pacers will pay Turner as such.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

That’s a sizable deal, not just in terms of dollars but also opportunity cost. This will unnecessarily cut into Indiana’s cap space next summer.

Turner will begin the offseason counting against the cap at his 2019-20 salary, which based on the reported terms, will be between $17,857,143 and $22,727,273. If the Pacers didn’t extend him and let him become a restricted free agent, they could have held him at $10,230,852, used their other cap space first then exceeded the cap to re-sign him with Bird Rights.

So, why lock him up now? Indiana clearly believes his production will outpace his salary. This prevents another team from signing him to an even larger offer sheet next summer.

The 22-year-old Turner can live up to this deal. He’s a good 3-point shooter and shot-blocker. He must play with more force inside and either improve his foot speed or defensive recognition, ideally both. But he has plenty of tools for a modern center.

That said, if the extension is fully guaranteed, this is too much of a gamble on Turner for me. For sacrificing so much cap flexibility next summer, the Pacers should have gotten more of a discount. Of course, if this deal is heavy on incentives and short on guarantees, that could swing the analysis.

Report: Clippers trading Wesley Johnson to Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca

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The Chris PaulBlake GriffinDeAndre Jordan era already ended in L.A.

Now, the Clippers are losing the very last player from their 2016-17 team (just two years ago!) – Wesley Johnson, who’s being shipped to the Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Johnson ($6,134,520) has a slightly higher salary than Ajinca ($5,285,394) with both players in the final year of their contracts. As long the Clippers have to waive a player, they’d rather drop the cheaper one.

The Clippers actually had to shed two players before the regular-season roster deadline. They’re also releasing Jawun Evans, the No. 39 pick last year. The point guard just didn’t acclimate to the NBA quickly enough to beat out Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Wallace. Though waiving Evans was probably the right move now, I wouldn’t write him off entirely.

Ajinca, on the other hand, has no place in a shrinking NBA. The 7-foot-2 30-year-old can’t stay healthy and hasn’t been productive when on the court.

Johnson fell out of favor with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, but the Pelicans desperate for a small forward. Though Johnson wouldn’t be an exciting addition for most teams, he’s worth the low cost – the $849,126 difference between his and Ajinca’s salaries – to New Orleans, where he might actually be a significant addition.