The Nuggets reached new heights this season thanks to the acquisition of Chauncey Billups, the maturation of Carmelo Anthony, and the development of a strong bench, led by J.R. Smith and Birdman.
Here is a look at the questions facing the Nuggets heading into the offseason.
Find a way to prevent Birdman from landing elsewhere
Chris Andersen hits the open market after putting together a strong season in Denver, including several strong playoff performances. He should draw major interest in the offseason, especially considering the limited amount of decent big men available this year.
Andersen said last week he wants to remain in Denver. What isn’t known is what kind of deal he will seek. He will probably seek a long-term deal at around seven million per year.
With Nene’s health a question mark and Kenyon Martin aging quickly, re-signing Birdman is in the Nuggets’ best interest. Andersen has found a new home in Denver and would be smart to stay in the Nuggs’ free-flowing, up-tempo system.
Sounds like a perfect marriage to me.
Try to keep Linas Kleiza, Dahntay Jones, and Anthony Carter?
Kleiza is a restricted free agent and should draw interest from other teams. He has good size and is deceptively athletic, and would probably like to get more minutes than are available in Denver.
He is a great bench player, but might be too expensive to keep.
Dahntay Jones is horrible and adds nothing to the Nuggets. He tries hard on defense, but isn’t overly good at it. His lack of offensive ability makes him expendable.
Carter provides experience off the bench and is worth keeping.
J.R. Smith’s emergence could spell trouble
Smith had a career year this season and figures to start next season. His all-around game improved enough that George Karl took off his leash. But with Carmelo, Chauncey, and Nene, the Nuggs have plenty of options offensively.
Smith has never met a shot he didn’t like, and his new-found green light could lead to conflicts with teammates.
Carmelo has finally grown up
Perhaps because of last year’s Olympic appearance or maybe because of Chauncey Billups, Carmelo had his finest season. His tendency to pout and complain vanished and was replaced by a commitment to improving his all-around game. Melo even demanded to defend Kobe in the playoffs, a sure sign he is ready for superstardom.
Not many NBA players are as skilled offensively as Melo, and I expect him to take his game to the next level in 2009-2010.
The Nuggets has a great chance to return to the Western Conference Finals next season.