Zydrunas Ilgauskas: The Nuggets Final Piece To a Championship Puzzle

Rich KurtzmanSenior Analyst IFebruary 25, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic handles the ball against Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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A story broke tonight about the Denver Nuggets' interest in ex-Cleveland Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Ilgauskas was traded at the deadline to Washington for Antawn Jamison and the Wizards have already said they will buy the traded center out of his current contract, which will make Ilgauskas a free agent.

Ilgauskas, the 7'3" veteran center, would bolster Denver's front court that includes the oft-injured Nene, Kenyon Martin, and the slight body of Chris Andersen.

Ilgauskas, who's likable nickname "Big Z" would be the largest Nugget by far if he moved to Denver, as only bench-warmer Johan Petro is a legit seven-footer.

But Big Z would not only add size, he would bring depth and versatility as well.

With Ilgauskas in town, the Nuggets could put him into the third spot ahead of "Birdman" Andersen who has been slowed by ankle injuries and a lower back strain he suffered against Cleveland last week. Bird would get some much needed rest and Denver would likely prosper with Ilgauskas' much better all-around game.

Big Z is decent around the hoop offensively, but he's much better than Andersen on his jump shot, especially from outside. Ilgauskas shoots 45 percent overall and an even 50 percent from three this year, not that the Nuggets need more offensive firepower. But, it would give Denver more versatility heading into the playoffs.

Ilgauskas could really come in handy on the defensive end for the Nuggets, especially against teams with lots of size. The Lakers and Cavs come to mind and Big Z could help the Nuggets match up with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, along with Lamar Odom and Ron Artest's bull-sized body.

While I already believe they are the NBA's best team" target="_blank">NBA's best team, and saying so a full two days before Woody Paige's column calling them contenders, the Nuggets would undoubtedly be better off with the services of Big Z.

But just how serious is Denver about acquiring the big man's services?

Denver Post writer Benjamin Hochman wrote about that today. “There hasn’t been a day go by that I haven’t heard from Mark (Warkentien, the Nuggets vice president of basketball operations),” said Herb Rudoy, Ilgauskas’ agent. “He had a great relationship with ‘Z’ (back in Cleveland). Mark has been very aggressive to convince me to convince ‘Z’.”

So even though the front office came up empty last week at the deadline, they are apparently making a big push for Ilgauskas, who wants to play for a title contender.

Without Big Z the Nuggets can compete, but with him Denver they could strike fear into any team in the NBA.

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