Currently, the Denver Nuggets sit in a special and serious situation.
Of course, the lockout is special—the NBA hasn't found itself in the midst of a work stoppage for 10 years—but the Nuggets are truly in a unique spot for another reason.
As of now, Denver has only seven players signed to its roster.
If the opening tip was tonight, the Nuggets could look at their team as half full or half empty; either way, they don't have enough bodies to fill a roster.
The seven players under contract in Denver are as follows: Chris Andersen, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington, Kosta Koufos, Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, and Timofey Mozgov—barely enough players to sport a starting five, and a sorry set of starters at that.
Note: 2011 draftees Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton will almost certainly sign with the team as soon as the lockout is over, but even then the Nuggets would only have nine players inked (to deals, that is).
The contract conundrum in Colorado's capital is crazy. Kenyon Martin, Nene and J.R. Smith are all unrestricted free agents, while Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Gary Forbes are restricted, meaning the Nuggets can match any offer from other team.
Little less than a year later from the 2010-11 season start, Denverites could be watching four new starters suit up in the baby blue and yellow (minus Carmelo Anthony, K-Mart, Nene and Afflalo, although Afflalo seems quite likely of re-signing).
And of the five players acquired in trade with the Knicks from the Melo megadeal, two are already gone. Raymond Felton was traded on draft night for Andre Miller, while Wilson Chandler decided to depart Denver for China in a deal that has no opt-out clause, meaning he won't return to the Nuggets even if the season does indeed take place.
Turnover is a negative word in sports, and this much turnover should be expected at Wal-Mart, but not necessarily for a professional sports team. Not to say it can't happen, but this much changeover of talent happens rarely.
It's the clear sign that the Nuggets are rebuilding—if it wasn't already apparent—and the roster could continue evolving for a long time.
Simply stated, the Nuggets must spend.
And even if Denver re-signs some of its free agents, it will have to find more players in free agency, and it has a multitude of moves to consider.
With Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, the Nuggets are poised at point.
At shooting guard, Afflalo will start if he re-signs, and Denver has to decide on trying to re-sign J.R. Smith or move in a different direction. Hamilton's highlight videos show he has some of the same skill set as Smith, but he will take time to mature and develop into the player that Smith can be at times on the court.
Explosive, entertaining, but also extravagant and ego-centric.
George Karl seems set on Danilo Gallinari starting for him at small forward—a possible reason that Chandler decided to move to China—but who will back him from the bench?
And who will start at power forward for Karl, who's beginning his second era in Denver?
Martin may leave, if not because he gets another offer, but because he doesn't exactly fit with this youth movement in the Mile High City.
Faried can't be asked to start right away. Should Koufos be given a chance? He has been impressing in Europe in recent months. Can Karl start Harrington? No chance.
The four is a major position in question, and so is the five.
Nene has started at center at the Pepsi Center for nine years, and if he goes to another team, who will start in the middle?
Karl said he believes Mozgov will be a starter within five years, but is he ready to play at a high level in the NBA right now? Karl can't start the Birdman—he's a boost off the bench and not talented enough offensively to play 30-plus minutes.
If the Nuggets want to compete, they have to make some acquisitions—and many of them—while focusing on the future all the while.
When the lockout is over, Denver needs to dig deep into its pockets and pay to fill the roster while finding the right men to take the Nuggets back to a competitive level.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the Denver Nuggets and NBA FC for Bleacher Report, Kurtzman is the CSU Rams Examiner, and writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Swoosh Nation and Mile High Report.
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