NBA Free Agents 2011: Denver Nuggets Have Inside Track on Nene, Arron Afflalo

Rich KurtzmanSenior Analyst IDecember 9, 2011

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 24:  Nene #31 of the Denver Nuggets is called for a technical foul as he dunks against Glen Davis #11 and Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics during NBA action at the Pepsi Center on February 24, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Celtics 89-75. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

NBA free agency is here fans, and it went off with a bang yesterday.

Chris Paul—arguably the best point guard in the game today—was traded to the Lakers as part of a three-team trade that would have sent Paul Gasol to the Rockets and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to the Hornets. But hours later, NBA owners rose up against the deal and told David Stern to veto what would have been a blockbuster trade.

In Denver, all the free agency news has centered around Nuggets' center Nene.

Simply, it's difficult to find a reliable big man in today's NBA and Nene's been that over the last three seasons, averaging 14.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He's solid down low, and has developed a decent mid-range shot on the baseline. At times, Nene will dunk thunderously on opponents, though, not as often as it seems he can.

On the defensive end, Nene can leave a lot to be desired, getting caught in no-man's land trying to take a charge instead of just jumping and swatting at the ball. And Nene's attitude goes south when he believes he's not getting the ball enough, meaning at nine years of NBA experience, he's not a leader.

Nene's a good player, but he's not consistently great and has already reached his peak this late into his career.

Still, he's a valuable commodity.

The Pacers and Nets want him, and Houston really wanted to pair him with Pau before the blockbuster trade fell apart.

PHOENIX - OCTOBER 22:  Arron Afflalo #6 of the Denver Nuggets puts up a three point shot over Goran Dragic #2 of the Phoenix Suns during the preseason NBA game at US Airways Center on October 22, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

And reports, like Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick's piece here, make it sound like the Nuggets have the inside track, as they will be able to offer a five-year deal to the Brazilian-born Nene, compared to only four years by other teams under the new CBA.


The Nuggets have plenty of cap room, at estimates of $20-30 million depending on whether or not they amnesty Al Harrington, but they must be conscious not to spend too much on Nene because Arron Afflalo deserves to be paid by Denver.

Afflalo isn't a flashy player, but he is a diamond in the rough that Denver found two years ago in Detroit.

Afflalo knows how to shoot the ball, whether it's in catch-and-shoot situations, coming off screens or creating shots for himself. He's a career 40 percent shooter from behind the arc, and last year he posted a career-high in overall shooting percentage at just under 50 percent from the floor.

That's the most exciting thing about Afflalo, at four years in the NBA, he's still making great strides on the hardwood. Afflalo's averages of 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game were all career-highs last season, and he looks to only continue to mature on the court. On defense, he's the Nuggets' best, and Afflalo challenges himself to lock down the game's greats like Kobe Bryant.

And not only is he a promising young talent, but the 26-year-old is also wise beyond his years. Afflalo's an intelligent young man, he's positive, a hard worker and a leader. You can tell when he tweets complex and interesting inner thoughts about success and digging deep to be better.

DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre JordanElsa/Getty Images

Because Afflalo is a restricted free agent, the Nuggets will be able to match any offers that come in this morning and there will likely be many of them. ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the LA Lakers and Chicago Bulls are both highly interested in Afflalo's services, though the shooting guard has said he wants to stay with Denver.


“The appreciation factor [for the Nuggets] is always going to be there,” Afflalo explained. “And they still have my rights. When [last] season ended, I always anticipated being back there...”

Nuggets VP of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri told the media Wednesday, “We feel comfortable we'll get something done there.”


So, after a thrilling Thursday in the NBA, today is likely the day that will decide whether the Nuggets continue with these prized free agents in Nene and Afflalo, or head in a number of directions with one or neither of them.


Other possible Nuggets free-agent acquisition

Denver is expected to offer a contract to DeAndre Jordan, formerly of the Clippers, on Friday. Jordan, a 6'11” forward-center, is entering his fourth season in the NBA and enjoyed his best year in 2010-11 with 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Jordan would likely be the one to fill the void if Nene leaves, so expect Denver to drop out of talks with him if Nene elects to stay with the Nuggets. Other teams also interested in Jordan include Golden State, Houston and New Orleans according to Adrian Worjnarowski.



Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report and Mile High Hoops.

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