Tag:Danilo Gallinari
Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:01 am
Edited on: February 7, 2012 1:05 am
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Monday, bloody Monday strikes the NBA

Chauncey Billups was one of several players to go down with injuries Monday. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore

If there was a tipping point for when the compacted schedule would really start to take a significant toll on the league through injury, you have to wonder if it was Monday night. Here's a rundown of the M*A*S*H* unit the league turned into Monday night in a torrent of injuries. 

  • The Hornets announced Jason Smith is out one week with a concussion he sustained Saturday against the  Pistons. 
  • Elton Brand was held out of the Sixers' game against the Lakers with a thumb injury. 

 That's one night of action and we haven't even gotten the random trickle-down injuries from the late games yet. Usually we'd be about a week away from the All-Star Game but since we haven't actually gotten through that many games due to the late start following the lockout, there's another three weeks before the All-Star break provides some relief. Vince Carter said last week that this year was about survival and you can tell how much that has an impact on teams' approaches. It's just a rough year for all teams in terms of managing wear and tear with this schedule, and Monday night was one in which a lot of teams lost that battle.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 12:03 am
Edited on: February 7, 2012 4:48 pm
 

Gallinari (ankle chip fracture) out 1 month

Danilo Gallinari suffered a chip fracture in his left ankle Monday. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore and Ben Golliver 

Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari suffered an ankle injury in the first half against the Houston Rockets. An X-ray taken at the arena confirmed a chip fracture of his left ankle

An MRI conducted on Tuesday determined that the chip will sideline Gallinari for "at least a month," according to the Denver Post. The Nuggets released this statement.

CT and MRI today determined that the chip fracture was from a prior injury probably before professional career began. He will remain in a walking boot for 3 to 5 days. Treatment will be for a significant ankle sprain.

His status is undetermined at this time.

Losing Gallinari is devastating for a Nuggets team, despite theirdepth. They're already dealing with injuries to Nene, Arron Afflalo, and Timofey Mozgov, but Gallo has been the Nuggets' best overall player, performin at a near-All-Star level. Between injuries and a brutal schedule period, the Nuggets have lost five of their past six games.  

Without Gallinari, it means more time for Rudy Fernandez who also has had injury issues this season. The Nuggets had been one of the hottest teams in the league in the opening month, but injuries have taken their toll, damaging their biggest strength in depth.

Gallinari is averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 33 minutes per game this season with a 20.1 PER.

The No. 6 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft inked a 4-year, $42 million extension in January.
Posted on: February 1, 2012 12:34 am
 

Report Card 1.31.12: Grizz major in grind

Memphis storms back to get a big win over Nuggets and stop a losing streak. (Getty Images)

Your nightly report card wraps up the performances of the NBA night and provides grades on a curve. Tuesday night the Knicks found the cure for a night, the Grizzlies GrizzGrinded their way to a comeback, and the Celtics passed... barely. 

By Matt Moore

Memphis Grizzlies


The Grizzlies were lost for much of the first half, but got back to the constant effort and continual pressure that makes them a dangerous team. All of a sudden their offense began to click, Rudy Gay started to get it going in steals, threes, and dunks, and O.J. Mayo began making plays as well as scoring. Throw in some tremendous defense by Tony Allen, and the Grizzlies steal a key game from Denver to get back on track. The Nuggets kept hammering them with offense, and the Grizzlies needed every single second in this one to get th win. Memphis pulls up out of its tailspin of late.

New York Knicks


(by Ken Berger, CBSSports.com)

I grade them on a curve because they're playing, you know, the Pistons. But the time off (in addition to lack of defense) did wonders for Melo. The Knicks moved the ball better than they have in a while and got good (mostly uncontested) shots as a result.




Boston Celtics


They won. And outside of very few exceptions, if you win, you get a C- or better. So The Celtics get a C-, no better. They won, against a tough, gritty, feisty, whatever cliche term you want to use Cavs team. But the fourth quarter collapse was in effect again. Kyrie Irving gets two more shots that were awful close to drop and the Celtics are staring at their second meltdown against the Cavs in three days. Their offense gets out of control, their defense is the bigger concern. They continually have issues with defending inside in the last minutes of a game against pressure. They got the win. But there are problems still in Boston.

Danilo Gallinari

You've got to wonder if Gallo is injured. He simply did not have any part of his game working. Dribble, shooting, defense, rebounding, anything. If Gallinari plays any better the Nuggets likely win this game comfortably. Also wound up forcing other players to contribute more minutes, adding to exaustion with a tough schedule coming up.



Detroit Pistons



The Detroit Pistons, good for what ails you. Even the Knicks.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 4:18 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 12:27 am
 

2008 Draft contract extensions: Winners & Losers

Posted by Ben Golliver

The deadline for teams to sign extensions with 2008 NBA Draft picks passed at midnight on Wednesday. Only a handful of deals were reached, with a number of fairly big names left to head towards restricted free agency next summer. Let's take a look at the major deals and non-deals one-by-one.

Derrick Rose signs 5-year, $94 million extension with Chicago Bulls

This year’s largest deal was handed out to the class’s No. 1 overall pick and it was an absolute no-brainer, a long-term commitment that binds hometown star and league MVP Derrick Rose to the Bulls for the next half-decade. With the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls clearly in the middle of what should be a lengthy championship window and with Rose more than comfortable both on and off the court in Chi-town, this deal amounted to calculating the highest legal financial offer and delivering it as quickly as possible. That Rose elected not to demand a player option on the deal’s final year is a nice bonus for Chicago, who will be paying a premium to their 2-time All-Star under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement. Rose will almost certainly be a Bull for the next decade but it’s comforting to know that there won’t be any distracting sideshows and rumors for years to come.

Rose wins; Bulls win 

Russell Westbrook signs 5-year, $80 million extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook, the No. 4 overall pick, was really just Rose-light. The 2011 All-Star and All-NBA second team performer commanded every penny available to him under a standard max extension, and the fact that he reportedly passed on the potential for some extra dollars under the new CBA while also passing on requesting a player option means this deal couldn’t be sweeter for the Thunder. Their second All-Star piece is now cast in long-term, locked-in stone next to Kevin Durant, and the deal left OKC with as much flexibility as possible going forward even if the books are now necessarily tight with two max players in place. Even Westbrook’s biggest critics – those who question his personality, turnovers, mentality and shot selection – realize that he still represents an extraordinary value, even at $16 million a year. Need convincing? Imagine how different the NBA would be if Miami or Memphis had selected him at No. 2 or No. 3. Or, imagine if the Thunder had opted for one of the Draft’s other top point guard prospects, D.J. Augustin or Jerryd Bayless.

Westbrook wins; Thunder win 

Kevin Love signs 4-year, $62 million extension with early termination option with the Minnesota Timberwolves

This is a classic case of a good idea in theory being far, far less valuable than a good idea in practice. Love, the No. 5 overall pick,  has been leaps and bounds better than every other big man in this class and is already in the "power forward in basketball" discussion. A ridiculously productive and consistent rebounder, Love has improved his offensive game, extended his range, overhauled his body and stuck with a team that went through a toxic stretch under former coach Kurt Rambis. He’s a franchise guy, period. He’s in the same “no-brainer” category as Rose and Westbrook.

The problem facing Minnesota, that differentiates them from Chicago and Oklahoma City, is that they face multiple potential top-tier future stars in Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams who could request a 5-year extension after they complete their rookie deals. The idea here was to avoid offering a 5-year deal to Love using the new "designated player" tag so that it could be saved for later use. That flexibility would have some value to the Timberwolves, assuming Love was on board with the concept. It’s a good idea in theory: superstar sacrifices one year of a contract to help his franchise keep his future star teammates happy.

In practice, it didn’t work out quite like that. In exchange for agreeing to a deal shorter than five years, Love requested and received an early termination option on the last year of his 4-year agreement. That will create endless speculation and questions about his future and every franchise misstep over the next two to three years will be looked at under the prism of, “Will that make Love want to leave?” LeBron James and Chris Bosh both left their original teams after signing similar deals.

There was value to be had in flexibility and it could have been a coup if Love had jumped on board with the idea. But he simply didn't see it that way. Instead, he stressed Wednesday that he was ready to commit for five years and the team wasn't, making it clear where the responsibility lies in the future if the player/team relationship goes south, or, in a worst case scenario, if the relationship ends in a trade demand or a departure to a different market in free agency. Sure, he can always make up the money on the next deal. But star players, like everyone else in the world, prefer up-front certainty to future promises. They certainly prefer to be valued rather than leveraged.

Weighing all the available risks should have led to a simple conclusion: securing Love for as long as possible as quickly as possible, to ensure good will and a rock-solid future, was the best way to continue the team's recent positive momentum and the most expedient method for reducing outside noise. Maxing out Love would also have sent a message to Rubio and Williams that this was an organization that properly valued and rewarded its stars. Future flexibility is a great idea; two extra locked in years of Love would have been a much, much better reality.

Love loses; Timberwolves lose 

Danilo Gallinari signs 4-year, $42 extension with the Denver Nuggets

This deal will go under the radar because it seems like the Nuggets, currently the West’s No. 2 seed, always go under the radar and because Gallinari, the No. 6 pick in his class, is somehow still his class’s most underrated player.  Denver gets a well-rounded, good-natured player, who produces at an elite efficiency level and is putting up career-highs across the board. Gallinari pairs nicely with Denver’s point guard of the present and future, Ty Lawson, and will deliver value on his salary as long as he is able to keep his back problems in the rearview mirror. Denver is the only team ranked in the top-4 in either conference without a sure-fire All-Star but his salary number isn’t so large that it boxes the Nuggets into a corner down the road. The Nene/Gallinari/Afflalo/Lawson quartet should be the solid base of an above-average team for the life of Gallinari’s deal. Why not get this done with now?

Gallinari wins; Nuggets win 

Kosta Koufos signs 3-year, $9 million extension with a team option with the Denver Nuggets

Another piece to Denver’s puzzle, albeit a minor one, is Koufos, the No. 23 pick originally taken by the Utah Jazz. Koufos is Denver’s fifth big man and his career ceiling is probably as a fourth big man, at best. Finding reserve bigs can be a chore and the churn involved in locating and holding the right skillset to complement the frontline players isn’t as easy as it seems. Denver locks up Koufos at a small cap number and holds flexibility in the last year if they end up wanting to go a different direction. The 7-footer, meanwhile, knows he’s getting at least 6 million no matter what over the next two years, not bad for someone who has never played more than 50 games in a season or more than 11 minutes per game. This is really just a footnote deal, but it’s another sign of effective, well-intentioned management by Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, who pro-actively resolved multiples questions for his club at thisextension deadline and can now focus his energy elsewhere at the trade deadline and next summer.

Koufos wins; Nuggets win 

New Orleans Hornets do not sign Eric Gordon to an extension

Conventional wisdom dictated that a league-owned team that technically didn’t need to agree to an 8-figure per year extension to Gordon, the No. 7 pick who is currently out for an extended period of time with a knee injury, wouldn’t get it done. That's exactly what happened. An offer was reportedly made to Gordon and rejected, leaving his future up in the air until next summer, when he will become a restricted free agent. Gordon’s value as a second-tier player in his class is clear. He’s likely headed for the type of deal given to Al Horford and Joakim Noah, and there’s a possibility someone reaches in free agency to throw him something even closer to a max, which his injury history and overall production levels don’t quite warrant. Regardless of where the numbers eventually come in, as the only star on an endlessly sinking ship, Gordon will be a scorching hot commodity. It’s well past time the Hornets got sold to a new owner so they can get on with the business of being a real basketball franchise.

Gordon wins; Hornets lose 

Portland Trail Blazers do not sign Nicolas Batum to an extension

The up and down Blazers don’t know whether they are coming or going. Are they a fringe contender or is it time for a rebuild? The team’s front office readily admits that, in lieu of making that determination, they will procrastinate until next summer when contracts will be up for Raymond Felton and Marcus Camby, player options could be exercised by Jamal Crawford and Gerald Wallace, and a decision on the future of Greg Oden will need to be made. A casualty of all of this uncertainty is Batum, the No. 25 pick in 2008, who has seen his playing time cut this year in favor of Wallace this season despite hearing for months how the team considers him an important piece of its future.

A promising two-way player who can shoot the three well and defend multiple positions, a strong argument could be made that the Blazers should have went all out to reach an extension. His price will likely go up in the summer, the Blazers only have two definitive pieces locked in for the future (LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews) and Batum’s price should have been fairly clearly set by comparable players like Trevor Ariza and Marvin Williams. It’s difficult to imagine that Batum, who has expressed his desire repeatedly to stay in Portland, was looking to break the bank.  His play in limited minutes this season has been uneven and he's admitted the contract situation has been a distraction. Had there been a fair offer it seems more than reasonable to assume that he would have taken it. Instead, he waits, and watches Wallace play the starter's minutes. That's got to be excruciating and frustrating.

Failing to reach an extension isn’t a crisis for the Blazers, who continue to say they want to retain him long-term, but it extends the uncertainty when a little stability is needed. Portland remains stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels and still without a full-time GM. How much extra money will the "We can always handle this later" mentality cost them come summer time? How many other roster decisions will be impacted? It’s those difficult-to-quantify questions that the Nuggets avoided in inking Gallinari.

Batum loses; Blazers lose 

Orlando Magic do not sign Ryan Anderson to an extension

Anderson, the No. 21 pick, was far and away this class’s steal. He’s putting up 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game now that he’s starting full-time for the Magic and he’s pumping in threes at a 42.2 percent clip. Catching him with an extension just as he is making the upswing would have been an ideal situation, outside any external forces. His is a rising stock. The ground floor was two years ago, when Orlando first acquired him, but the ascent could be quite rapid and expensive from here going forward. Of course, removing external forces is impossible given Orlando’s cap situation and center Dwight Howard’s expressed desire to be traded. The Magic appear to be in “Hold on tight, let’s gun for a championship and see what happens” mode right now, and given how well they’ve played for stretches this season, you can’t really fault them.

From a dollars standpoint, Anderson can’t be too broken up about not getting a deal now. Given his big minutes role on a playoff team, he’s in the situation Batum wishes he could be in: the spotlight. This will end with a massive pay day, one way or another. After getting picked away from the New Jersey Nets via trade, it’s difficult to imagine his future is with anyone but Orlando. The only unknown is how many other moves -- including Howard, most of all -- it takes to make that happen.

Anderson wins; Magic lose

Posted on: January 25, 2012 1:26 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 1:44 pm
 

Nuggets extend Gallinari to 4-years, $42 mil deal

Gallinari has expanded his game and the Nuggets have inked him to a four-year extension (Getty Images)
Posted by Ben Golliver and Matt Moore

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports the Denver Nuggets have signed forward Danilo Gallinari to a 4-year contract extension

Gallinari, 23, was the crown jewel of a trade package the Nuggets acquired from the New York Knicks for All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony at the 2011 trade deadline. A long, smooth forward, Gallinari was the No. 6 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

This season, he's averaging 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 34.2 minutes per game, all career-highs.  

The reported terms are more than reasonable. Gallinari is a solid second-tier player from his class, a clear cut below the max performers (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love) but certainly no slouch.  He's currently ranked No. 35 in the league in player efficiency and he poses a match-up problem for opponents on most nights given his perimeter skills as a 6-foot-10 forward. The $10.5 million annual salary puts him in line with the likes of Andrea Bargnani.

Gallinari is a native of Italy, where he was a standout as a teenager for Olimpia Milano. His first season and a half with the Knicks was spent primarily as an outside shooter. But as the Denver Postreported this week, that's changed dramatically this year as a "New Gallo" has emerged. 
The Nuggets’ coaching staff has put the ball in Gallinari’s hands more than ever. In fact, Gallinari has not been this big a part of the overall look of any offense since before he came to America. He is shifted most often between the power forward and small forward slots. The biggest difference between the two in the Nuggets’ scheme is that the power forward has more screening responsibilities and plays in the pick-and-roll a bit more than the small forward.

Other than that, Gallinari said, “it’s pretty much similar – running and try to score fast.”

Karl admitted the coaching staff was “a little leery” of making the decision to experiment with moving Gallinari around from position to position.

“Moving him around and using him in different ways, it sounds good on paper,” Karl said. “But sometimes it messes with a player.”
via Danilo Gallinari’s responsibility shift sparking his breakout season | Nuggets Ink — Denver Nuggets news — The Denver Post.

Amazingly, as Gallo has taken on more of a ball-handling role in the pick and roll and other sets, his turnover percentage has actually dropped. His assists per game and per minute have nearly doubled. All this and he hasn't' really locked down his 3-pointer yet. There's nothing broken with his shooting form, his shot's just not falling, down to 31 percent from 37 percent last season. When that comes in, Gallo's all-around offense is going to be a nightmare for opponents. With the Nuggets' superb team passing in place, Gallo won't have to bear the brundt of being the sole producer offensively, and his salary leaves room for the team to continue to build around him. 

In short, that Melo trade continues to work out just about as well as can be imagined for Denver.
Posted on: January 18, 2012 11:50 am
Edited on: January 18, 2012 12:18 pm
 

Class of 2008 still hunting for extensions

Posted by Royce Young



The clock is ticking for a lot of players in the 2008 draft class. Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Danilo Gallinari, Eric Gordon and Nicolas Batum are all looking for extensions, while Derrick Rose is the only guy to have signed one out of that group.

Blame the new collective bargaining agreement, I guess. I don't think it's any coincidence that the one guy that has his extension plays in Chicago, while the three that are still waiting play in Oklahoma City, Portland and Minnesota.

The deadline for extensions is Jan. 25 and with that just a week away, there isn't a whole lot of time to hammer something out. Don't get a deal done and those guys will become restricted free agents on July 1, which opens up a lot of possibilities. And less money, most likely.

Love reportedly will be getting an offer of four years, $60 million
, which he almost surely will turn down. Batum wants an extension but with his role being complicated behind Gerald Wallace, he's up in the air. Gallinari might be getting closer and Gordon has himself quite the awkward situation in New Orleans.

But what about Westbrook? He was an All-Star last season, second-team All-NBA and a rising star in the league. It should be a no-brainer for him to have an extension in his pocket and five more years in Oklahoma City. Shouldn't he have had his done a long time ago?

Except that situation is complicated and there are a number of reasons that Westbrook very well may not get extended before the Jan. 25 deadline. Why hasn't he been extended? The new CBA certainly has a hand in it, as well as Westbrook's teammates.

Westbrook and the Thunder are "dug in right now," according to Yahoo! Sports, but indications are the two sides will find a common ground between five years $80 million which is reportedly what OKC is offering and the max, which could potentially be five years and $94 million if Westbrook qualifies for the Rose Rule.

Which is exactly what's holding back the Thunder.

Based on observations, instinct and a few conversations with people in the know around and in the organization, the Rose Rule is what’s making the Thunder are bit more conservative than they otherwise would’ve been. Because if you extend Westbrook for the max right now and then he goes on to make an All-NBA team, he’d retroactively get a big pay bump.

What's the Rose Rule and why does it matter? It was added to the new collective bargaining agreement as something to help franchises keep their young stars. If a player is named MVP -- hence "Rose Rule" -- is voted twice a starter in the All-Star Game or makes two All-NBA teams, he qualifies for an extra five percent salary bump. So instead of getting a max extension, which is normally 25 percent of a teams cap, the player would get 30 percent. The rule has good intentions but for a team like Oklahoma City, it could be devastating because it has two players that could be eligible. Which would mean the Thunder could be paying out 60 percent of their cap to just two players.

For instance, Kevin Durant had his contract affected by the new Rose Rule and will make almost $15 million more over the life of his deal because of it. That prospect is something that the Thunder are leery of, especially considering James Harden and Serge Ibaka will be eligible for extensions next season.

Harden could be complicating that as much as anyone because of his rise as a high-caliber player. Harden has been compared often to Manu Ginobili, but that’s exactly the kind of dollar situation OKC wants to place Harden in. In 2010, Ginobili signed a three-year, $38 million extension with the Spurs. It paid him $11.8 million last season, $12.9M this season and $14.1M next season. The Thunder would love for that to be a five-year deal, but the dollar range is similar. Have Harden on the books for around $12 million a year, Durant at $17 million and Westbrook in the $15-16 million range.

That’s about $46 million which leaves room for a potential extension for Ibaka and role players like Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Daequan Cook and others. Remember, the luxury tax line was set at $70 million last season and that’s the number the Thunder want to stay away from. Right now though, because of the Rose Rule bumping Durant’s deal, OKC is actually over the cap. Which isn’t helping things.

There has been a good amount of chatter about “choosing” between Westbrook or Harden and Ibaka, but that’s not the thinking of the Thunder’s front office. Multiple sources have told me that the Thunder’s preference is to keep the entire core. That might sound painfully obvious, but in the team’s mind, they don’t want to be choosing between anything. They want this group to stay intact for a long run together where they grow, mature and develop. It might not be possible, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to try. That’s been the plan all along. These guys weren’t drafted just to develop over the life of a rookie deal and then move on. They were drafted to be part of a long-term vision.

That’s the plan. And that’s why there’s a hold-up. It’s a negotiation though. Westbrook and more important, Westbrook’s agent, obviously see Westbrook as a max player. While he probably is, or at least very close to it, in the best interest of the Thunder, he isn’t. I’m not saying it would be good for Westbrook to not play well enough to make All-NBA again, but if he didn’t, it wouldn’t be all bad.

Westbrook wants to remain a part of the Thunder and obviously the Thunder want to keep him. But it’s about dollars and cents lining up for the long-term sustainability of the team. I can’t say with any large amount of confidence that Westbrook gets an extension before Jan. 25, but I do believe he will be in OKC for the next few years.

But I guess we’ll get a better idea of that in about a week.

Posted on: January 15, 2012 11:55 pm
 

Report Card: Jazz keep rolling

Posted by Royce Young



Your nightly report card gives you a big picture look at what happened each night in the NBA. Grades are granted based on team or individual performances, and are graded on a curve for each element. Leave your own grades in the comments.

Utah Jazz

Ever so quietly the Utah Jazz have climbed to second in the rough Northwest Division and they haven't done it by beating up on average teams anymore. Sunday, the Jazz topped a rested Nuggets squad on the road and did it by simply outplaying Denver in the second half. The Jazz aren't constructed with big names or go-to players, but with guys like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and the steady rise of Gordon Hayward, Utah isn't a team that's just going to be pushed over. With spots open at the back end of the West, it's time to start taking the Jazz seriously.

Greg Monroe

It was pretty obvious that Monroe had a serious amount of talent when the Pistons drafted him out of Georgetown. But the Pistons might have found a legit building block player. Detroit lost at home to the Warriors and are mostly terrible, but Monroe continues to be a bright spot. With 25 points and eight boards Sunday, Monroe becoming one of the East's best bigs.

Marcin Gortat

Got to give it up to the Polish Hammer for 24 points and 15 boards in a losing effort. He's been a little bit of a bright spot for the up-and-down Suns so far this season and while Phoenix isn't going anywhere and Gortat isn't going to be All-Star material any time soon, to have that kind of line against a guy like Tim Duncan is a nice achievement.

Danilo Gallinari

Sometimes I don't really get Gallo. He's clearly one of the Nuggets' top offensive weapons and yet he sometimes just appears totally content to become background noise in their offense. With his shooting ability and the way he can create matchup issues, he should not be just attempting six shots in a game. The 12 free throws were good, but Gallinari has to show a more consistent amount of assertiveness.

Detroit Pistons

They just aren't good. The Warriors walked in and picked up their first road win of the year at The Palace and the Pistons obviously were without many answers. That roster is such a complete mess of veteran players mixed with youth that I don't know what to make of it. It's so caught between that it's torturing. Just blow it apart, let the kids play and forget about it. You're losing anyway.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:46 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 6:52 am
 

The Nuggets, free of Melo, control their destiny

By Matt Moore

When trading a superstar, you look at two options. You can try and aim for a similar, albeit lesser star, or you can aim for financial flexibility and young players. When the Denver Nuggets traded Camelo Anthony last February, they received young players and financial flexibility, but they also recieved something better. Choice. 

The team was not so devastated by Anthony's deparure as to be forced into a pure rebuilding episode. They had young players like Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson, and got back more in the form of Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov. But they also had cap room to bring in someone, or, if they wanted to bring back Nene. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that's just what they did, inking the 29-year-old to a 5-year, $67 million deal which puts him at less per year than Marc Gasol, and which is less than the reported four-year, $70 million offer from the Nets. In locking up Nene, the Nuggets are entering into exciting but dangerous territory.

The Nuggets can compete for the playoffs right now. If Lawson continues his progression and Gallinari becomes a full-fledged star and young players like Jordan Hamilton and Kenneth Faried contribute anything, along with Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer, who the Nuggets acquired Tuesday in a trade with Dallas, then Nene allows them to push for as high as a five-seed in the West. With the Lakers undergoing signs of a possible implosion and Dallas clearing space for 2012, along with San Antonio's age finally wreaking havoc on them, the Thunder really only stand as a major long-term challenge in the West, provided the Clippers don't get Chris Paul. A deep, talented, versatile team with depth, size, experience, youth, athleticism and range? The Nuggets have everything you'd want in an all-around collection of talent.

The Nuggets are expected to zero in on restricted free agent Arron Afflalo, according to Berger, and as a result, will have a killer lineup of Lawson-Afflalo-Gallinari with some combination of frontcourt players beside Nene filling out the roster. They'll still have long-term flexibility, with only Al Harrington standing as a major impediment and will still have the amnesty clause as a weapon to use to clear space. Most of that cap space will be absorbed by extensions for Lawson, Gallinari, and potentially Mozgov, but that doesn't alter the fact that they can use those contracts and players to upgrade or go in different directions.

Still, the re-signing of Nene has its drawbacks. They are a win-now team. They are not aiming for the next superstar, they're trying to grow one out of either Lawson, Gallinari, or, less likely, Nene. They're trying to catch lightning in a bottle and that's a difficult act in the NBA. It's said that the worst thing you can do is end up in NBA purgatory, a constant 5-8 seed playoff team who never winds up going anywwhere. But the Nuggets might get to have their cake and eat it, too. With the kind of young roster they have, and a viable anchor in Nene to bolster the interior, Denver can have it both ways.

Masai Ujiri caught flak from everyone for waiting on the Melo deal last fall, seemingly squandering opportunities to get better deals. Instead, not only did he take in a king's ransom for Anthony, he has converted that haul and the cap space it afforded into a team that isn't struggling to fill roster spots, one that can take risks and make savvy moves, a team on the rise that can also compete now. There's no telling where Ujiri will take the Nuggets over the next several years, but unlike so many franchises beholden to the fate of one player, the Nuggets have options, now.

Wherever they're going, it's their decision which path to take.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com