Steamboat Springs On Wednesday, every move NBA franchises made in the offseason was made official. With the league announcing its salary cap and luxury cap marks for the 2013-14 season, all transactions were solidified. Wednesday also marked the day my anxiety about the Denver Nuggets’ upcoming season became official.
Denver’s hopes for next season took a blow when they lost a prolific defender and one of the few players on its roster who bears any resemblance to a superstar: Andre Iguodala. To make matters worse, Iguodala was sent to the Golden State Warriors in a deal involving the Utah Jazz.
I cringe when I think about the team that issued the Nuggets an all-out beatdown in the playoffs adding to its already-stacked backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The “splash brothers” plus A.I. form a Justice League of guards being put together in the Bay Area that Denver will have a tough time facing.
Less notably, the Nuggets also traded one of their 7-footers, Kosta Koufos, in a draft-day deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. The trade sent power forward Darrell Arthur to Denver and also gave the Nuggets a second-round pick they used on Joffrey Lavaurgne, who likely will spend the next couple of seasons overseas before joining the squad.
There also are rumors that another detriment to Denver’s frontcourt could be in the future. Word is fellow 7-foot center on the Nuggets roster, free agent Timofey Mozgov, is being courted by his hometown team in Russia that plans to make its Euroleague debut next season.
Joining Mozgov in the free agency rumor mill is Nuggets guard Corey Brewer. The Nuggets reportedly are seeking a sign and trade deal that would send the streaky shooter to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It’s the players the Nuggets lost, or stand to lose, that makes me nervous. But along with my blissful superfan mindset, the young players that remain on Denver’s roster, and those who have been added, push worry out of my head.
At the forefront of new players that calm my thoughts about 2014 is J.J. Hickson. The Nuggets signed the 6-9, 242-pound power forward, who averaged a double-double in points and rebounds last season, to a three-year deal Wednesday. Pairing Hickson with Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried makes the idea of Mozgov and Koufos leaving seem bearable.
Another player who accompanies Hickson in giving me peace of mind is Randy Foye. In the Iguodala deal, Denver received a dependable starter at the two guard from the Jazz in Foye, who averaged 10.8 points per game in 27.4 minutes for Utah and surely will be a steady presence on which point guard Ty Lawson can rely.
Adding to my reasons-not-to-worry list is the crop of young players remaining in Denver who have potential to seize key roles next season:
• Evan Fournier: The lanky, 3-point shooting specialist has shown moments of brilliance on the offensive end.
• Erick Green: Although there are doubts about Green’s immediate impact, a guy who averaged 25 points per game in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year should not be counted out as an NBA-ready player.
• Jordan Hamilton: This could be the year for him to emerge as the athletic, star swingman he was in his college days at the University of Texas.
There are bright spots that remain in Denver, but free agency has not been kind to the Nuggets in 2013.
Call it ignorant optimism or blind allegiance, but I just can’t let myself be too worried about my beloved Denver Nuggets.
Jake Miller, a 2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, is working as a summer intern for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He recently completed his freshman year at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he played basketball.