Nuggets should target Wizards’ Haywood
The Denver Nuggets have done just about everything right this year except for rebounding. With 11 games played, the Nuggets are being outrebounded by an average of 5.3 rebounds a game, which leads to 5.3 more possessions going to the opposing team.
If the Nuggets want to compete in the playoffs and make a serious run at the title, they need to improve that number to a plus-5 rebounds a game, not a minus-5 rebounds a game.
There have been many players mentioned in trade talks with the Nuggets, but the fact of the matter is that Denver doesn’t have many pieces to trade without trading a core piece, i.e. Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson and Chris Anderson.
That leaves Renaldo Balkman (four years at $2.2 million), Anthony Carter (one year at $1.3 million), Joey Graham (one year at just over $1 million), Malik Allen (one year at $1.3 million) and Johan Petro (one year at $1.2 million).
Denver also owns a $3.6 million TPE (trade exception) to play with, but TPE’s can only bring a player in with the same or less salary and can’t be combined with players or draft picks.
After looking at the field of big men, I see only four bigs who could actually bring a significant impact to the Nuggets and land minutes in George Karl’s rotation: Marc Gasol from Memphis ($3.2 million), Jeff Foster from Indiana ($6.4 million), Marcin Gortat from Orlando ($5.7 million) and Brendan Haywood from Washington ($6 million).
Denver can cross Gasol off the list right off the bat because Memphis has already claimed him as untouchable.
With Foster, Gortat and Haywood being the three remaining options, Denver would have a tough time making a deal. The $3.6 million TPE is not big enough to bring any of those big men in and Denver would have to trade all five of the players who aren’t part of Denver’s core to match the contract of one of the bigs.
Denver can’t do that because the league minimum is 13 players and a five-for-one swap would leave Denver with nine players.
This is where the deal gets complicated. If Denver wants to bring in one of the three bigs who would command from $5.7 million to $6.4 million, they would have to find a way to bring in a salary of $3.6 million with that TPE.
The scenario I’ve come up with would have Denver trading the $3.6 million TPE to Cleveland in a sign-and-trade for Wally Szczerbiak. Denver then would send a second-round pick in a mini deal for a D-leaguer, who would then be cut.
With that move, Denver would have a $3.6 million contract with Szczerbiak. Denver could then offer Szczerbiak ($3.6 million), Balkman ($2.2 million), Allen ($1.3 million), a first- and second-round pick to Washington for Haywood.
Haywood is 29 years old and listed at 7 feet and 265 pounds. This year with Washington, he is averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds a game.
The question is why would Washington make this move?
With Antawn Jamison locked in for three more years at $15 million, and youngsters Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee looking to cash in once they are eligible for free agency, that leaves the older Haywood the odd man out.
Washington also has large salaries owed to Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. I expect the Wizards to want to keep Blatche, McGee and young shooting guard Nick Young for the long term, leaving Washington in need of dumping some salary.
Where the problem lies is Haywood’s $6 million expiring contract, which is valuable for Washington. However, with Haywood playing so good in Jamison’s absence, he has value as a player now and not just his contract.
Jamison is back from his injury, and the Wizards are expecting to start Blatche at center, with Jamison at power forward, and McGee and Haywood coming off the bench.
I expect Haywood to demand at least the full mid-level exception next year, which is around $5.5 million, if not more. Washington won’t be able to sign him to that much, so either a trade during the season or a sign-and-trade in the offseason is an option if the Wizards don’t want to lose him for nothing.
Balkman brings four years at $2.2 million this year and $1.6 million for the remaining three years each. Balkman is only 25 years old and could bring another young rebounding machine into Washington for little money and the long term.
Szczerbiak brings another veteran leader for Washington and an insurance policy for Caron Butler, who is injury-prone. If Washington wants to make a serious run in the playoffs this year, it needs to add another player behind Butler for depth. Szczerbiak’s contract would also be an expiring $3.6 million.
Allen would bring simply a $1.3 million expiring contract and could even be bought out before the year is up.
Washington then gains a future first-round pick and a second-round pick from the Nuggets.
With Haywood, Denver could throw a lineup of Billups, Anthony, Martin, Nene and Haywood out against the Los Angeles Lakers. That would leaves Kobe Bryant guarding Anthony and Martin guarding Ron Artest in two matchups that would favor Denver.
Haywood would bang around with Andrew Bynum, and Nene would get Pau Gasol, giving Denver the overall size advantage. The Lakers beat Denver in the playoffs last year because of their size.
With Denver playing any other team, Haywood could come off the bench with Anderson, Lawson and Smith. This would allow Anderson to be more aggressive with his shot-blocking ability while Haywood cleans up the boards.
Haywood also would allow Nene and Martin to be more aggressive on boxing out and playing defense in the post because fouls would no longer be a problem with Haywood as an insurance policy.
As far as Foster and Gortat are concerned, I don’t think either team would like a package that Denver could throw together for either player.
The deal for Haywood sounds complicated, and it is, but it could be done. Would Washington bite on such a deal? I don’t know, but NBA.com had a blurb that Washington may be shopping Haywood now that Jamison is back from injury.
If the Nuggets could land Haywood, I think they would have the depth to beat any team in a seven-game series.