In case you're not following Wilson Chandler's Twitter account, hoping for some clue about where and when he will play basketball again, he's "packin" this morning, getting ready to hit the road again.
Considering the Nuggets are the only team Chandler can sign with this season, it makes one wonder if he wants to be here at all.
If he doesn't, which has been suggested, a sign-and-trade is the best way for the Nuggets to get something of value in exchange for the restricted free agent.
Just so we're clear, for the rest of this season, Chandler can agree to play for the Nuggets, play overseas or sit out the season. Italy has been his rumored destination should he choose to go international. Chandler would need to sign a long-term deal if he plays for the Nuggets this season, because the team is unwilling to sign him just for the rest of the season.
Chandler wants to become a free agent, but his path to free agency is not a short one. If the Nuggets signed him for the rest of this season, he would become an unrestricted free agent at season's end. But again, the Nuggets won't allow that to happen because Chandler was a key piece of the Carmelo Anthony trade and to watch Chandler walk away for nothing after playing only twenty-some games would be embarrassing.
If Chandler really wants to become an unrestricted free agent, he would need to sign a qualifying offer with the Nuggets next year and wait until the end of next season to truly test the market. If he simply sits out this season or plays in Italy, he will be able to offer himself as a restricted free agent this off-season. This would be the exact same scenario as when he came back from China, because the Nuggets would be able to match any offer he received from another team, but there will be more teams with money to spend in the off-season.
Obviously, the best option for Nuggets fans is to work out a long-term deal. But the sides are still just talking and not accomplishing much. The Nuggets are low-balling Chandler, as is the savvy move since they hold the cards right now, and Chandler's agent, Chris Luchey, says he's "awaiting their true offer."
The Nuggets don't want to pay Chandler too much money to back up Danilo Gallinari, but Chandler is versatile enough to play shooting guard and even power forward if the Nuggets are playing small-ball. But Chandler could start for a number of teams and might not want to want to settle for whatever scrap minutes he can find in Denver.
This is why a sign-and-trade, which would have to happen in the off-season, might be the most viable option. And by viable, I mean ideal but rather difficult.
This would require a lot of negotiation, because Chandler would have to agree on the destination before signing a deal with the Nuggets and then moving to another team, which would pick up that contract. The Nuggets would also have to find a willing trade partner that doesn't have much cap room. If a team has enough salary cap space this off-season, it would have no incentive to trade with the Nuggets. That's because it could simply give Chandler an offer sheet and hope the Nuggets don't match it without sending any players to the Nuggets in exchange for Chandler.
The Nuggets could match any offer Chandler receives, but how much do the Nuggets want to spend on a back-up, albeit one of the better back-ups in the league? For some context of what Chandler might demand, Thaddeus Young, a comparable forward from Chandler's draft class, recently signed a four-year extension that pays him about $8.3 million a year. Signing Chandler for that kind of money could hamper the Nuggets' ability to extend Ty Lawson when his rookie contract ends after next season.
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As firmly as the Nuggets control the negotiations right now, if Chandler is determined to play elsewhere or be paid like a starter, he eventually will. So while working out a sign-and-trade might be overly optimistic, it's something the Nuggets should consider, if they haven't already.
There are a lot of moving parts, but Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri gets paid to orchestrate those parts.
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