This past spring, the Denver Broncos selected eight players in the NFL Draft and signed 20-plus college free agents. Once again, GM John Elway has flooded the roster with new blood, trying to find the next great Broncos.
Not all of Denver’s 2017 rookie class will be great. In fact, most of them will be out of the league three years from now.
Perhaps the Broncos can mine some value out of the undrafted ranks once again. If so, it will be a bonus.
More than anything, the Broncos need this rookie class to be productive and make an impact early on. With a rookie Head Coach, a first-time defensive coordinator and relative inexperience at quarterback, the Broncos need as an immediate return on their 2017 Draft investment as possible.
Eight draft picks. Six offensive players and two defenders. There’s no guarantee all eight rookies will make the 53-man roster, although, this year’s class has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of 2016’s group, and stick with a 100 percent conversion rate.
The Broncos are a young team. That can be a good and bad thing. If they can get steady leadership at the coaching level and clarity and stability at quarterback, Denver’s youth movement could be the arrow in their quiver that allows them to shake things up in the AFC.
But those are two big ‘ifs’. Regardless, if the Broncos are going to take a step forward this year, they’ll need production from their rookie class. But which rookies will the Broncos rely on the most? Let’s take a look.
Garett Bolles, OT
Sure, the Broncos could get by without Garett Bolles as the starting left tackle. With the improvements Ty Sambrailo has apparently made, he could be a serviceable starter, at the very least.
But the Bronco rushing attack isn’t going to blast through to the next level with Sambrailo at left tackle. It’s just not going to happen.
With free-agent acquisitions — Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson — plugged into the starting lineup, the right side of the Broncos offensive line promises to be powerful. Add Garett Bolles, and all his physicality at the point of attack, to the left side — the Broncos could explode upward out of the league doldrums and into something special.
A worst-to-first type of transformation would be the best-case scenario with Bolles in the lineup. Pump the brakes, because nothing is guaranteed. But the Broncos aren’t going to experience any kind of renaissance in the trenches with Sambrailo at left tackle.
As Head Coach Vance Joseph likes to say, Bolles was a first round pick for a reason. He’s nasty, powerful, athletic and he finishes plays with violence. As nice of a guy as he is off the field, on the grid-iron, Bolles transforms into a kind of Hulk-ish brute.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1777865-film-room-garett-bolles-v… I say that in the best sense of the word. Frankly, the Broncos could use some brutality up front. If they want to overcome their short yardage woes of the past, the Broncos are going to need Bolles to come through and be the bully.
Denver’s first-rounder started out the offseason on the second team but by the time OTAs and mini-camp concluded, he was splitting reps with Sambrailo with the ones. When training camp kicks off on July 27, Bolles will immediately compete on the first team and work to earn the starting job.
It’s great to see him move up the depth chart already. But Bolles’ true skill-set, and his best attributes, won’t truly come to the surface until the actual contact begins. When the pads go on and it’s time to hit someone, I expect Garett Bolles to take control of the left tackle position.
His pass protection will be a work in progress, but with Von Miller already taking him under his wing, Bolles will receive a first-rate education long before the Broncos take the field for their first regular season game. There might still be some trial and error in that department, but when it comes to the running game, it shouldn’t take us long to measure Bolles’ impact.
Carlos Henderson, WR
For the last two seasons, the Broncos have lacked a true difference-maker in the slot. Following Wes Welker’s departure, the team tried to get by with a combination of journeyman savvy, and raw, undrafted zeal.
It hasn’t worked. Last year, Denver’s third most productive receiver wasn’t a wideout, nor was he a tight end. He was a rookie running back by the name of Devontae Booker, who finished the season with 31 receptions for 265 yards and a score.
However, that’s more of an indictment on Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison than it is on Jordan Norwood, or Virgil Green.
As Will Keys pointed out recently, tight end A.J. Derby developed some great chemistry with Trevor Siemian late in the year, after Denver acquired him via trade with New England. But inexperience, and Derby’s late-season injuries, prevented him from developing into a sure-fire third option in the passing game.
John Elway had enough of his team’s dearth of explosive talent at WR3. When the NFL Draft rolled around, he pulled the trigger on Louisiana Tech wideout Carlos Henderson in the third round, and Georgia’s diminutive play-maker Isaiah McKenzie in the fifth round — for good measure.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1777462-film-room-carlos-henderso… Henderson (5-foot-11, 199 pounds) is built more like a running back than a receiver. And with the ball in his hands, he plays like a running back, too.
He can make plays outside the numbers, but when Henderson gets the ball in space, he is absolutely electric. The Broncos are hopeful that he can set himself apart early in training camp and head into the regular season as WR3.
Up to this point, McKenzie has earned more praise during the Broncos on-field activities. But for these elite athletes, who possess otherworldly speed and athleticism, it’s easy to look good in shorts.
When the hitting starts, we’ll find out what’s what. McKenzie has raw ability, but Henderson is a more refined receiver at this point and much more physical. With Mike McCoy’s tactical ability as a play-caller, I can only imagine the damage Henderson could do as a rookie.
For too long, opposing defenses have been able to bracket Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. With an impotent running game and no viable third receiver, Denver’s top-two receivers have had to work extremely hard for every catch and yard.
But if Carlos Henderson can acclimate to the speed of the NFL game quickly, opposing defenses will have to pick their poison. That should give the quarterback more opportunities to find the mismatch and exploit it, whether it’s Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian who wins the starting job.
Henderson can also contribute as a special teams returner. But if the Broncos have their druthers, McKenzie will be the one taking on that responsibility, which will hopefully go a long way toward preserving Henderson’s health and keep him fresher.
But the Broncos will be relying on McKenzie very much this year. It’s been a long time since Denver had anyone returning punts and kicks who could flip field position and change the game. McKenzie offers the team that possibility, if he can hold up physically and protect the football.
DeMarcus Walker, DE
Defense might be Denver’s strength, but there was a reason they fell to 28th in the NFL against the run last year. They lacked depth on the defensive line.
Injuries and free agent departures contributed to the Broncos step back defensively, but this time around, Elway reloaded the group with a balance of veteran experience and rookie talent.
Having a fresh rotation in the trenches will not only help bolster Denver’s rushing defense, but also keep guys fresh to rush the passer on third down. DeMarcus Walker will factor in greatly to that effort.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1780457-film-room-analyzing-demar… Taken in the second round out of Florida State, Walker comes to the Broncos fresh off a senior campaign in which he finished second in the nation with 16 sacks. While more than one Mile High Huddle analyst doubts Walker’s ability early on to make an impact as a run defender, where we all agree he can truly help out is on third down.
In Von Miller and Shane Ray, the Broncos have one of the best edge-rushing duos in the NFL. The tandem combined for 21.5 sacks in 2016.
But with the exception of Derek Wolfe, the Broncos couldn’t get a consistent inside push on third down, which allowed opposing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket to evade the edge pressure all too often.
As a role player, at the very worst, Walker will rotate in at defensive end on third down. It might take him some time, as it often does for young defensive linemen, to fully develop the technique to make an impact against the run, but he offers immediate value as a pass rusher.
If the Broncos can stay healthy up front, they have the D-line pieces to return to 2015 form. But it will not only take a big contribution from Denver’s 2017 second round pick, but also last year’s.
Before he had to undergo a knee scope to close out Denver’s offseason training program, Adam Gotsis had become the darkhorse to actually start opposite of Wolfe. Gotsis has put on the necessary weight to hold up at the point of attack and was a constant force during OTAs.
Fortunately, Gotsis is expected to return to action early on in training camp. With a healthy Gotsis and DeMarcus Walker champing at the bit, I see the Broncos D-line taking a big step forward in 2017.
If Jake Butt were 100 percent healthy, he would be on this list. But I can’t say that Denver’s 2017 prospects rely on a rookie still recovering from an ACL tear.
If Butt suffers no setbacks in his recovery and manages to make an impact as a rookie, consider that a bonus and a football blessing. Just don’t count on it.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. (AP) – A jury is deliberating the fate of a former Colorado sheriff charged with extortion and witness tampering.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reports jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon after closing arguments in the case involving former El Paso County sheriff Terry Maketa.
The 52-year-old former lawman is accused of trying to undermine the credibility of three deputies and threatening to terminate a $5.3 million contract with the jail’s health provider if it did not fire an employee who refused to support then-Undersheriff Paula Presley’s candidacy to succeed him.
Prosecutors also say Maketa and others coerced a woman involved in a domestic dispute with a deputy to recant her story so the deputy could keep his job.
Maketa declined to take the stand in his own defense.
© 2017 Associated Press
A cyclist rides past the University of Colorado Hospital on June 24, 2016.
Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs has stood for 71 years as an independent bastion of health care in its bucolic mountain community.
“We’ve done very, very well here from a standpoint of quality of care,” said its CEO, Frank May.
But Yampa Valley won’t make it to 72 years on its own.
The 39-bed hospital announced last month that it is merging with Colorado hospital heavyweight UCHealth, which already encompasses seven other hospitals and more than 1,600 patient beds in the state. In doing so, Yampa Valley has become the latest rural hospital in Colorado to be gobbled up by growing Front Range health care systems — a voracious process that analysts say is saving some of Colorado’s most vulnerable hospitals but could also lead to higher prices for patients.
The force driving the trend is simple economics, said Allan Baumgarten, a Minneapolis-based consultant who produces reports on the business of hospitals. As smaller, rural hospitals labor under the weight of ever-more sophisticated technology demands, larger hospitals are looking to spread the investments they’re making into those areas across greater numbers of patients.
As a result, what used to be thought of as local health networks have expanded to cover increasingly broad swaths of the state. And it’s not just in Colorado where this is happening.
“It’s a trend that’s been in motion for more than a decade, at least in certain states,” Baumgarten said. “…The notion of what your local market is is really changing significantly.”
In Colorado, the last decade has seen a flurry of consolidation among hospitals.
UCHealth, known for its flagship University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, added Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs and Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins to its quiver. SCL Health, which operates Denver’s Saint Joseph Hospital, scooped up Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton.
Centura Health, owner of St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, has been particularly active in rural Colorado. The health system added Durango’s Mercy Regional Medical Center in 2011, bought a Frisco physicians group in 2015 and also has taken over management of Leadville’s St. Vincent Hospital, which likely would have closed without Centura’s intervention. The latter is often seen as a good example of consolidation helping to keep cash-strapped, small-town hospitals viable.
“We want to keep health care local,” a Centura spokesman said at the time the St. Vincent deal was announced.
That, said Baumgarten, is the upside of mergers.
Small-town hospitals can find themselves in a Catch-22, he said. Because rural areas often have higher percentages of people on Medicaid and Medicare, the hospitals there may not make as much money as their big-city brethren. Because the hospitals are small, though, they struggle to attract the specialists and buy the high-tech equipment that could lead to greater revenue.
“Rural hospital leadership really has a lot of competing things they have to worry about,” said Tiffany Radcliff, a professor at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine who studies health economics.
The mergers, though, may bring new worries for patients. Radcliff pointed to a study last year of hospital mergers in the same state but different local markets. Following the mergers, health care prices increased 6 to 10 percent, according to the study.
“It seemed like the cost increases may have been due to a little bit of market power,” she said.
May, the Yampa Valley CEO, said his hospital’s merger with UCHealth isn’t about making more money but about providing better care.
Before the merger, the hospital had to shift nurses out of clinical care and into administrative roles to keep up with paperwork. It also had to send patients to Denver when they needed specialty care — such as in neurology — that the hospital couldn’t provide. Joining with UCHealth means Yampa Valley will have administrative help, and it also means that specialists from UCHealth will travel to Yampa Valley a few days a week to see patients in Steamboat Springs.
“I do have to acknowledge that sustainability for the future was part of the conversation,” May said.
But the thing he is most excited about?
“We really have an infrastructure,” he said, “that is going to get us into the future and provide patients with as high quality care as possible.”
KUSA – Police are searching for a missing 10-year-old boy from Denver.
Malaci Robinson was last seen on Saturday around 8:30 p.m. near E. 45th Ave. and Jebel Street in the East Park Ranch neighborhood.
He is described as a black male who was wearing a dark blue shirt, gray shorts and black sandals. He was on foot.
Anyone who knows where Malaci might be is asked to call Denver Police Department at 720-913-2000.
ALERT #DPD PLZ RT – MISSING CHILD: 10 YO Malaci Robinson has been missing since 8:30 PM July 1st. #Denver, please help authorities find him. pic.twitter.com/ihMOxQXW4Z
— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 2, 2017
© 2017 KUSA-TV
DENVER (AP) — A mammoth marijuana trafficking ring that pretended to be growing weed for sick people was instead illegally shipping the drug to a half-dozen other states and bilking investors, including former NFL players, Colorado officials announced Wednesday.
A Denver grand jury indicted 62 people and 12 businesses in the case that involved federal and state agents executing nearly 150 search warrants at 33 homes and 18 warehouses and storage units in the Denver area.
“The black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish,” state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a statement.
The indictment targets the largest illegal marijuana operation discovered since Colorado legalized recreational pot in 2012, Coffman said.
It says the enterprise produced more than 100 pounds of illegal pot each month for shipment to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and other states.
The ring operated from 2012 until 2016 and raked in an estimated $200,000 a month, Coffman said.
The defendants were charged with 31 felony counts of money-laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes. Most are now under arrest awaiting trial dates in Denver District Court.
Prosecutors say that one of the conspirators, Connor Brooks, duped friends, including two former pro football players, into investing in his scheme.
Brooks got money from Erik Pears, a free agent most recently with the San Francisco 49ers, and Joel Dreessen, a former Denver Broncos tight end, the indictment says.
Neither football player is accused of a crime, and the indictment does not say how much the two invested in what they thought was a legal marijuana business. Other investors gave money, too, the indictment said.
“These individuals each provided tens of thousands of dollars to Connor Brooks to fund an allegedly legal grow operation, and they did not receive any of their invested funds back from Connor Brooks as promised,” the indictment said.
It was not immediately clear if Brooks or any other defendants had an attorney.
In addition to growing black-market pot in private homes, the indictment says, some defendants ran phony marijuana consulting businesses or leasing agencies.
Some held partial ownership in a suburban Denver store that sells marijuana growing supplies, which the indictment says allowed them to have ready access to nutrients, pesticides and other supplies. The name of that store was not listed.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, along with the Kansas State Patrol and Nebraska State Patrol, participated in the investigation.
“Since 2014 there has been an influx of these organized criminal groups to Colorado for the sole purpose of producing marijuana to sell in other states,” said Barbra Roach, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Denver Field Division.
In a statement, Roach said “the marijuana black market has increased exponentially since state legalization.”
The indictment was returned June 9 and announced Wednesday by Coffman.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt
Photo provided by the family of Cristina Rodriguez-Sagarnaga
Immigration authorities deported a Colorado woman who has lived in the United States since she was 5-years-old and has three U.S. citizen daughters, after she arrived for a scheduled check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents last week.
ICE agents arrested Cristina Rodriguez-Sagarnaga, 30, a Mexican national, on Wednesday, at the regional ICE field office in Centennial. She was removed to Mexico on Friday, said Carl Rusnok, ICE spokesman.
She had requested a stay of removal to stop her deportation order while she waited for a response on her mother’s request for a U-Visa, said Jennifer Piper, the American Friends Service Committee, which advocates for people living here illegally. Victims of crime and their immediate family members who have suffered substantial abuse, are eligible for the visas.
Both women have been domestic violence victims, Piper said.
Rodriguez-Sagarnaga entered the country illegally, Rusnok said Sunday. In 2012, a federal immigration judge in Denver granted her voluntary departure to Mexico, and when she failed to leave, the judge’s order became a final order of removal.
ICE granted her a one-year stay of removal on June 20, 2016. She requested another stay, which ICE denied on Tuesday, without informing her lawyer, Piper said.
ICE is detaining undocumented immigrants when they come for routine check-ins, Piper said. “When you have final orders, and a check-in, there’s no good options.”
Rodriguez-Sagarnaga went to the check-in to show good faith, she added. “She said, I don’t want to hide, I don’t want to take my daughters into hiding. This is the only country I know.”
She has three misdemeanor criminal convictions in Colorado, Rusnok said.
“She and her ex-husband had a son together, and she was calling police to report abuse of her son and they didn’t respond,” Piper said. “The next time she called, she said he was beating her.”
That call led to her being charged for false reporting, Piper said.
“She agreed to a plea in that case, even though it was weak,” Piper said.
Rodriguez-Sagarnaga is now in Juarez with an aunt. Her family has created a gofundme page to help support her children.
“I want to see my mom,” her 4-year-old daughter, Dariana, wrote in a message sent to President Donald Trump and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly.
“Yesterday, my dad came home in his truck and I ran to the window to see if he brought my mama, but he couldn’t. I don’t sleep because I miss mama. I love her. I belong to her and my papa and we need her.”
Southern Concepts Restaurant Group Inc., which once planned up to 40 restaurants nationwide under the Southern Hospitality, Bourbon Brothers and Carve Barbecue names, closed its last three restaurants in the Denver area Monday, effectively shutting down the Colorado Springs-based chain.
The company turned over its Colorado Springs location in April to the landlord, a limited liability company headed by Southern Concepts founder J.W. Roth, who converted the Northgate area eatery back to the Bourbon Brothers Southern Kitchen concept under which it had previously operated before switching to the Southern Hospitality Restaurant and Bar concept.
Roth said he had reduced the rent on the 8,000-square-foot restaurant in October, but Southern Concepts wasn’t able to generate enough income from its restaurant to and owed $114,000 in unpaid rent.
“I hated to do it, but I had to evict them and convert it back to Bourbon Brothers because I own all the trademarks to that name and concept. It is doing great; it started to make a profit in the first week and has been profitable ever since,” said Roth, who also is a major shareholder in Southern Concepts and its largest creditor. “It seems to me that they will just go out of business. It is too bad that it came to this. I am sick about it. But it is another day and we move on from here. At the end of the day, I ended up with a winner of a restaurant.”
Southern Concepts CEO Jim Fenlason said Thursday the company “couldn’t put together the capital and didn’t have the sales to continue” operating the Denver restaurants. An eviction notice had been posted on the company’s lower downtown Denver location alleging Southern Concepts was delinquent on $181,000 in rent, but Fenlason said the company has surrendered all of the Denver locations to the landlords. He said a lawsuit by Shamrock Foods alleging the company owed $50,000 has been withdrawn and company officials are working on a plan to deal with remaining debts.
The closings come less than a month after Southern Concepts shareholders overwhelmingly rejected plans to sell all three restaurants, two of them to a company controlled by Fenlason, in exchange for a 10 percent cut of future profits, according to documents the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fenlason said last month that Southern Concepts hadn’t received any other offers for its two Southern Hospitality locations and that the proposed deal with his company would have required further negotiation.
Fenlason, who had been non-executive chairman of Southern Concepts, became the company’s CEO and chief financial officer in August after the resignation of Mitchell Roth, son of J.W. Roth, as CEO and Heather Atkinson as chief financial officer. He immediately launched a restructuring to save $400,000 a year in management expenses also by terminating the company’s chief operating officer, allowing the company to “allocate more resources to marketing and concept development,” according to a Southern Concepts news release issued weeks after he became CEO.
Southern Concepts was hemorrhaging cash at the time Fenlason became CEO, according to the last financial report the company filed with the SEC for the first nine months of last year. The company lost $2.77 million, or 4 cents a share, on revenue of $5.57 million, a slight improvement from losing $2.86 million, or 5 cents a share, on revenue of $4.79 million during the same period a year earlier. However, the company cash dwindled from $1.11 million to $65,822 during the same period while it owed nearly $450,000 in accounts payable and accrued expenses.
Just 2½ years earlier, company officials had opened the Colorado Springs restaurant as Bourbon Brothers near the Bass Pro Shops store in the Polaris Pointe retail development and said they were planning to develop 40 more around the nation during the next five years, including a downtown Colorado Springs location. The company merged with the operators of a Southern Hospitality locations in lower downtown Denver and later opened a location in Lone Tree and a Carve Barbecue location in Glendale but Fenlason said all three locations were losing money when his company agreed to buy them.
The first Southern Hospitality restaurant opened in New York in 2007 with backing from actor and musician Justin Timberlake and still remains open under separate ownership. The Denver location opened in 2012 with backing from Ryan Tedder, singer for Colorado band OneRepublic, and his father, Gary Tedder.
“I was asked to come in, look around and see what I could do to impact the restaurants. I looked for ways to cut costs and found something we could do,” Fenlason said last month. “The cost of real estate has made it difficult to expand and add restaurants. That certainly made a difference.”
Roth had loaned Southern Concepts $1.25 million in October, by extending and expanding a loan with a Denver company, to keep the company afloat but says he will now write off the loan rather than accept a deal that would convert the debt to stock that currently trades at less than 1 cent a share.
“Two and half years ago, I thought this was the greatest thing and made an investment. I loved the management team and the concept. I didn’t have the time to spend on the company, so I didn’t run for re-election to the board, so I have watched from the outside as an investor and largest creditor,” J.W. Roth said. “Two things hurt the company. The real estate market made it hard to lease good real estate at a rate that would allow you to make a profit. Also, the celebrities that were promoted to the face of the restaurant and help drive sales, we never saw them.”
Roth said he doesn’t blame Fenlason for Southern Concepts’ collapse, though he opposed his bid to buy the restaurants without putting all three up for bid.
“It seems like he tried to wind it down the best he could and he has been honorable in the way he handled us.”
Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234
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A Colorado group is looking to curb the sales of cellphones to children under 13 years old and officials in the state have cleared the language for a proposed ballot measure. (AP)
Parents Against Underage Smartphones, the backers of the move, would now need about 300,000 voter signatures for the legislation to make the 2018 ballot.
The ban would require cellphone retailers to ask customers about the age of the primary user of a smartphone and submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue on adhering to the requirement.
Retailers who sell a phone for use by a pre-teen would get a warning for the first offense, but may face fines from $500 to $20,000 for continued violations, according to KDVR-TV.
“Eventually kids are going to get phones and join the world, and I think we all know that, but little children, there’s just no good that comes from that,” Dr. Tim Farnum, who is leading the movement, told The Coloradoan on Saturday.
Farnum said he was inspired to make the push after watching his own kids struggle with the psychological effects of always having a device in hand.
“They would get the phone and lock themselves in their room and change who they were,” he said.
Democratic state Sen. John Kefalas said he understands the reasoning behind the proposed law. But he told the newspaper that it would overstep the government’s role.
“Frankly, I think it should remain a family matter,” he said. “Ultimately, this comes down to parents … making sure their kids are not putting themselves at risk.”
Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines for children’s media use, including smartphones.
The doctors recommended restricting screen time to no more than an hour a day of high-quality programming until age 6, after which parents should set consistent time limits and make sure electronic devices don’t take time away from sleep or physical activity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
While the NBA playoffs are still going, the 2017 off–season is rapidly approaching for many teams with massive decisions to make. CBA expert Danny Leroux breaks down the major challenges and opportunities for the Denver Nuggets in The Crossover’s NBA Summer Preview series.
After finishing nine games under .500 in 2015-16, the Nuggets competed for a playoff spot until the final week of the season. Nikola Jokic broke out and Denver became one of the league’s best offenses after making him the only center in the starting five. Their uncommon depth for a young team allowed the Nuggets to withstand injuries to numerous key players but those contributors are getting closer to their inevitable pay raises. A combination of players on team-friendly rookie scale contracts and low-cost veterans puts Denver in the unusual position to add serious talent to an already capable team, making their summer one of the more compelling and impactful in the entire NBA.
Here are three key storylines to watch for the Nuggets this off-season:
Cap Space: With the news that Danilo Gallinari will decline his $16.1 million player option for next season, the Nuggets are looking at serious spending power this summer. They could either retain Gallinari using Bird rights or wield more than $37 million in space, enough to become a true force on the free agent market. They could concentrate that spending on a single player, spread it out for a few different contributors or spend responsibly this summer and use that flexibility at a later point. Considering how quickly things move in early July, the front office will have to establish a plan ahead of time while staying ready to adjust to changing circumstances.
Mason Plumlee’s restricted free agency: The Nuggets did not trade Jusuf Nurkic and Memphis’ first round pick for a rental. Plumlee is already 27 years old but has been a starter on successful teams in Portland and could draw interest as a capable center. Denver’s ability to match and an oversaturated market for big men could drive down his price but it only takes one team to force a much tougher decision for the Nuggets’ front office.
Gary Harris extension: The 22-year old shooting guard could end up being a calibrator for how the Nuggets are approaching their 2018 off-season because he has a low cap hold ($7.65 million), so agreeing to an extension now will presumably reduce Denver’s 2018 cap space. That could be worth doing for the right terms or because they do not intend to be below the cap next summer. Also, an extension would solidify Harris’ place in the Nuggets’ core moving forward, which would be notable considering their investment at shooting guard with Will Barton, Malik Beasley and arguably Jamal Murray.
• NBA Off-Season Preview: How Can Cleveland Get On Equal Footing With Golden State?
Potential Free Agents: Danilo Gallinari (Unrestricted – will decline $16.1m Player Option), Mason Plumlee (Restricted), Mike Miller (Non-Guaranteed) and Roy Hibbert (Unrestricted)
Likely Summer of 2017 Cap Space: $14.8 million
Realistic Maximum Summer of 2017 Cap Space (using $101M estimate): $43.2 million
2017 Draft Assets: Own first round pick (13th overall) plus second round selections from Memphis (#49) and Oklahoma City (#51).
Potential Targets: Paul Millsap would be an amazing near-term fit with Jokic but the 32-year old does not exactly mesh with Denver’s young core from a timetable perspective. They could try to get in the mix for Gordon Hayward as well, though he has strong suitors in the Jazz and Celtics. Amazingly, the front office could even choose to simply push back all or most of their cap space for another year because they could have similar flexibility next summer and possibly even more if Wilson Chandler and/or Darrell Arthur decline their 2018-19 player options. They could also try to use some cap space this summer to secure eventual replacements for Chandler, Barton and Arthur now but there will not be many bargains for perimeter players given the limited supply.
Pressure Scale: 7. It is hard to put a single number for Denver because they have so many different paths to choose from. If they push for the near term by either bringing back Gallinari or adding a high-priced free agent, they need to nail their draft pick and ancillary moves to maximize this window. A more patient approach still requires thought-out, responsible moves but provides insulation in place of urgency. What makes the Nuggets’ off-season important are the stakes. They have a young team with serious talent, so the decisions they make matter more than for franchises stuck in the mud. The last decade is filled with young teams that did not reach their potential due to front office mistakes for a reason: the best decisions for the future are often unpopular at the time and justified excitement can generate undue pressure. Denver’s front office succeeded over the past few years when so many of their competitors failed but potential can be even more perilous than the rebuilding process.
State of the Franchise: Defining their identity. Last summer, the Jazz were the NBA’s most intriguing young team that missed the playoffs and Denver has taken over that mantle. That said, their situation differs from Utah’s because they have less elite talent at this stage but also possess more flexibility and time. The Nuggets can wait, as Murray, Mudiay and Hernangomez are not even extension eligible at this point. That means the front office should be ambitious with potential additions while also steeling themselves for the possibility of bringing back a largely similar roster next season and relying on internal improvement. At the same time, they need to figure out how veterans like Chandler, Arthur and Barton fit in, as each would net value in return considering what free agents will be looking for on the open market. While the Nuggets do not have to fully commit to their vision of their future this off-season, doing so would produce tangible benefits as soon as draft night if they decide to act immediately. Seeing how Denver identifies their core and chooses to build around it will be a consistent source of interest this summer.
An off-road racer’s pre-runner truck is a tool for making sure that the course to be tackled is first thoroughly investigated. You want your co-driver to know where the bumps, ruts, and other pitfalls are. This way when you’re blasting across the desert at 100 mph in the dark of night, you have an idea of what’s in front of you. It makes sense, then, that sometimes people can go a little overboard when building their pre-runners.
Say hello to one such build. This is no longer a stock Chevrolet Colorado, though it started life that way. Instead, it’s been transformed by Roadster Shop of Illinois into the “ColoRADo.” It lives up to its name based on a quick glance alone, but backs up all of that style when you dive into the spec sheet and watch all the fabrication that was done in the video above.
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The customized body plays host to a wealth of parts that should help this truck power through pretty much anything. And power through it shall thanks to the 730-horsepower LS7 V-8 sitting toward the rear of the engine compartment. A set of Fox racing shocks work with custom suspension components crafted by the tuning shop to give this ColoRADo a massive 22 inches of travel in the front and 27 inches in the rear. That’s all made possible by a completely new frame that the shop also fabricated.
From the aluminum bodywork to the massive engine and on to the incredible suspension, we’re both in awe and terrified. We’re in awe of the capability this truck has on tap. We terrified of the tab for the final build cost.
And no, your new Colorado ZR2 can’t do what this truck can.