Chris Andersen is recognized by casual NBA fans for a number of reasons — his hair, his tattoos, his "Birdman" moniker, and a memorably laborious performance in the Slam Dunk Contest. In the last week though, Andersen's play on the court for the Nuggets has demanded recognition in its own right.
A beneficiary of increased playing time due to Denver's injury woes, Andersen has averaged 10.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in just over 24 minutes over the team's last four games. While the 6'10" forward's solid recent play, which includes a .615 FG%, has helped a Nuggets team playing without Nene Hilario and Danilo Gallinari, it could also serve as a showcase for a potential trade.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported on Friday that the Nuggets have made Andersen available, and are willing to move him in the right deal. Considering the 33-year-old still has two additional seasons and $9.3MM+ remaining on his contract, the stance is hardly surprising. His recent surge aside, Andersen has received limited playing time and produced limited numbers throughout his career. Although he can be a valuable role player off the bench, Andersen will be approaching age 36 by the time his current deal ends. For a team conscious of its cap room and future flexibility, adding Andersen's contract probably isn't prudent.
From the Nuggets' perspective, clearing Andersen's contract would give them a little financial breathing room going forward. Hilario, Gallinari, and Arron Afflalo are all on long-term deals, while players like Rudy Fernandez and Ty Lawson will become more expensive within a couple seasons if Denver hopes to retain them. Throw in the fact that Wilson Chandler is currently seeking a long-term deal with the Nuggets, and it's clear the team wouldn't have to blown away to move Andersen and his contract.
I don't see an obvious match for Andersen. Teams with trade exceptions that could absorb Andersen's salary — the Lakers, Mavericks, and Magic — have more glaring needs, while many contenders who could use frontcourt reinforcements, such as the Heat, Thunder, Hawks, and 76ers, don't seem to be a fit based on salary and tax restraints.
The Nuggets may have made Andersen available, but I just don't think a deal happens by March 15th. Perhaps a team desperate for frontcourt size and depth sends Denver a second-round pick and takes on Andersen's contract, but I'm betting the Birdman will take flight in Denver for at least a few more months.