Sep 30, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets general manager and executive VP of basketball operations Tim Connelly speaks during a press conference during media day at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets are in full rebuilding mode, again. That happened when they traded Aaron Affalo and JaVale McGee last week at the trade deadline. Trading those two players does not signify rebuilding by itself but the message it sends does. The Nuggets are creating salary cap space that will, hopefully, allow them to rebuild through both free agency and the draft.
That’s the first thing the Nuggets have managed to pull off successfully since Tim Connelly took over as General Manager. That’s also the easy part, the hard part of rebuilding starts after you have created the cap space and there’s no reason to believe that Connelly can finish the job.
His track record with the Nuggets is sketchy and that’s being kind. When Connelly signed forward Kenneth Faried to a big contract last summer, other General Managers raised an eyebrow or two. Then there was the story in Deadspin a couple of months ago explaining that the original contract would have been in violation of the salary cap, and the deal had to be reworked at the last minute.
Unnamed executives called Connelly a good talent evaluator but also said that he was in way over his head as the guy with the final say. From what we’ve seen in his time with the Nuggets, it’s difficult to argue that point.
The roster is poorly put together and filled with role players who should all be coming off of the bench. The Nuggets promote Faried as if he’s a great player but he’s average at best, making his big contract even more ludicrous. On a good team, he would be the second or third player off of the bench. In addition to his average play on the court, Faried is not well liked be his teammates and that contributes to the problems on the floor.
Ty Lawson is supposed to be the Nuggets best player and leader, but he has his own issues. There’s no disputing that he is the Nuggets top player, but his leadership ability is a joke. Lawson missed the first practice after the All-Star break because he was hanging out in Las Vegas. Not exactly what you are looking for in a leader. The Nuggets reportedly tried to move him at the deadline but nothing happened. My guess is that Lawson will be traded in the offseason in an effort to clear the decks and create even more cap space.
The Nuggets might have one young player who might turn into a cornerstone player. Jusuf Nurkic is a good, young center who has shown some promise but after him, the pickings are slim at best.
As for Head Coach Brian Shaw, I’ve had issues with him since the day he was hired and if the Nuggets are going to go into a full rebuild then a change has to be made there as well. For my complete thoughts on Shaw, please read: Is Brian Shaw Daring the Denver Nuggets to Fire Him https://milehighmaniac.com/2015/02/03/brian-shaw-daring-denver-nuggets-fire/ …
As for that rebuild, it won’t be easy. Yes the Nuggets now have cap space and will probably create more in the offseason, but this is not the NFL. Free agents generally do not sign with teams like the Denver Nuggets. They like the big cities and the big markets. In the NFL, free agents will sign where they can make the most money and the fit is a good one. It doesn’t matter if it is in New York or Green Bay.
In the NBA, free agents want to win but they want to win in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami. Of course there are exceptions but if the Nuggets really believe they are going to attract big name free agents in the offseason, then Connelly is even more inept than we think.
The Nuggets only hope at this point is to lose as many games as possible down the stretch and hope they get luck in the lottery. The NBA is a star driven league and unless you have one of those stars, then you don’t have a chance to do anything big. The only way the Nuggets are going to get one of those types of players is through the draft.
Once they have that player, then free agents might consider the Nuggets but until then Connelly is recruiting guys to a black hole.
Connelly has now committed himself and the organization to a complete rebuild and he has one chance to get it right. If he doesn’t, someone else will be hired to clean up his mess.