The Nuggets front office have several tasks ahead this summer. They are hampered by the cap but supported by ownership.
This is a pivotal offseason for Tim Connelly, Arturas Karnisovas and Michael Malone.
There have been mistakes over the last two seasons that will need to be addressed for the 2018-19 season.
Last year’s draft-and-trade of Donovan Mitchell has been well covered. It was a good move by the Nuggets at the time. They had drafted three guards in the previous two drafts, they were not going to draft another. They got the value they wanted (again, at the time, nobody knew Mitchell would be this good, this fast). Where the mistake was made was trading down and missing on OG Anunoby. As evidenced by his starting role and outstanding play in the playoffs for Toronto, Anunoby would have been ideal in Denver and 4 years of a quality SF on a rookie contract fits into Denver’s financial situation much better than other methods of upgrading the spot.
The Front Office has the daunting task of remaking the Nuggets bench with several difficult-to-move contracts (Chandler, Faried, Arthur) into something that will provide value. With the emergence of Jokic from a leadership standpoint and with a healthy Millsap there won’t be a need for another Richard Jefferson or Jameer Nelson for bench leadership. The bench makeup must improve, however. There was too much burden in 2017-18 put on eight players. The availability of ready players is the responsibility of management.
Using those players properly and judiciously is under the purview of the Head Coach. Michael Malone’s biggest question mark coming out of last season is his rotations and use of his bench. For example, when Jusuf Nurkic was still with the Nuggets, he tried a big frontcourt combination with Nurkic at center and Nikola Jokic at power forward. The two did not mesh, the experiment failed and Nurk was eventually moved to Portland.
Following the injury to Millsap this season, Malone once again tried to use the Joker at the four spot, playing Mason Plumlee at the five. It didn’t work. The lesson, that everyone seemed to have learned from the Nurkic instance, was that Nikola doesn’t like to play power forward. I understand that for Malone, Jokic is difficult to coach. He has a seemingly limitless basketball IQ and incredible self-awareness. He also likes to handle the ball and direct the offense. Qualities almost unheard of in a Center. Malone, to his credit, learned with his team through the course of the year. He learned that their abilities to read-and-react freed them offensively and was strategically the best way to use this roster. Let’s not forget that he’s given the Nuggets year-over-year growth and he’s developed the Core while giving guys like Torrey Craig an opportunity.
Malone is the coach the Nuggets need.
The front-office has to give him the players he needs.