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Nuggets GM Tim Connelly: "we’re sick of not being in the playoffs. We’re done with that."

Harrison Wind Avatar
April 15, 2016


Coming into this past season, expectations for the Denver Nuggets under first-year head coach Michael Malone were at an all-time low.

That’s the reality when you’re starting a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay, a 21-year-old shooting guard in Gary Harris, and planning to feature second-year center Jusuf Nurkic. This was before another rookie, Nikola Jokic, took the organization by storm on his way to a likely first-team All-Rookie selection.

However, as I noted in a column a couple weeks ago, expectations for this coming season are going to look a lot different. General manager Tim Connelly alluded to some of those expectations in an interview with the Denver Post, where he noted that the playoffs are the next step for the organization and a stride that should be made as soon as next season.

“I think we’re in a place now that we’ll expect to be in the playoffs next year, and to do that certainly myself and my staff are going to have to hopefully make some good decisions,” Connelly said. “I think we have the coach to do so, the core to do so. Now it’s on us. I also think we’re at a position now where we can have sustained success at a high level for a long time.”

After three straight losing season where the Nuggets compiled a record of 99-147, there’s no doubt that a desire to win is burning a hole in Connelly and the organization’s pockets. The league-worst average attendance is a huge issue, and could be accelerating the timeline of the the rebuild here in Denver.

“I’m unbelievably excited about the young core, and some of our guys entering their prime like Wilson (Chandler) and Gallo and Kenneth (Faried). And the freedom we have with two or three first round picks, a ton of cap room, and our roster is already full,” said Connelly. “So I think collectively we’re in a pretty good spot, and we look forward to being aggressive this offseason trying to improve upon where we ended up this year. But certainly we’re sick of not being in the playoffs. We’re done with that.”

The Nuggets are projected to have between $19.2 and $28.7 million in cap room this summer, according to BasketballInsiders.com, and whether Denver decides to be aggressive through trades or free agency, there’s money to be spent. If Connelly wants a high-impact free agent or max-level player, he can try and get one.

Most teams will have max-level room available this summer and in some cases room for two max-level players. Money will be thrown around like fight night at the MGM, and yes, there will be some terrible contracts handed out because of the influx of television money getting shuttled into the league due to the new television deal.

Denver also has three first round picks, which they don’t really have room for on the roster. Connelly may opt to draft-and-stash one of those picks if the Nuggets keep it, but even two more rookies on this team next year with how the roster is currently constructed is hard to imagine. Trading one or two of those picks should not off the table.

The Nuggets are trending in a positive direction and if you had realistic expectations coming into this past season, you should be happy with the results. The cushy first year of this rebuild is over, and it will be interesting to see how players, coaches, and the front office react when the timeline to get back to the playoffs is seemingly sped up.

Connelly has proven himself in the draft, but it’s a crucial summer for the front office to make an impact in free-agency or in the trade market, especially if the playoffs are indeed the expectation as soon as next season.



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