A few days after the fact, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly appeared to be in better spirits.
Let’s hope his good mood continues through July.
“Maybe I should’ve eaten dinner,” Connelly said with a smile on Tuesday afternoon while meeting with the local media.
The man in charge of assembling the Nuggets roster was hit with some surprising, but fair questions.
Essentially: Were you okay on Thursday after the NBA Draft?
It’s no secret the night didn’t exactly go the way the Nuggets wanted it to. And afterwards, in his post-draft presser, Connelly didn’t seem to be the most enthusiastic man on Earth.
Apparently, folks in the room noticed.
Connelly and Denver’s front office have been heavily criticized on almost every media platform in town the past few days. Some of it has been harsh (overly harsh), and some of it has been “woe-is-me this is just life as a Nuggets fan.”
But seriously, Connelly blamed his lack of energy on not eating right and general exhaustion from a long night. In fact, it was probably from a series of long nights – the offseason is his actual season. This is a grind.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember this: We’re only at halftime. The Nuggets might be down, but they’re certainly not out.
Free agency starts July 1 and Denver has plenty of money to spend. Right now they have a little more than $60 million on the books; the salary cap projects to be just shy of $100 million. And if you’re willing to go up against the Luxury Tax Threshold, that number is nearly $120 million.
Let the spending spree begin… Hopefully.
Connelly, GM Arturas Karnisovas and (to some extent) president and governor Josh Kroenke have to convince free agents, to, you know, take their money. Denver isn’t the only NBA team with dollars to dish out.
That pitch will start with the opportunity to play alongside future superstar Nikola Jokic. It might go something like this: “Hey, not only is this guy going to boost all your stats, he’s going to make you look pretty damn good while doing it.”
The conversation will then move to the city of Denver – a great place to live and raise a family without the chaos of a major coast city. That pitch might not work on a younger dude looking to party his nights away, but should hold clout for someone who’s married and raising a young family.
Finally, and maybe the best part, bring your friends! Not only can Denver pay one guy max money, they can pay two guys max money. Heck, maybe even three if they to get creative, move some current contracts and spill over the cap.
The dream scenario would be some combination of Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry, Secure one, and it’s a successful summer. Secure two, and it’s a blockbuster summer. Secure three, and book your tickets to the Western Conference Finals right now.
After those guys, second tier free agents like Jrue Holiday, Patty Mills, J.J. Redick, Otto Porter (restricted), Rudy Gay, Andre Roberson (restricted), Joe Ingles (restricted) and Serge Ibaka are all tempting pieces.
And, of course, the Danilo Gallinari question remains one that lingers. Most assume the Gallo ship has sailed, and it may have, but if no one else wants the Nuggets’ money could they bring back a guy familiar with the city who has expressed some interest in sticking around? It’s not likely, but not impossible, either.
The popular sentiment around town is that Connelly and Company lost the offseason on Thursday night.
That’s not a fair view point; adding Trey Lyles two years removed from projecting as a top-10 pick on a lot of boards was sneaky good. Tyler Lydon is an incredible shooter and Monte Morris hasn’t turned the ball over since he was in middle school. It may not have been sexy, but pretending like it was a disaster is a little dramatic.
Also, it’s still only halftime.
The next month will provide us a final score on the Nuggets offseason. Plenty of splashes can still be made.
Let’s hope Connelly’s spirits remain high – and he remembers to eat a hearty dinner each night.