The Denver Nuggets were a team of extremes last season. Taking the season as a whole, they started poorly, but finished strong. Game by game, they often played well early, but struggled late. They were elite offensively, but struggled to stop people. On Friday, general manager Tim Connelly discussed the campaign with Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro during Afternoon Drive on Mile High Sports Radio, including where the Nuggets need to improve.
“We’re proud of the season, but not content by any stretch,” Connelly said. “We had that eighth seed for a long time, and we were unable to close a bunch of close games, and they came back to bite us in the end.”
That inability to close, along with improved play on the defensive end, are the two things Connelly singled out that need to change if the Nuggets want to take the next step.
“We can’t continue to defend at this level and expect to be a relevant team,” he said. “The ability to close tight games; I thought all too often was the case this year was in the final minute and a half, two minutes, we were incapable of continuing how we played the first 46. I think that’s two things we have to address if we want to be a team that continues on this upward trajectory.”
Part of the inability to close, Connelly admitted, was due to the inability for his young team to handle the pressure. Another part, due to the players on the roster.
“We don’t have that one go-to guy,” he said. “Nikola [Jokic] emerged as that guy as the season progressed; but we don’t have a James Harden, a Russell Westbrook, where the game comes really simple in the last two minutes. Kind of give him the ball, get out of their way. I do think for a lot of those guys it was their first time in those situations. I’m sure nerves played a part in some of the failures.”
“We can’t be so one-sided,” Connelly said. “The defense has to improve; and our young guys, next time around, when we’re in these situations, they have to play with a bit more poise. Hopefully the results will follow.”
Still, Connelly isn’t looking to count on his current roster alone. He talked a little bit about free agency, perhaps even going after a restricted free agent.
“Everything’s on the table,” he said. “There’s a couple of restricted guys that really intrigue us. If we thought a contract at some level, would preclude that team from matching, we’d be all for it.”
Connelly also talked about Danilo Gallinari, who can opt out of the final year of his contract. He said he hopes the Italian choses not to, but if he does, the Nuggets would still be interested in bringing him back.
“We’d be very happy if he didn’t opt out. I tell him that pretty much daily; but we’ll see. If he does indeed opt out, we’ll figure something out this offseason.”
Listen to the full interview with Tim Connelly, including his artful dodging of discussing Carmelo Anthony and Otto Porter, as well as his thoughts on the emergence of Nikola Jokic, in the podcast below.
Catch Afternoon Drive with Goodman and Shapiro every weekday from 4p-6p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup.