While the season didn’t end exactly how Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly pictured, they are trending upwards as they head into the offseason.
Connelly spoke about the year being a success as a whole, at his end of season press conference.
“Success is probably a loose term. Our goal was to make the playoffs, and we were there for much of the season,” said Connelly. “We struggled in a lot of close games, that was certainly well publicized…Winning seven more games and being able to develop some of our young guys, seeing the return of some of our veteran guys playing at a very high level, all in all, it was definitely a year you can feel good about.”
Connelly discussed myriad issues. Though developing young talent was a recurring theme throughout the session.
“When I look at our young pieces, I think they rank up there with any other young pieces in the league,” said Connelly. “Their mental approach is unique for guys that age, it’s fun to watch. What Nikola’s done is really unprecedented, I don’t think it’s fluke-ish. I think Jamal has shown flashes of brilliance and like any rookie, flashes of real knuckle-headed plays. They have talent, they have the work ethic and I think they’re in the right environment to really develop.”
Connelly admitted he couldn’t have predicted Jokic would become the “transcendent,” franchise cornerstone that he now is. That being said, he still sees room for improvement.
“I think he struggled behind the arch for the last two and a half months and I think that’ll change with more reps,” said the Nuggets GM. “He’s a young guy that emotions get the best of him at times, and I think he’s too good for that. If you’re going to be a team’s leading player, you can’t allow emotional situations to adversely affect your play…I do think we have a foundational piece. There’s not more than a handful of guys in the league that I take over Nikola Jokic.”
Getting to the root of your problems as a franchise can be tough, but Connelly isn’t afraid to quickly get to the bottom of things; all of which he is hoping to address in the offseason.
“You have to be self-analytical, and be really honest with yourself,” he said. “We struggled in close games…We can’t expect to continue to be a team on the rise with the way we defended this year. We’ve got to get better in close games and those things will try to be addressed in the draft and then moving into free agency and trades.”
One move Connelly would like to make is retaining one of his own. Connelly revealed earlier this week that a long-term deal with Gary Harris appears imminent. On Thursday, he spoke about how high a priority it will be to lock up Harris long-term.
“It’s up there. Gary is a guy that really embodies everything we’re about, both his development as a person and a player,” he said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of young two guards in the league that play at his level…We’ll be pretty aggressive trying to get something done and if we don’t, we’ll go to the following season and we’ll get something done. He’s going to be here a long time, whether that number is in stone this summer or whether it’s in 2018.”
Connelly also touched upon Wilson Chandler, who at one point, was disgruntled due to a lack of a consistent role.
“You want guys who want to be here,” he said. “I think Wilson had an excellent year returning from injury, we had a great dinner the other night, like we do quite often and we always talk about guys that have real commitment to the organization, I think Wilson has shown that throughout the years. When he extended here, it was his idea. It’s something that we’ll talk about as the offseason progresses; [but] I really enjoy Wilson both as a player and a person.”
It will certainly be a busy offseason for Connelly. What the Nuggets do with free agency, the draft and with internal players with contract situations coming up, will likely be the difference between making the postseason, and yet another early summer.