DENVER — The Nuggets had hoped Thursday night’s NBA Draft could be the launching point to something big. They swung. They swung big, looking to come out of draft night with a trade that could both clean up some of the excess on their roster and potentially land them a star caliber player. President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly thought they had one done. Then, suddenly,they didn’t.
“We were very far along with one we thought was done and then at the 11th hour,” Connelly said. “One of the teams involved had a change of heart. We had countless conversations. One in particular that we thought had frankly was going to take place.”
Denver was reportedly in trade talks with both the Chicago Bulls involving Jimmy Butler and the Phoenix Suns for a deal that would have landed them Eric Bledsoe in exchange for the No. 13 pick and middling guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Neither was able to be finalized.
So, when Connelly, along with newly minted general manager Arturas Karnisovas, walked into their post-draft press conference, they wore the expressions of men who had been shafted. They were frustrated, exhausted, and disappointed.
“It was long, it was intense, some things didn’t pan out,” Karnisovas said. “We’re going to move on.”
Ultimately, the Nuggets swung and missed in the draft. However, considering their recent track record of success this time of year, this is far from the worst thing that could have happened. The Nuggets have drafted exceptionally well in the Connelly era. They’ve added core pieces to a developing roster stacked with young talent.
Between emerging star Nikola Jokic, electric youngster Jamal Murray, defensive stalwart Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, Mudiay, and the rest of Denver’s roster, the Nuggets are stacked with so much young talent that they wouldn’t have ever been able to insert another rookie into this rotation. What exactly were they supposed to do?
The Nuggets made the right decision. When the opportunities they had to pull off trades fell through, they punted.
Denver wound up making three picks in the draft, selecting Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon, Euro Vlatko Cancar, and point guard Monte Morris. None of those players will contribute to this team next year. That’s not a bad thing.
Being a Nuggets fan right now is ultimately an exercise in faith. Either you see the progress the Nuggets have made since the disastrous Brian Shaw era and you buy into Connelly and company’s long-term draft and develop vision or you don’t.
There’s no doubt the Nuggets are one of the NBA’s most promising teams. With a roster stacked full of young talent, it’s more than okay for them to have punted on the draft last night and allow their young pieces to continue developing.