Leaving the Nuggets’ dirty work to someone else, front office honcho Tim Connelly took the money and his hurt feelings in Minnesota, then quickly made one of the most absurd trades in the game. recent NBA history.
Nuggets vs. Timberwolves is a rivalry we didn’t know we needed.
But that’s the game now.
With both teams desperate to show they matter in the championship conversation, we’re about to find out who has the smarter ideas on how to build a winner: The Kroenkes or Connelly.
I bet on Stan and Josh Kroenke.
While I understand why Colorado sports fans frustrated by a stupid televised argument take umbrage with the Kroenkes, they have won championships in hockey (Avalanche), lacrosse (Mammoth) and football (LA Rams) in the past six first months of this calendar year.
What did Connelly do?
In his first major act as the architect of the Timberwolves roster since leaving Denver, Connelly made the hit trade that he could never pull the trigger with the Nuggets. Part of a championship dream for the Timberwolves, Connelly justified his big, new contract with the team by eliminating four stable veteran players, as well as four – count them – future first-round draft picks.
For that hefty price tag, you’d think Connelly could have added Kevin Durant, the perpetually brooding superstar looking to escape Brooklyn.
Instead, Connelly got Utah center Rudy Gobert, named the league’s best defensive player in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Gobert can cover his teammates’ defensive shortcomings, but Connelly goes all the twin towers pairing his new center with Karl-Anthony Towns was a crazy leap of faith in the NBA’s time machine.
It made no sense. This trade smelt of the same desperation young Kroenke mentioned when the Timberwolves offered a huge amount of money to lure Connelly away from the Nuggets’ executive offices at Ball Arena.
Meanwhile, in Denver, the man who replaced Connelly did two very smart things. Calvin Booth filled the team’s most pressing need, adding perimeter defense, in the form of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown. In the process, Booth also parted ways with Will Barton, whose skills have never been greater than his ego, causing him to sulk when not showered with love.
OK, let’s face it, those moves won’t mean anything if Michael Porter Jr.’s troublesome back keeps him out of at least 60 regular-season games or if pain sidelines him for a while in the playoffs. But if MPJ, who can’t guard anyone, is going to be on the floor as much as the Nuggets hope and pray, it was absolutely necessary for Booth to give coach Michael Malone the defensive tools to be a legitimate championship contender.
The Kroenkes can be rightly criticized for not giving Connelly a contract extension before his head was turned by Minnesota. On the other hand, while Connelly deserves ample applause for the writing of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, it can also be fairly said that his patient refusal to skip steps gave Golden State time to reopen its window of championship and put Phoenix ahead of the Nuggets in the Western Conference pecking order.
The divorce between Connelly and the Kroenkes turned messy, with hurt feelings on both sides. But it was time to end a relationship that was beginning to feel stale.
Moving on made Connelly pay and allowed the Nuggets to see how to maximize the MVP talent of Jokic, whose love for Denver is as evident as his new supermax contract, which could be worth around $270 million. Although the addition of DeAndre Jordan, who looks washed up approaching his 33rd birthday, as a backup center was a headache, the team’s financial investment in him is so negligible that a better alternative can be found later.
Connelly might believe his current big three of Towns, Gobert and Anthony Edwards are better than what he left in Denver, especially if he thinks Porter’s future is filled with pain and frustration.
Connelly, who has never won anything, bet on himself taking the gig to Minnesota.
The Kroenkes, who are going to need a bigger showcase, bet the Nuggets will be fine without Connelly.
Let’s hope the conference final in the Wild West is a duel between the Nuggets and the Timberwolves.