Heading into the offseason, the Denver Nuggets were poised to make major waves if they so desired. A deep, young, cheap roster paired with three first-round draft picks and cap space made for the ingredients of a potential blockbuster summer. But rather than swinging big, the Nuggets have wound up with one of the most uneventful summers in the league. And that’s not a bad thing.
What Didn’t Happen
The Nuggets did flirt with some flashy deals. They were always at least on the outskirts of the Dwyane Wade bidding war and were in on the brief Paul Millsap trade talks.
Draft day rumblings were predictably loud in Denver, but unsurprisingly hollow. Despite figuring into the rumor mill, the Nuggets didn’t move at all in the draft, and haven’t added a single free agent player.
The team-friendly re-signing of Darrel Arthur (three years, $23 million) and high-upside draft selections are their biggest moves at the time of writing.
But the Nuggets did accomplish something. In the midst of a tsunami of huge contracts and the team-building arms races, Denver didn’t pull the trigger on anything to disrupt their promising young core or ability to spend and draft big in the future.
They held onto patience and stability, two of the league’s most undervalued commodities.
Acting out of impatience is one NBA sin you can almost never get back. The Orlando Magic are running headlong into what looks like a single-season, mediocre playoff run, their eagerness to jumpstart a solid rebuild undercutting the process.
Orlando likely didn’t envision trading away Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo or crowding Aaron Gordon’s playing time when they hired Scott Skiles for the 2015-16 campaign. But one thing led to another, and a team hungry for contention parted with asset after asset and is now facing a boom-or-bust season with another brand new coach in Frank Vogel. The Nuggets avoided that slippery slope.
The Value of Patience and Stability
Patience is an obvious challenge for every franchise to maintain but its cousin, stability, is more off-the-radar. While some of the recent super teams in Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Cleveland, and now Golden State have the ability to flourish, the winningest organization of this era has been the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs don’t make the Finals every year, or sit out every free agency, but the star/coaching combo of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich anchored a perennial contender as the league ebbed and flowed around them for nearly two decades.
Popovich is a great coach by every measure, but his strength is the accumulative, philosophical underpinnings he’s been able to build on the court and in the locker room year after year.
If the Nuggets have a good coach in Mike Malone (I think they do) and one or two franchise players in Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay, or any of the incoming 2016 draft picks (I think they do), the long road ahead could be littered with Ws. If the Nuggets don’t make a leap in 2016/17, another tough year out of the playoffs is worth the cost of long-term success.
The Nuggets took the wise course. Presumably, the acquisition of Wade and/or Millsap would have been measured gambles to improve the team’s short-term outlook without jeopardizing its long-term ceiling.
Regardless of whether the forces that led to Denver staying put were internal, external or both, the results are good.
Especially considering the aforementioned super teams shaping up for the next few years, Denver can’t realistically move close to the league’s top tier without the established talent and cache of their competitors anytime soon.
But with the right development from the pieces they do have, special things could be on the horizon.