Tim Connelly met his first trade deadline with a player that refused to play, a team on a long losing streak, and a roster without a healthy point guard.
The Denver Nuggets’ newest general manager met the challenge and showed not all is lost without Masai Ujiri.
The deadline has passed and the ghost of Andre Miller is finally gone. In addition, the Nuggets have a backup point guard and the team remained in the lottery while picking up two expiring contracts.
Despite rumors the Nuggets were going to stand pat, Connelly pulled the trigger and Andre Miller was dealt to the Washington Wizards in a three-team trade that brought back 23-year-old seven-footer Jan Vesely.
After Nuggets Nation thought that was the end of trade season, Jordan Hamilton was shipped to the Houston Rockets for point guard Aaron Brooks. With Brooks, the Nuggets now have a point guard to run things smoothly while Lawson recovers from his broken rib.
Connelly himself put it best, “I’m very happy with the outcome of both of our trades. We got better today.”
Connelly’s moves won’t have a big enough impact to push the Nuggets into the Western Conference playoff picture, and both moves brought new Nuggets that might have a short stay in Denver due to expiring contracts. But they still got better. The moves are small in name, but the deadline was still big for the Nuggets. In his first year Connelly showed the potential needed to follow Masai Ujiri as a successful young GM. He was patient with trading Andre Miller even after the press, media, and fans were pressing him to move the disgruntled point guard since early January.
For the patience, the Nuggets get to put the sixth pick in the 2011 draft, seven-foot Jan Vesely, through a 30-game tryout. The team will save $2 million in salary cap room by not having to buy out Andre Miller next year. The Andre Miller trade showed the type of patience general managers need to have in order to put teams against each other and getting maximum value. That is the same technique Masai Ujiri used when dealing Carmelo Anthony (although on a much grander scale).
Connelly also managed to address both short-term and long-term needs for Denver. Short-term, the Nuggets now have a real point guard in Aaron Brooks. Brooks’ can manage the offense and with him, the Nuggets can ease Lawson back into the lineup after he recovers from his rib injury. Now Lawson doesn’t have to be overworked late in a season that won’t mean anything at the end.
It’s also a little crazy the Nuggets now have enough players to have a full 5-on-5 practice without Brian Shaw jumping in. Brian Shaw, who is known as a skilled developer of NBA bigs (see: Andrew Bynum and Roy Hibbert) gets a shot at getting the most out of a seven-footer with literally no risk to the team long-term.
Long-term, the best news is that the Nuggets didn’t do anything to lose the coveted lottery draft pick, either by making a move to get into the playoffs or by helping the New York Knicks. They also freed up salary space that will be crucial to making offseason moves, and they got rid of a locker room cancer for young players in Andre Miller.
It’s no easy task to follow the General Manager Of The Year into a trade deadline with a roster with half of its players hurt. Tim Connelly passed his first midterm, and did his job as a general manager because the Denver Nuggets got better after the deadline than they were before.