Josh Kroenke has left a huge mark on the Denver Nuggets franchise in just three years as its owner. The Nuggets’ recent transformation started the day 31-year-old Josh Kroenke took over ownership of the team, it all started when Josh found franchise star Carmelo Anthony requesting a trade out of Denver immediately after he became owner.
The Melo saga must have been a prelude to this new era, because the Nuggets have had the pedal to the medal ever since. Josh Kroenke’s first three years have been hectic, and so far his tenure has been defined by rapid change, as Melo got his wish and was shipped to the Knicks. Former starters Nene and Arron Afflalo were traded soon after. Longtime head coach George Karl, who won 423 games as a Nugget, was fired, and general manager Masai Ujiri left to work for the Toronto Raptors.
Yup. Just about everything has changed since Josh took the team from his father Stan. Everything except what’s defined the Nuggets franchise since Stan Kroenke bought the team in 2000 – failure to get to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Ah yes, our Nuggets sang a similar song in the two postseason appearances under Josh – they suffered first-round losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors.
So, even though ownership changed, and even though the franchises’ personnel from GM to starting center changed with it, Nuggets fans are still waiting for the team to make some real noise in the NBA postseason. We’re still waiting for a team we can really get behind as contenders, but the final verdict on Josh’s first leg of ownership is still up in the air. We have to give his moves some real time to take effect.
“[The Melo trade] was so big at the time that it was going to have a ripple effect of probably four to five years,” Kroenke told the Denver Post. “We’re probably three years out of that. Next year is going to be a very crucial year. It will be four years out, we’ll have had the guys for three years. And so it’s going to be a telling year. It’s a big year on a lot of levels for a lot of people.”
“A lot of people” includes yourself, Mr. Kroenke. You now have your handpicked GM, your handpicked coach, a roster forged with your approval, and a fan base that’s been waiting for a serious contender for decades. We’re not going to be patient for results. We’re all wondering if Kroenke’s moves will finally add up to a first-round playoff series victory.
“I’ll be disappointed if we stay healthy and we’re not in the playoffs next year,” Kroenke told the Denver Post. “This roster, we’re always open for business and we’re always looking to improve our team, but sometimes the best thing you can do is just have continuity.”
So, Nuggets fans, I wouldn’t be expecting any blockbuster trades this offseason. Josh Kroenke just told us all that he wants to see just what his group can do when healthy, and if he’s made anything clear these first three years, he’s made it clear that this is his Nuggets team. But three years into ownership or 15 years into it, Josh’s Nuggets are going to be tested against his father’s Nuggets.
If the transformation Josh put into the Nuggets adds up to real post season success, then it’s a great sign the Josh Kroenke era could be the Nuggets best in franchise history. But if the changes mean more first round playoff losses or worse, then there is a good chance that we’re in for a “like father, like son” era of mediocrity.
“My dad’s guidance has had this team competitive year-in and year-out,” Josh told the Denver Post. “We’re not trying to take our foot off the gas, we’re trying to figure out how to punch through to that next level. We want this city to really get behind a team that has a chance to on a multi-year basis to compete for something big.”