All the Right Moves: Nuggets Personnel

By: Peter Sherwill                                                          

Following this 2012-13 season the Denver Nuggets are faced with an expiring contract for perhaps one of their most valuable pieces.  

No, I’m not talking about stud point guard, Ty Lawson, although I have a feeling that one will get done before the season starts.  The person I’m referring to has actually never donned a jersey in the NBA.  The man is a key cog in the front office for the Nuggets.  He is the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri.

Kroenke Sports Enterprises has long-believed in putting off extensions for their franchise executives until the conclusion of the current contract.  This has been their standard position with any General Manager or Coach facing the end of their tenure in Denver and it has worked well for them up to this point.  However, I think that it is important in this case for the Kroenkes to put pen to paper with Ujiri as soon as possible.  He has developed a reputation league-wide as being one of the smartest GM’s in the game, if not in the entire sports world.

Ujiri faced an unenviable position within days of being hired, when his franchise player, Carmelo Anthony, informed him that he wanted out.  Masai tackled this situation with poise and did not cave in negotiations with more experienced GM’s.  He did not give into the pressure to deal Anthony any sooner than he did.  The manner in which he handled negotiations and got the best possible deal for Carmelo has been widely praised and considered a surprise for a rookie GM.  The Nuggets ended up finishing their fourth consecutive season with 50 or more wins and continued their playoff streak.  This was considered somewhat surprising by the pundits as the Nuggets were widely speculated to become the Cleveland Cavaliers of the Western Conference.  The array of assets that Masai collected in this trade is now considered the standard for any franchise that is faced with dealing their franchise superstar.  

Following the lockout, Ujiri made a shrewd move by trading a future second round draft pick to the Dallas Mavericks for Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer.  In addition, he locked up two of the Nuggets starters that were free agents, Nene and Arron Afflalo.  He also selected Kenneth Faried in the 2011 NBA Draft.  Faried ended up finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting.  Because of the emergence of Faried, Nene became expendable and was dealt to the Washington Wizards for JaVale Mcgee.  Afflalo was later dealt in the recent Andre Iguodala trade.  Masai also locked up long-term extensions with Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, Wilson Chandler and JaVale Mcgee.  With most of the Nuggets core players signed long-term, it is time to secure the brain behind the scenes before another NBA team has the opportunity to steal him.

Masai seems to make all of the right moves for this Nuggets team.  Time and time again, he has proven the critics and fans wrong.  His moves are sometimes questioned in knee-jerk fashion by fans and local columnists.  However his track record thus far, speaks for itself.  I was highly critical of the Nene signing and subsequently hashtagged #TradeNene on Twitter up until he was dealt (feel free to check my timeline).  After Ujiri quickly corrected the mistake of re-signing Nene, it became even more apparent to me that he always has a plan and knows exactly what he is doing with this team.  Ujiri is an opportunist and takes advantage of any possibility to upgrade and enhance the Denver Nuggets.  

Up to now, the only Ujiri move that could be considered questionable was selecting Evan Fournier in this past June’s draft.  However, time has not revealed this to be a bust or another stealthily brilliant move.  We will find out soon enough.  Hopefully, Masai Ujiri has a long-term deal in Denver before we get that answer.

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Peter Sherwill is an NBA junkie and blogger, never short on opinions.  Has appeared as a guest on Denver sports talk radio.

.Peter Sherwill @iwritenuggets