The Denver Nuggets’ surprising season came to an end on Sunday in a narrow home loss to wrap up a tight series with the Portland Trail Blazers. Although the season may not have ended the way they wanted, there’s no question the team is set up for future success thanks to the young core Nuggets President Tim Connelly has put together.
Now, that the Nuggets are done, Washington and Denver can finally address the elephant in the room: Which team Connelly will work for next season. Typically, the architect of the fourth-best team in the league isn’t open to new offers, and typically the Wizards aren’t the ones trying to poach them away, but this is an unusual situation. Connelly grew up in the area and spent over a decade with the franchise before heading to New Orleans and later Denver where the overhauled the Nuggets and turned them into a Western Conference power.
Now, the Wizards are the ones in need of a complete overhaul, and the team’s ownership has shown in recent years they’re willing to spend big bucks to compete, even when there isn’t a clear path to success. They paid the luxury tax for a 43-win team that barely scraped into the playoffs last season. They were set to pay it again before John Wall’s injury woes necessitated a change in direction.
The Wizards would be better off using the money they’ve wasted on luxury tax payments to bring in someone who can do more with less. Washington’s recent actions suggest they’ve come to the same conclusion. At the start of the month, the Wizards interviewed four candidates for their President of Basketball Operations vacancy. Gersson Rosas, one of the candidates, took the opening with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The other three candidates—Tommy Sheppard, Danny Ferry, and Troy Weaver—have been waiting for almost two weeks to hear an update.
While all three of those candidates would be good, there’s no question Connelly’s age and proven track record of success would make him the best candidate, and the one worth waiting so long to sign. Now, it’s only a matter of whether or not the Wizards are willing to invest the resources to pry him away from the team he’s rebuilt.
Running the Wizards may be Connelly’s “dream job” but Washington won’t be able to get him on a discount. He’ll need a significant pay raise to leave the comfort of what he has built in the Rockies and start over again. Plus, they’ll need to outbid whatever counter-offer the Nuggets make. They’ll certainly make a competitive offer to avoid having another top executive hired away like when the Raptors gave Masai Ujiri an offer he couldn’t refuse in 2013.
If Washington can make this happen, it would represent arguably their greatest power move in franchise history. Hiring away the architect of the team with the league’s fourth-best record is a move generally reserved for the Lakers and Knicks of the world, not the Wizards. It would send a clear signal to the rest of the league they’re ready to spend and conduct business on a top-class level, even if it takes the team a few years to get the basketball team up to that standard.