DENVER — The Nuggets were extremely close to making a franchise-altering move Thursday night.
“We had a lot (of conversations about trades). Some were leaked,” President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said. “We were very far along with one we thought was done and then at the 11th hour. One of the teams involved had a change of heart. We had countless conversations. One in particular that we thought had frankly was going to take place.”
Whether it was the rumored trade that would have sent point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and a draft pick, presumably No. 13 overall, to Phoenix in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, the potential acquisition of All-Star Jimmy Butler, who ended up in division when he was shipped to Minnesota, or an additional transaction, the Nuggets tried but failed to make a big time move that would have brought some roster and rotation clarity to Denver.
“Yeah,” Connelly said about if Denver was disappointed that a deal didn’t get done. “Some of the things we talked about, we were the aggressors. With that in mind, we were hopeful and you have your fingers crossed. Dealmaking is a delicate balance and it’s frustrating when you feel like you have a good deal for not just your team but for other teams involved and it falls apart at the one-yard line.”
That frustration was evident on Connelly’s and General Manager Arturas Karnisovas’ face when they addressed the media after a long night.
“It was long, it was intense, some things didn’t pan out,” Karnisovas said. “We’re going to move on.”
Much of the same issues that faced Denver prior to the draft still remain. The Nuggets still sit three-deep at point guard, with Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, and Mudiay. Denver still has uncertainty on the wing and in the frontcourt where they’ll have five or six players, including their draft-night acquisition in Trey Lyles, battling for minutes that just don’t exist.
“We have some work to do,” Connelly said. “It’s not a balanced roster.”
Denver ended up trading their 13th pick to Utah in exchange for Lyles and the No. 24 selection. The Nuggets then selected Tyler Lydon, a 6-foot-10 sharpshooter out of Syracuse.
“It was a divided room at 13,” Connelly said.
Lydon, who averaged 13.2 points in his sophomore season and converted on 39.5 percent of his threes will likely head for the end of the bench next year. He’s a stretch-four by nature who Nuggets’ management is also high on for his potential two-way ability. Lydon has a long way to go to eventually play a Ryan Anderson-type role in Denver, but he’s got some upside.
Denver passed on Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell at 13, partly because of their loaded backcourt. The Nuggets thought they could get a similar player to the one they would have drafted in the lottery at 24. They settled on Lydon and added Lyles too.
49th overall pick Vlatko Cancar will stay abroad in Europe next season and Monte Morris, who led college basketball in assist to turnover ratio last year, is joining a roster that’s already overloaded at point guard. The 21-year-old who the Nuggets were surprised was still available at 51 will battle for a roster spot at Summer League.
Consolidating their assets will have to wait until the free agency period begins on July 1. The Nuggets are armed with potentially $40 million in cap space and will likely go after big names like Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin, and potentially Chris Paul. They need to make a splash after a disappointing draft night.
Still, the Nuggets have Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, three building blocks that can eventually be Denver’s three best players on a championship contender. The Nuggets still have role players like Hernangomez and Chandler, who any team throughout the league would jump on in a heartbeat.
“It was a weird night because the frenzies came and then it was quiet,” Connelly said. “It was a bizarre night.”