Nuggets enjoy productive draft under reshaped front office

New general manager Tim Connelly works the phones to tweak Denver's roster
by Aaron Lopez

Tim Connelly looked like a cross between Jerry Maguire and the Wolf of Wall Street.

In pursuit of improving the Denver Nuggets on draft night Thursday, he often had a cell phone held to his left ear and a land-line receiver pressed to his right – sometimes with a third caller waiting on hold.

When he got a rare moment to breathe, Connelly smiled and embraced the unique environment in the draft room.

“Let’s have some fun,” he said to scout Herb Livsey early in the second round. “Let’s make a pick!”

Just 10 days removed from being named Nuggets general manager/executive vice president of basketball operations, Connelly certainly enjoyed a productive night of working the phones.

Midway through the evening, he acquired forward Darrell Arthur and the draft rights to the 55th overall pick (Joffrey Lauvergne) from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for center Kosta Koufos.

Connelly also traded out of the first round, picking up NCAA scoring leader Erick Green (selected 46th overall) from the Utah Jazz for the rights to French forward Rudy Gobert, went went 27th.

“We tried to get LeBron (James) and it went nowhere,” Connelly joked. “Of course it’s a fluid environment. We were close on a couple deals that would have really helped us. We were very aggressive, and you are one yard away a couple times. In the course of the chase, you can get your heart broken, but when I reflect on the whole evening, I feel pretty good.”

Connelly had reason to be happy with the results.

Working closely with team president Josh Kroenke, director of team operations Ben Tenzer, coach Brian Shaw, veteran scout Livsey and video coordinator Nashion Harper, he helped upgrade Denver’s pick-and-roll defense with the addition of Arthur and opened the door for center Timofey Mozgov to return next season.

The Nuggets officially extended a qualifying offer to Mozgov, allowing them to match any offer he receives as a restricted free agent. Mozgov played limited minutes behind Koufos and JaVale McGee last season.

“Both players (Koufos and Mozgov) are excellent,” Connelly said. “We are going to miss Kosta, but we kind of wanted to what’s behind this door with Timofey and give him a chance to see if he runs with it.”

Connelly also is intrigued to see how Green and Lauvergne respond to the opportunity to earn a roster spot next season.

Green is a good shooter who also can create for others. He was the 2012-13 ACC Player of the Year after averaging 25 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a senior at Virginia Tech.

“I'm a good leader,” he said. “I can score the ball very well. I can defend the ball. I can definitely come in and contribute and help the Nuggets win.”

Connelly said the Nuggets had Green rated much higher than 46th, so he was thrilled to see his name still on the board as he made his first official selection as a general manager.

“It’s hard to lead the nation in scoring, especially in a power conference like the ACC,” Connelly said. “He plays both (point guard and shooting guard). I think we had a clear lack of shooting last year, and this kind of checks that box for us. I’m excited; I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Nuggets fans were saying the same thing about Connelly less than two weeks ago. If draft night was any indication, they should be excited about what’s in store as he works the phones throughout the summer.

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