Despite only winning 33 games a season ago, the first under head coach Michael Malone, team president Josh Kroenke is extremely pleased with the direction that the franchise is headed in, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays. The executive said that this is the happiest with the state of the team he’s been since the 2012/13 squad that won 57 games and was the last Denver squad to reach the postseason, Dempsey notes.
“I feel very confident with the guys we have leading us on a daily basis,” Kroenke said. “I feel confident in the players in the locker room. I feel confident in the front office. I like the direction of the train. I like the speed and direction of the train. We needed to reinvent who we were last year, culturally, in our locker room as well as establish a new identity on the court. I think that historically we’ve always played fast here, and I think that that’s something we want to continue to do, but you can’t do it at the expense of your defense.”
Despite the team finishing fourth in the Northwest Division in 2015/16, Kroenke praised the job the Malone did in guiding what was one of the league’s youngest teams, Dempsey notes. “[GM] Tim Connelly and I, we have a bigger picture that we’re looking at, and I thought [Malone] did an outstanding job last year, with our young players, especially,” Kroenke told the scribe. “I thought Tim and the guys, over the last few years they’ve knocked it out of the park at the draft. I think if you’re drafting well, you’re always giving yourself a chance to compete, whether that’s improvement through trades or simply internal improvement.”
Kroenke displayed his faith in Connelly last season by extending his contract despite the team’s struggles since the GM took the helm, Dempsey writes. “I knew when I hired Tim in the summer of 2013 that we were going to have a good shot at nailing a few drafts. That ultimately takes years to come to fruition,” Kroenke said. “Being able to weigh the present while weighing the future is, I think, the toughest job general managers face based on the roster. And I think Tim and our staff has made very smart trades.”
While Kroenke didn’t guarantee that the Nuggets would reach the postseason in 2016/17, he did note that he expects to see improvement on the court, Dempsey relays. “I think this year is going to be a growth year,” Kroenke said. “Depending on where that growth heads at the end of the year, where we ultimately define success, I guess, is open to interpretation almost. But I’m glad to see that our players are focused on playoffs. I want those guys focused on building toward April. We want to be playing our best basketball on April 1, those last two weeks of the season leading into the playoffs. Then we’ll see where our record shakes out. I like our chances to hopefully leapfrog a team or two this year simply through our continuity and our internal improvement.”