Following the team’s first-round exit at the hands of Golden State, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly discussed a number of topics on Friday at his season-ending press conference, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Connelly said signing Nikola Jokic to a super-max extension this summer is a top priority.
“It’s a pretty big (priority),” Connelly said. “… There’s nothing more important, organizationally, than to make sure Nikola stays here as long as he wants to play the game.”
Connelly also reflected on giving Michael Porter Jr. a five-year, maximum-salary extension prior to the 2021/22 season. Porter appeared in just nine games this season and clearly wasn’t himself prior to being shutdown and undergoing lumbar spine surgery in December, his third back surgery since 2017.
“You analyze everything. Oftentimes the best indicator of future health is current health,” Connelly said. “Unfortunately, he had the injuries he dealt with this year. The previous couple years going into that contractual negotiation (last summer) we felt pretty good about it. Certainly his numbers were reflective of a guy that you’re going to have to give a lot of money.
“Hindsight is 20/20. I think we looked as much as we can. We’ve tended to be a team that rewards guys earlier instead of getting to the marketplace. We’re really looking forward to him being fully healthy, and I know he’s working his butt off to achieve that goal.”
The president said the reason the team never officially ruled out Porter or Jamal Murray for the season was because only the players knew how they felt: “It’s their body. … Whenever there’s an injury, the player has to have the loudest voice.”
Denver never applied pressure for either player to make a return if they felt they weren’t ready, Connelly added. Both players confirmed to the media that they were aligned with management’s thinking, Singer notes. Murray, who missed the entire season after suffering a torn left ACL last April, said he’s “not even sure if he’s 85% right now,” according to Singer (Twitter link).
Here are some more quotes from Connelly, courtesy of Singer:
- Connelly said the small forward position and wing defense are areas that need to be addressed in the offseason. “Whenever you lose you have to be extremely self-critical and analyze areas where we’re not where we need to be. Losing Mike (Porter) was really big, but losing PJ Dozier, that was really two guys, all our depth at the small forward position, so we had to play some pretty wonky lineups. … I think it’s pretty evident where we need to get better.”
- Connelly on DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, who’s an unrestricted free agent: “Boogie was fantastic. He brought a ton. … He helped stabilize that second unit.” The team plans to talk to Cousins about his future soon, Singer tweets.
- Denver wants to retain two-way player Davon Reed and only decided against converting him to a standard deal (to become playoff-eligible) because it would’ve meant cutting someone else (Twitter link via Singer). “He’s a guy that we’re very high on for the future,” Connelly said.
- Connelly on the possibility of paying the luxury tax next season and/or in the future: “If the team is good enough, (ownership will) pay accordingly.“