The Nuggets’ path to the championship was a testament to perseverance and patience. They didn’t panic when they fell short in previous postseasons, nor did they feel the need to replace coach Michael Malone. They were rewarded this season but there was some measure of luck involved. ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link) offers some sourced nuggets on the Nuggets, sharing details about the steps along the way to the first title in franchise history. Here are some of the highlights from Lowe’s story:
- The Nuggets never seriously considered trading Jamal Murray as he rehabbed from his ACL injury but former executive Tim Connelly approached Malone five or six years ago to say that Murray could be moved for a high-profile veteran player or two. Kyrie Irving, who requested a trade from the Cavaliers during the 2017 offseason, was one of the players Denver considered acquiring in a Murray deal, but the team ultimately decided against pursuing Irving.
- The Nuggets had an opportunity to move journeyman point guard Ish Smith prior to this season’s trade deadline, but coaches and players lobbied the front office to keep him. Smith didn’t play much but he proved to be a powerful influence behind the scenes, including mimicking the Heat’s playbook as part of Denver’s scout team at Finals practices.
- General manager Calvin Booth considered trading up to the No. 10 spot — held by the Wizards — in last year’s draft with the idea of selecting Jalen Williams. The Nuggets also considered moving up later in the lottery to nab Christian Braun, even though he was projected as a late first-rounder. They got him anyway at No. 21. They were also concerned that the Warriors would take Peyton Watson with the No. 28 pick. Golden State passed on Watson and Denver grabbed him at No. 30.
- In one of the few mistakes they made, the Nuggets traded down from No. 13 to No. 24 in the 2017 draft — the 13th pick turned out to be Donovan Mitchell. Denver had considered taking OG Anunoby at that spot but felt he was a reach at that point in the draft. Anunoby came off the board at No. 23 and the Nuggets wound up with long-forgotten Tyler Lydon with the next pick.