Draft night stunk for the Nuggets. Hope was replaced by darkness. Before sundown, our local NBA team sunk so far down in the Western Conference pecking order that president of basketball operations Tim Connelly needs a flashlight merely to find his … optimism.
Minnesota traded for Jimmy Butler, a 27-year-old wing that made three trips to the All-Star Game with Chicago and was the hottest commodity on the NBA market.
With his nose stuck against the glass as the Timberwolves wheeled and dealed, Connelly responded by trading for Trey Lyles, a 6-foot-11 player who somehow missed nearly 64 percent of his 439 field-goal attempts last season for the Utah Jazz.
You don’t need to log 100,000 miles flying the world to scout basketball talent to understand: Denver messed up.
If you love the Nuggets, the developments of draft night were heartbreaking. All the yada, yada, yada about slowly building a championship contender got kicked squarely in the teeth.
Portland, the division rival Connelly handed a playoff berth with his ill-advised trade of disgruntled center Jusuf Nurkic in February, traded up on draft night to grab Gonzaga freshman Zach Collins with the 10th overall pick in the first round. And know what really stinks?
Collins plays the same position as Mason Plumlee, the big man Denver obtained from the Blazers for Nurkic. At 19 years old, if Collins isn’t already better than Plumlee, he soon will be.
Remember the 36-foot dagger Russell Westbrook stuck in the heart of the Nuggets’ playoff dreams during a 106-105 loss to Oklahoma City in April? This night hurt worse.
Remember when Carmelo Anthony sent a message to the rest of the league that Denver was a fly-over city by declaring he wanted out of our dusty old cow town? Well, Butler left the bright lights of Chicago to chase a ring in Minneapolis, which is grayer than my hair from Halloween until Easter and colder all winter long than a polar bear’s kiester.
The Timberwolves obtained Butler, who won an Olympic gold medal in Brazil as a member of Team USA, in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a lottery pick. The Bulls got fleeced. Some knucklehead (me) suggested this week that Denver had to jump in the bidding for Butler, and if a package of Wilson Chandler, Will Barton and Jamal Murray couldn’t close the deal, then maybe the rest of the NBA doesn’t regard the Nuggets’ talent in as high regard as Connelly and his staff do.
Finding no prospect worth selecting at No. 13 in the first round, the Nuggets traded back 11 slots, and took Tyler Lydon, a 6-9 forward with a feathery jumper and a little adolescent pudge around his midsection. Lydon’s prospects as a rookie to beat out Juancho Hernangomez for minutes in coach Michael Malone’s playing rotation can be describe in two words: fat chance.
Danilo Gallinari, who led Denver in scoring last season, is a free agent.
Draft night gave him no reason to stay in town. With the revolting developments of draft night, Gallinari has a new reason to pack his bags.
The Nuggets are in no hurry to win.