It was not an exciting draft day for the Denver Nuggets, nor is it likely to be an exciting free agent period. However, listening to General Manager Masai Ujiri talk, he seems to know something about the Nuggets roster that the rest of the NBA does not. Going into his third season as General Manager of the Nuggets, Ujiri, along with President Josh Kroenke, have redeveloped a Nuggets roster that lost its best player in franchise history, Carmelo Anthony. The results have lead to a full roster and players waiting to have a breakout season.
Ujiri, in his early forties, does not fit the mold of General Manager that has been set as a precedent throughout the league. Ujiri, a Nigerian, is the first General Manager in American sports born on the African continent. Ujiri started as an unpaid scout for the Orlando Magic before taking paid positions with the Nuggets and Toronto Raptors. He was appointed to general manager of the Nuggets in the summer of 2010 and in his first week on the job, Carmelo Anthony asked for a trade.
It was a stressful first half of the season as the New Jersey Nets of Brooklyn and the New York Knicks battled over Anthony. The Nets offered an enticing package that included Derrick Favors and Brook Lopez. The basketball community thought it was a great deal and called for Ujiri to pull the trigger, but Masai kept a poker face and hit the jackpot with the New York Knicks. In the Anthony trade, the Nuggets received Wilson Chandler, Danilo Galinari, Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mosgov and Raymond Felton, who was then traded. The Knicks depleted roster has won one playoff game to the Nuggets seven since the trade. Ujiri has also added Javale McGee, Al Harrington, Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller to the team.
Last year’s rookie class of Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hamilton and Julian Stone rounded out the Nuggets’ roster. The management team now feels confident in their bench and needs a year of evaluation for making changes. This shaped the Nuggets draft as being one for the future rather than the present. The 2012 picks, two foreign players no one has heard of and Baylor’s Qunicy Miller, who tore his ACL last year, are not likely to see the roster this season as the Nuggets continue to evolve as a young team with a full rotation.
Ujiri seems confident that an emergent star exists among his up and coming players. The most likely candidates include: Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Arron Afflalo, Javale McGee and Danilo Gallinari. Only time will tell if any of these players can lead the Nuggets to a championship. However, it’s getting hard to bet against Masai Ujiri as he has yet to make a bad move in his position. Masai Ujiri just may be able to give George Karl a team that can compete in the NBA.